Introduction: Low/No Carb Electrolyte Mix
With summer (and the mosquitoes) upon us, more and more people will be enjoying their days in the great outdoors. Regardless of what outdoor pursuits you enjoy, the hot summer days will be sucking moisture and electrolytes from your body. Sports drinks aren't extremely expensive, but the cost does add up over time. For those of us that try to stick to a lower carbohydrate diet all of the added sugar negates any benefit.
Use this recipe to keep your wallet a little bit fatter while you stay hydrated and avoid muscle cramps and the other negative effects of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
Step 1: Different Types of Salt
There are a number of different types of salt, with slight differences between them. This study lists the mineral contents of various salts:
Type Calcium Potassium Magnesium Sodium
Table Salt .03% .09% < .01% 39.1%
Maldon (Sea) Salt .16% .08% .05% 38.3%
Himalayan Salt .16% .28% .1% 36.8%
Celtic Salt .17% .16% .3% 33.8%
If you carefully review this information you will come to the conclusion that it doesn't really matter which you choose, because the differences are negligible. I like to use Celtic salt because I already have it in the house and it has more (albeit an insignificant amount) of magnesium.
Step 2: Calculating the Quantities
A "Cool Blue" Gatorade has 300 mg of sodium and 90 mg of potassium (and 42 g of carbs) in a 24 ounce bottle. We will be making a 32 ounce serving size, so our target numbers are roughly 400 mg sodium and 120 mg potassium.* (100 mg sodium and 30 mg potassium per 8 ounces).
As noted sodium content varies by the type of salt. I have 4 kinds of salt in the house and they range from 320-420 mg of sodium per 1 gram serving (according to the labels).
There are 2 sources of potassium to choose from that you may already have in your house, or can be easily found at your grocery store: Sodium free salt substitute (Potassium Chloride) and cream of tartar. I prefer Cream of Tartar because it doesn't taste like table salt and helps to keep the drink from being overwhelmingly salty.
.75 g of Cream of Tartar will give us about 124 mg of potassium (165 mg of potassium per 1 gram Cream of Tartar). It also has around 1 gram of carbohydrate.
.25 g Potassium Chloride will give us about 133 mg of potassium (530 mg of potassium per 1 gram Potassium Chloride).
“One commonly held myth is that muscle cramping in active individuals is due to the loss of potassium; however, the amount of potassium in sweat is likely too low for this to be the culprit. Muscle cramping due to electrolyte imbalance is more likely associated with the loss of high amounts of sodium through sweat.”
So you can most likely omit the potassium from the recipe with no ill-effect. I think I feel better when I leave it in (possibly placebo) so I use the recipe as-is. I also fast (24-48 hours) occasionally and have noticed I feel better during fasts with the potassium included.
Step 3: Mix It Up and Enjoy!
The final recipe comes out to be:
32 ounces of water
1 gram of salt
And one of the following:
- .75 grams Cream of Tartar
- .25 grams Potassium Chloride
I just throw the 2 dry components into a water bottle, add cold water, then shake until everything has dissolved.
If you don't like the flavor you can add slices of citrus to the water bottle to add a hint of orange (or lime, or lemon) to the water. Or you can add a small amount of your favorite Kool Aid, Crystal Lite, or similar powders.
My scale doesn't measure < 1 gram so I make my mix 1 gallon at a time, so that I can more accurately measure it. 1 gallon of electrolyte mix ends up being:
1 gallon of water
4 grams of salt
And one of the following:
- 3 grams Cream of Tartar
- 1 gram Potassium Chloride