The 3-Ingredient Sports Drink You Can Make At Home

Sports drinks have blossomed into a $20 billion business since the 1960s, when doctors at the University of Florida invented Gatorade to improve the performance of the school's football team. The drink's marketers have made the Gatorade origin story somewhat famous: The university's brains devised a concoction with carbohydrates and electrolytes, so the school's brawn could win its first-ever Orange Bowl in 1967. A few years later, Gatorade broke into the National Football League with the Kansas City Chiefs, who went on to win the Super Bowl that season. Since then, sports drinks have been a go-to beverage for everyone from non-athletes, to marathoners, and the industry is poised for continued growth (via Fortune Business Insights).

What is this miracle of modern medicine and marketing? It really boils down to three ingredients: water, sugar for energy, and salt to restore the body's electrolytes after sweating. We're confident PepsiCo, Gatorade's parent company, wants you to keep buying its sports drink. But with an ingredient list that basic, you can make your own at home.

Making your sports drink at home saves money

Not only does it cost virtually nothing to make a homemade sports drink, especially if you have plenty of sugar and salt in your pantry already, but — just like Gatorade — it has the backing of scientists. A study involving 14 endurance athletes found measurable benefits from drinking sugar water before, and during a three-hour bicycle ride (via Bicycling). The study compared water with either sucrose or glucose added, and with no salt. (Sucrose fared a little better than glucose because it includes two different types of sugar, which gives the body more options for absorption).

"The carbohydrate is the cheapest part of the sports drink. We pay for the bottle, added flavors, and any number of added ingredients," said Leslie Bonci, a sports nutritionist, about purchasing brand name sports drinks. She added, "Sugar water is not fancy but can be as effective, and if you add a couple of shakes of salt you have a drink that's comparable to a sports drink at a fraction of the cost."

Bicycling offers some simple recipes for homemade sports drinks. They typically call for adding 5 tablespoons of sugar, and a 1/4 teaspoon of salt to your water bottle. Add lemon and lime, coconut water, honey, and even a little juice for more flavor.