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Many sports drinks are loaded with sugar and dyes. Here are a few more natural options.

January 02, 2015

When I was in college, I volunteered at the Los Angeles Marathon finish, directing the runners to the various tents. A woman came flying across the finish line, fell into my arms and said, “All I want is a Diet Coke.”

Yes, we runners have a variety of habits before, during, and after races to keep us going. But the one I could never get used to is slurping sports drinks. No matter what distance I’m tackling, I just can’t seem to stomach those electrolyte-replacement drinks. It’s plain water for me, thanks.

This is just fine for shorter distances: experts say that unless you’re very active for longer than 60 to 90 minutes, water is best for hydration. Plus, many sports drinks are loaded with sugar and dyes—not exactly what you want to put in your body after working so hard to get it into shape.

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So, what about those times when you really do need a sports drink? Recently, while I was preparing for a half-marathon and wondering what to do about fueling during the race, a friend told me that she puts raw honey in little baggies and uses it instead of gels. That gave me an idea: Why not make my own sports drink, using honey?

I added 2 tablespoons of raw, local honey, the juice of ½ of a lemon, and a couple of pinches of sea salt to about 2 cups of water, and sipped on it all through the run. This worked perfectly for me, and I met my goal of breaking 2 hours for the 13.1-mile event.

Turns out I’m not the only one whipping up DIY sports drinks. Here are a few more to try when preparing for your next race, long bike ride, or other endurance event.

All natural lemon-lime sports drink

This drink by DIY Natural is similar to the one I made, but it incorporates lime juice as well as lemon.

DIY chia seed drink

If, like many runners, you’re passionate about chia seeds, then this thicker, more gelatinous drink from Mama Natural is for you. (Personally, I don’t care for this texture, so I use chia seeds in other ways.)

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DIY organic sports drink

Coconut water contains some of the electrolytes lost during a long workout, so a homemade sports drink that includes it is a good idea; plus, it adds a touch of natural sweetness. (Just be careful about what brand you buy, as some have more electrolytes than others.) This recipe from Consider Me Fit calls for the sweetener stevia, but it’s optional, and you can always drizzle in a little honey if you like it on the sweet side.

Healthy sports drink

This drink’s combo of chilled green tea, pomegranate juice, honey, and sea salt sounds so good, it makes me want to go out and run for 2 hours just for an excuse to drink it (well, sort of). Plus, it’s such a pretty color, and no food dyes in here. Hat tip to the Simple Roots Wellness blog.

Coconut and lime sports drink

Coconut and lime are a classic combo (go ahead, sing the song—we won't judge), so naturally they go together in a sports drink, like this one from blogger Mommypotamus. Go ahead, "Put the lime in the coconut and drink them both down."

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