Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Electrolye Recipe

In a gallon (4 liter) jug mix
  • One cup (1/4 liter) by volume granulated sugar  (extended price $0.40)
  • One teaspoon (5 grams) uniodized table salt (extended price $0.01)
  • Two packages of your favorite Kool-aid.  I always use at least one lemonaide because the acidity helps hide the salt. (extended price $0.50)
  • Tap water to fill.  Shake to dissolve solid ingredients. 

I carry this in half liter, screw top pop bottles because they are rugged, leak proof and a darned convenient size. Total cost per half liter is $0.13 compared to $1.25 for commercial product at the party store. My nominal consumption rate is one bottle (0.5l) every three miles (5k).

Each bottle has about 300 mg sodium and 27 grams of carbs.  By comparison Powerade contains 210 mg sodium and 29 grams carbs per half liter while Low Calorie G2 (Gatorade) contains 225 mg sodium and 10 grams carbs.

One criticism I have seen for commercial products is that "They have too much sugar."   Let's look at that claim.  According to the Runner's World Calculator I burned about 430 Calories in my half hour of running.  Drinking 27 grams of carbs replaces about 120 of those Calories, or less than one third of what was burned.  The sugar can cause tooth decay, so sipping is a bad strategy for consuming electrolyte.  Slugging it down at intervals is a better plan.

The Back Story

I went running with Pelé yesterday at 4:00 PM.  We went 3.6 miles: We ran 23 minutes out on the Lansing River Trail and 14 minutes back with a one mile walk down.

The weather was brutal for running, at least by Michigan standards.  85 degrees Fahrenheit and 85% humidity with slight breeze.

Running really twists Pelé up.  Even running short distances puts him into debilitating cramps and the resulting muscle pain lasts for days.  This is a mystery because he is built for running and he has really good form.  He runs straight up, shoulders back so he can breath.  He has a mid-foot strike so he should not be prone to shin-splints.  He runs with economical arm motions, the motion is there but it is nothing over-the-top.

True to form, Pelé was starting to knot up as we neared the turn-around point.  We had a conversation.  Please forgive the grammar.  Runners tend to delete extraneous words when running.  We have more pressing needs for our oxygen.

Me: "Are you hydrated?"
Pelé: "Yup."
Me: "How much did you drink before we ran?":
Pelé: "Two bottles of water."
Me: "When did you drink them?  (gasp, gasp) Before running?"
Pelé: "That would be since I woke up."

The picture became clearer.  Pelé was dehydrated.  I had him drink half of my electrolyte at the turn-around point.  He though a quarter liter of fluid (about 8 oz) was a gross amount of liquid to chug on a run.  Grasshopper has much to learn.
He belongs to the school of thought that liquid should be consumed in tiny sips.  Basically a "wet-the-lips" strategy.  Perhaps that is a valid strategy if you are the prime negotiator at high level truce negotiations and your side will lose if you must pee.  But it is an attempt to "fool" your body into thinking that you met its needs.  Those kinds of games do not fly when you demand real work out of your body.

Pelé was also surprised to find out that his body needs salt in addition to water to replace the salt pushed out in sweat.  He  also did not know that human bodies are very finely tuned to electrolyte balance.  That is, it will not hang onto water if it is not matched by the proper amount of salt...it will push the extra water out as urine to maintain the electrolyte balance.

He was able to finish the run.


  1. Yep, sipping doesn't work... And it beats the hell out of salt tablets and water later!!!

  2. Working when dehydrated is the pits. http://eatonrapidsjoe.blogspot.com/2014/06/running.html

    We are working through the issues one-by-one.