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Electrolyte Drinks - Homemade Sports Drinks | Performance Ground
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Electrolyte Drinks – Homemade Sports Drinks

Electrolyte Drinks - Homemade Sports Drinks

Electrolyte Drinks – Homemade Sports Drinks

What are sports drinks and which one do you need?

There is an abundance of sports drinks on the market today and all of them claim to boost your performance and give you the edge. There are so many different brands and different types, some quite cheap and some costing the earth for 500ml of liquid gold.

Do you really need sports drinks and which one is going to be best for you?

THE VIDEO: Electrolyte Drinks – Homemade PG Sports Drinks

Sports drinks generally have 4 distinct purposes:

  1. to hydrate you
  2. to fuel you with carbohydrates
  3. to sustain hydration and provide you with fuel at the same time
  4. to provide you with stimulants.

If we forget about the stimulant drinks such as Redbull and Monster energy for the purpose of this article, there are 3 categories your sports drinks could fall under.


The sports drinks designed to hydrate you are known as Hypotonic. These will be low in sugars but will provide high levels of sodium to encourage the transfer of water molecules into the blood and replace electrolytes lost whilst sweating. These drinks usually come in the form of electrolyte powders or fizzy tablets.  These drinks work because they provide a solution which, has a lower osmatic pressure than that of your blood. This means they have less glucose and sodium molecules. According to the Law of Diffusion, osmosis occurs which, creates a balance of molecules on each side of a semipermeable membrane, the wall of your intestines and blood cells. Because the Hypotonic drink is low in glucose molecules, the water molecules are drawn across the membrane to create a balance between the cells and the solution, drawing water into your cells which hydrates you.


The sports drinks designed to provide you with sugars and fuel are known as Hypertonic. The primary goal of these drinks is to replace the acute loss of muscle glycogen from intense exercise and fuel your high intensity efforts.  These will be high in sugar and may combine several types of sugar to take advantage of the different transport chains in which maltodextrin, glycogen and fructose are ingested by the body. These drinks are usually ready-made in the form of gels or powders ready for you to mix. These drinks work because the osmatic pressure of the drink is higher than that of your cells. To create a balance glucose molecules are drawn into your cells which, aids in energy production. However, water molecules will be drawn away from your cells. Also, diffusion is a two-way relationship. Because of this, hypertonic sports drinks are great for fuelling sports of short durations but can actually increase dehydration.


Some drinks claim to do both. They provide you with increased hydration and fuel at the same time. These drinks are known as Isotonic solutions. They will have high amount of sugar and high sodium levels. The way these drinks work is because they provide a solution which, is the same or very similar to the sodium and glucose levels of your blood. They have the same osmatic pressure. Because the drink is an equal solution to your blood, there is a balance between the membrane of the stomach and intestines which, means water, glucose and sodium molecules are free to flow between your body and the solution. In theory, this is perfect. We have a drink that can fuel us and hydrate us at the same time. But in reality, this is almost impossible to create because the balance of glucose and sodium molecules within one’s blood may be different to yours. Because of this, a lot of drinks that claim to be isotonic are actually hypertonic in reality. These drinks are often provided as powders to be mixed with water.

Now, you understand how sports drinks work. You should be able to determine what kind of drink you require.

What kind of sport drinks do you require?

For sports of a long duration (>2 hours) you may see a drop off in hydration especially, within hot and humid climates.  This drop in hydration will reduce blood plasma which, in turn can have a detrimental effect on performance let alone in severe situations, your health.

For sports of high intensity where, carbohydrate is used as the primary energy source for a long duration, fuelling and hydration are essential. An Isotonic drink will be your go to sports drink. Sports like road cycling, triathlon, boxing and intermittent team sports like football, hockey, rugby etc. will benefit from using an isotonic sports drink because a drop off in hydration and muscle glycogen will reduce performance.

Short duration sports with a very high intensity such as track cycling, track and field, martial arts and barbell sports will benefit from using a Hypertonic sports drink. These sports are of a short duration so as long as the athlete is well hydrated before they start the event the duration is not long enough to see a drop off in performance due to dehydration. These shorter duration sports are generally a high intensity also so the athletes may see an increase in performance from increased muscle glycogen levels before they start the event.

Use sports drinks that are tested only

Whichever sports drink you choose, ensure that you are well fed and hydrated before you start an event to reduce complications during your sport and ensure that your supplements are tested by Informed Sport. In the UK, we have a 100% Me campaign which, states that as an athlete you are responsible for the supplements that you take. If you are caught or tested positive for a banned substance, it is nobody’s fault but your own. With resources like Informed Sport there are no excuses.

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