Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Salty Lemonade for Cycling

A few people have asked about the "salty lemonade" I mentioned in the previous post, and it's really very simple: When I fill my water bottles before a long ride, I add a pinch of salt and also some lemon juice to the water. In conjunction with snacks containing potassium, magnesium, calcium and sugar (i.e. bananas and milk), this mixture helps replenish electrolytes lost during cycling, especially in hot weather - which in turn can help prevent leg muscle cramps and lightheadedness that some experience on long and strenuous rides. Several cyclists I know prefer this method to consuming commercial sports drinks and gels, and it works for us.

Some points to consider about the Salty Lemonade:

. Do not overdo it on the salt. What I call a "pinch" I have seen defined as 1/8 of a teaspoon, which seems about right.

. The reason for adding lemon juice is mostly to balance out the salty taste. The sourness of it adds a nice refreshing element as well.

. Some like to fill one bottle with a weaker concentration of the mix than the other, alternating between them depending on how much they are sweating. Having bottles that look different from one another helps if you're going to do this.

. On long trips where you know you'll be able to refill your water bottle, you can also carry single-use salt packets to add to the fresh water.

. If you have been advised against a high-sodium diet, obviously consult with your physician prior to consuming anything like this (including commercially available sports drinks).

. As mentioned earlier, salty water alone is not enough to restore electrolytes, so make sure to supplement with appropriate snack foods. Bananas work best for me in this regard, and they are easy to eat while on the bike.

While many cyclists thrive on commercial sports drinks, others prefer more natural, home-made solutions and this can be one of them. Please feel free to share your own.

41 comments:

  1. Been doing this forever. Add honey as desired. Rinse and repeat as a recovery drink.

    PS Stretching 5 hrs. before a back prob is like eating dinner at breakfast time in order to not feel hungry at dinner.

    PPS There are a million recipes for home made on-the-bike food people. Do I hafta say google?

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  2. That actually sounds really good for any hot day. Especially with a touch of rum. :)

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  3. Bananas...are very easy to eat while on the bike..

    Ha, not for me apparently :)

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  4. I usually do a mix of orange, coconut and pineapple juice diluted with water. About 1/4 juice mix to 3/4 water. And I second the recommendation for bananas.

    I should probably try mixing some salt in, but haven't been doing so thus far.

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  5. That is an interesting idea. I do not like the commercial sport drinks during a long ride and I can't stand the taste of the things you add to regular water such as Nuun. However, Hammer Endurolytes are just a pill. I started taking them and, until the recent heat, all of my issues with cramps during and especially after the ride are gone! Now that it is hotter, I have to adjust my intake. I am still playing with it because this is my first summer doing serious miles (over 100+ a week).

    What I like about the Hammer Endurolytes is they are actually low sodium. But, they have a great balance of other stuff. If you read about them, they are of the opinion that Americans get enough sodium in their diet but lack the balance. For all I know it is complete BS, but it seems to be working for me so that is all I care about.

    (note: I do not work for them or anything, I just have been really impressed with the product)

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  6. coconut water.

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  7. Interesting thread and one which other posters will all have their own opinions related to their experience.

    Here is my tuppence worth. Feeding on the bike I would carry bananas, dried fruit, such as dates or sultanas, Fig Roll biscuits, or fruit cake. All easily eaten and full of energy. Liquid intake. I use water sweetened with orange. When racing years ago I always used 'Complan' (a meal supplement marketed for the elderly and full of everything you need) after seeing recommended by Barry Hoban in an interview in 'Cycling'. I don't use gels and am not a fan of modern powder based sports drinks.

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  8. I drank this when I was pregnant when my already low blood pressure was really variable and I was prone to fainting. I still do it on hot days when I have to take a long bike ride. It is great for anyone with low blood pressure on any day and for people who don't want to ingest large quantities of liquid corn.

    I sometimes mix in some raw coconut water, too, when I have time to deal with coconuts (rarely), which is nice, too.

    The salt really is key -- for me, at least.

