Nuun: £0.41 for a 500ml drink. This home-made version £0.001!
I probably don’t get enough salt in my diet. I’ve had a couple of leg cramps in the pool recently, and sometimes when I yawn, the muscle under my tongue cramps up badly too. The thing is that we don’t tend to buy many processed foods, use little salt in cooking, and then (with the exception of potato wedges or chips - once or twice a month at most), don’t add salt at the table either.
Combine all this with triathlon training that’s starting to look like I’m taking things almost seriously, and it’s little wonder that I might be heading for trouble.
Now you can buy products (Zymm, Nuun) and ready-made drinks to help with electrolyte replacement during exercise . . . but I think I must be channeling Grandma Kumar again, because when I looked at the prices and ingredients of these, my immediate reaction was, “I can make it myself“.
OK, this is likely to get a little geeky from here . . . if you just want to know how to make your own electrolyte replacement drink, you can skip to the end, missing out all my anorak calculations.
We’ll start with Nuun as our base recipe. On the Nuun site, they list the contents as:
- 360mg sodium (carbonate)
- 100mg potassium (bicarbonate)
- 12.5mg calcium (carbonate)
- 25mg magnesium (sulphate)
- 37.5g vitamin C
- 0.5mgvitamin B2
- ALL DISSOLVED INTO 500ml OF WATER
For this basic electrolyte supplement, we’ll concentrate on the sodium and potassium, since they’re the ones easiest to work on. Maybe later I’ll track down a suitable source of the other elements for use in a drink. I’m also going to use chlorides instead of the carbonates & bicarbonates in Nuun. What are chlorides? Well, sodium chloride is what you call salt, and potassium chloride is the ingredient used in low-sodium or sodium-free salt.
So . . . I want to achieve doses of 360mg of sodium, and 100mg of potassium per 500ml drink - a 3.6:1 ratio. Yesterday, I picked up a pack of Low Sodium ’salt’ from the shop. This lists it’s content as providing 18g of sodium and 28g of potassium per 100g of product. To get the right potassium:sodium ratio, I want:
28g potassium x 3.6 = 101g sodium
If I put in 100g of the Low Sodium salt, I already have 19g of sodium, so I need an extra 82g. Common table salt (sodium chloride) gives 39g of sodium per 100g of product. So I want:
82/39 x 100 = 210g of salt.
So my basic mix is 100g of low sodium salt + 210g of regular table salt, giving a total of 310g. That contains 101g of sodium, and I want to measure this out so that I end up with a concentration of 360mg per 500ml. So for a 500ml bottle, I need:
0.36/101 x 310 = 1.1g
Now measuring that out could be a real problem, and this is precisely why Nunn and Zymm come in so handy. All you do with these is drop a tab into your bottle, and in a few minutes you’re ready to go. If you’re out and about (like, in a long race, and can’t have your own bottles ready to pick up), then these products are just great.
I used a 1/5 teaspoon measure, which I found to be about 1.6g of my electrolyte mix (I measured how much ten x 1/5 tsp weighed). So for a 500ml bottle, I could use ~2/3 of this tiny measuring spoon. A better option is just to use my 750ml bottles, and when I’m making them up ad one x 1/5tsp of the salt mix to each.
What about the taste? Well I generally make up my own drinks anyway, with about 150ml of fruit juice (grapefruit with a dash of lime is favourite), which is then topped up to 750ml with tap water.
- The basic electrolyte supplement is made up by adding 210g of ordinary salt to 100g of low sodium salt. The one I’ve used lists its ingredients as 51% potassium chloride and 48% sodium chloride. If yours has a different ratio, you’ll need to adjust the mix.
- Make up a 750ml bottle by adding 150ml of fruit juice, 1/5 of a teaspoon of the supplement mix, and topping up with water.
So why bother doing it yourself? Well Nuun is £4.99 for a pack of 12 (£0.41 each), while Zymm is £5.49 for 10 (£0.55 each), and Elete Electrolyte additive is massive £4.50 a shot.
The home made supplement works out at £0.30 for 281 doses - that’s £0.001 each.