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How to Make Your Own Isotonic Sports Drinks for During Exercise

Updated on January 19, 2015
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Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. He is also a keen cyclist and a lover of the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District.

Isotonic Drinks Can Help Aid Sporting Performance

Get plenty of fluid during a marathon. Homemade Isotonic drinks can help sporting performance on a budget
Get plenty of fluid during a marathon. Homemade Isotonic drinks can help sporting performance on a budget | Source

Dehydration and how to avoid it

Dehydration has a disastrous effect on sporting performance and is also know as volume depletion as it reduces your blood plasma volume.

Dehydration occurs when water losses from the body out pace water gains. The osmotic concentration of the blood plasma gradually increases leading to hypernatremia. The loss of body water leads to

  • Severe thirst and need to drink
  • Skin dryness and wrinkling
  • Fall in plasma volume
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Eventually shock and circulatory failure.

Treatment for dehydration involves administration of hypotonic fluids by either oral administration or intravenous infusion.

By replacing lost fluids with an isotonic drinks while we exercise we can combat the effects of dehydration and provide carbohydrate to our working muscles. The downside is many of these products are expensive. Anyone can make your own isotonic sports drink for much less at home and very easily.

Types Of Sports Drinks And Why We Need Them

Hypertonic drinks less than 4% carbohydrate and are primarily concerned with hydration

Isotonic Drinks contain 4-6% carbohydrates for optimal hydration and carbohydrate absorbtion into the bloodstream.

Hypotonic Drinks are above 7% carbohydrate are mainly concerned with replacing the body's carbohydrate levels.

The table below shows it's effects on exercise performance from sweat loss. Isotonic drinks can help guard against these effects

Physiological effects of sweat loss on the body

 Percentage body weight lost as sweat
Effect on performance 
2 % 
Impaired performance 
4 % 
Muscular work capacity decreaased 
5 %  
Possible Heat Exhaustion 
7 %
Start to hallucinate
10 %
Heat stroke leading to circulatory collapse

Table adapted from "The Maintenance of Fluid Balance during Exercise", International Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 15(3), pp. 122-125, 1994

Lucozade Sport (Bottle)
Lucozade Sport (Bottle) | Source
SIS Go Electrolyte Powder
SIS Go Electrolyte Powder | Source

How to make a simple and cheap Isotonic Sports Drink

Isotonic drinks quickly replace fluids lost through sweat and provide much needed carbohydrate to be converted into energy by working muscles. This is a good choice for most athletes in all conditions. They also contain electrolytes which replace those lost by the body during sweating.

My formula is

100ml Orange Juice, 500 ml water and 0.5 g of salt.

You could use any other fruit juice you wish however I strongly suggest that you trial the formula you use in training before use in competition.

Currently you can get ready prepared energy drinks as pre made bottles such as Lucozade Sport (as pictured) and in mixable powder format (SIS GO electrolyte as pictured).

Fluid Replacement during exercise

It is recommended to consume around 500 ml of isotonic drink for every hour of exercise you do. It is also recommended to be well hydrated prior to exercise.

An excellent technique is to consume 400-600 ml of water or sports drink around 20-30 mins prior to a training session and then continue with regular fluid replacement taking regular small sips of sports drink during exercise.

Hydration should also continue post exercise. Ideally you need to consider drinking 800 ml water or Isotonic drink within an hour of finishing activity to replenish water lost through sweat.

Happy hydrating

Liam Hallam (CyclingFitness on Hubpages)


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