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  9. I really like to use green tea (chilled) and salt, lemon, honey.. kind of like an arnold palmer. :) Very refreshing!

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    1. I will second this recipe, sometimes lime juice instead of lemon.

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  10. Grant Peterson's new book "Just Ride" mentions 1/2 water, 1/2 OJ, pinch salt. Also he gives thumbs up to Tomato juice and coconut milk for long rides.

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  11. My version of this is salty Gatorade. I use the Gatorade mix so I can control the concentration of the Gatorade, and add salt to it.

    I think it's delicious. Anything that encourages me to drink on the bike is a good thing. I sweat a LOT in hot weather. The bandanas I wear under my helmet always show salt stains, so I need the salt.

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  12. For some reason I don't like drinking anything sweet on the bike, including adding honey as GR Jim mentioned, orange juice a la Grant Peterson, or coconut water. Too sweet for me and makes me feel a little nauseous. But I need to try Heather's green tea idea.

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    1. I like the green tea idea too. If I add enough ice for it to stay chilled...hmmm. I think I'll try this today.

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    2. I don't like anything sweet too. Generally, I take with me a baggie of almonds, shelled sunflower seeds and some dried cranberries and just drink a lot of water. I have yet to have a problem with gassing out(my term for bonking). I have to remember to eat a small amount of the nuts and fruit every twenty minutes or so though, that is the key.

      I have recently tried a small amount of Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar in my water bottles just to see if it helps anything. It hasn't hurt.

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    3. Tea is a diuretic, and not so good for staying hydrated, although it tastes quite refreshing. Of course, it might work for some ppl, but I stay away from diuretics during long rides. (I love tea and coffee, but I cannot understand why so many roadies stop at the cafe for espresso or java mid-ride. Seems like a bad idea to me...)

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    4. The diuretic effect of coffee/tea is too minimal to make any difference to normal body functions, especially if you are drinking water/energy drinks at the same time. On the other hand the caffeine effect from an espresso can make a significant difference to ones stamina.

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  13. My new favorite drink is my version of this: http://bragg.com/zencart/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=16&products_id=160&zenid=o57omev59ltouor29vhuc2jdg3

    Since it's $2 a bottle, I just make my own. Maybe 1 teaspoon - 1/2 tablespoon ACV, 9 drops of stevia extract, and a sprinkle of ground ginger in a tall glass of water. Watering it down a little can even out the tartness of the vinegar. It's super tasty! I imagine it would go well with a pinch of salt to make a great sports drink.


    PS - I've been reading a book recently called 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back that might help any reoccurring back pain you might have. It's written by a doctor that studied traditional cultures that did repetitive movements that we typically associate with back pain, and yet they reported none. She teaches proper ways to use your body to solve pain issues. Her "stack-sitting" and "hip-hinging" techniques I could see especially useful to cycling.

    http://www.amazon.com/Steps-Pain-Free-Back-Solutions-Shoulder/dp/0979303605

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  14. A trail mix of salted nuts, chocolate chips, and dried fruit works pretty well for me.

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    1. I take variations of these with me on rides. Works pretty well.

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  15. i am willing to bet that just a few bites of those nachos replenished all the sodium velouria sweated out. americans consume far too much salt and this obsession with electrolytes is more about advertising than science. electrolytes are only an issue for those who engage in extreme endurance sports (e.g. ultra, iron man, or longer rando/ronde/tour rides).

    http://lifehacker.com/5895140/10-stubborn-exercise-myths-that-wont-die-debunked-by-science

    http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2011/feb/22/exploring-myths-and-facts-surrounding-sports/

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    1. As usual, this depends on a lot of things. On the rider, on the weather, on the level of exertion. American diets vary as well; certainly not everyone's is high in sodium.

      I used to get cramps in my calf muscles on effortful rides, but the bananas and salt have kept them at bay.

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    2. "I used to get cramps in my calf muscles"

      That's where I cramp up! Happens every time I attempt a long ride. Unfortunately I cannot stand bananas.

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  16. Is it better to freeze the salty lemonade prior to cycling?

    I've been having issues with lukewarm water in my bottles as a result of the brutal temps.

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    1. I fill the water bottle with ice, then the rest with water and this mix. By the time I need a drink it is usually all melted but cold.

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  17. Water-down(tea+lemonade) + a few cell salt tablets. The hotter the OAT, the more watered down. It's good warm in cold weather too, not watered down at all. To keep it interesting, I vary the tea and the sweetener in the lemonade.

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  18. Absolutely love home-made solutions like this one and have been doing a similar two bottle mix for some time and always have a banana along for long rides. Milk, never thought of it but makes sense.

    Home, where all the ideas the manufacturers adapt and use come from in the first place.

    P.S. Haven't used Gatorade or its kind for ages.

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  19. Great idea. I'm going to give this a try. It'll be perfect for my long workouts as well.

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  20. Traditional lemonade recipes have included salt for a long time. I used to make the recipe out the old Joy of Cooking and everyone was always surprised and generally pleased by the salt. I love it and think it provides some balance to the...umm...rather significant amount of sugar syrup.

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    1. How interesting, I did not know that.

      The lemonade my family used to make was always very low on sugar. Also, my grandmother would boil the lemons, almost like a fruit compote; then chill.

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  21. For those who may need more potassium for cramps consider a potassium supplement available everywhere vitamins as sold.

    I take one potassium pill everyday or suffer crippling cramps so I know it help with that condition.

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  22. Moderately sugared, weak tea (with a pinch of salt, I suppose). Tea seems to have amazing pick-up properties.

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  23. Just had some of this today. A little weird, but refreshing!

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    1. Or India chai when it is cold. Not the chi chi stuff but good old Lipton's loose boiled with lots of sugar and milk until it's both bitter and sweet. Amazing stuff -- more powerful than espresso but no jitters. Anecdote: years ago as a boy my father took me hiking in the Nepalese Himalyan foothills; the routes were just mountain footpaths. A few days in at 8 or 9 k feet we came across a chubby babu (Raj usage) lying by the side of the path prostrate with fatigue: he had been carrying a small bundle of trade goods to sell in the inland farming villages but was woefully equipped for the mountains -- he was wearing a dress shirt, tight pants, and Beatle boots. My father had the Sherpas boil him some chai: that and a large Cadbury's got him back on his feet in no time.

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  24. Already a host of other suggestions! I will add mine to the list.

    -Whole Foods fresh squeezed juice (or any natural juices from the shelves that are not from concentrate or add sugar)
    -coconut water
    -flax seed oil
    -agave nectar syrup (just a few squirts)

    Pour from a pitcher stored in the fridge as a recovery drink, or carry it in a bottle on the bike during long, tougher rides.

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  25. Day of: fresh beet juice and the tail of a lightning bug. A nicotine patch the night before while sleeping. Done this for years.

    http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/nutrition/Never-Miss-a-Beet.html

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  26. Salty cranberry juice. Same as your lemonade, but with cranberry juice. For super hot days I freeze it the night before.

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  27. I wanted to alert you to a potentially useful product, Morton's Lite Salt. Basically it is a salt blend for people on a sodium restricted diet. It replaces some of the sodium chloride with POTASSIUM chloride. So it may give that potassium boost. I'm trying it in your recipe, we'll see how it works.

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  28. Squeeze a lemon, recycle that yellow plastic thing.

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  29. Add chia seed to water. Shake very vigorously and immediately to avoid clumps. It will make a gel, thin or thick depending on amount. Suggest widemouth canteen unless very thin indeed. Optionally add electrolytes, citrus, matcha, or whatever else you like. The gel will draw fluids deep into your gut for slow release, meaning fewer stops to top up are required. The seeds themselves are high in energy, fiber, anti-oxidants.

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  30. I do this all the time, I'm so glad to hear it's a thing! I always did it b/c I hate how flat lukewarm water tastes.

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