Homemade Sports Drink for the Ultimate DIY Running Nutrition

sports drink, diy, running, ultra running , ultramarathon, runner, nutrition

Tired of bonking mid-race?

Can’t find anything that still tastes good eight hours into a race?

Don’t like paying a fortune for one-size-fits-all drink powders?

That was me as I struggled to find some way to keep the calories flowing in during long races. On training when I wasn’t working too hard, just about anything would do, but come race time when I was really pushing myself my stomach would turn South and nothing worked. I would fall behind on my nutrition and just start feeling worse and worse.

As I changed my fueling plan and tried different things, I discovered that a continuous flow of calories seemed to be the answer. Since anything with flavor became disgusting late in a race, I landed on unflavored Tailwind which worked pretty well. It was a little too sweet so I could only take about 100 calories per bottle of water and that wasn’t enough to really keep me going. It was also really pricy when you’re really packing on the miles.

After studying the ingredient label on the Tailwind bag, I decide I could make my own drink mix that would work better and be much cheaper. What I ended up with is a mix that combines the benefits I found from Tailwind with a slower-burning maltodextrin, an infinitely customizable mix that I could change depending on the season and an extremely cheap and convenient way to fuel.

With this custom formula, I’m able to consume 160+ calories per hour, even at race pace. It contains all the sodium and potassium I need (so no salt pills), it gives me sustained energy without the spike and crash of gels and is cheap (about 10 cents per bottle)! Note that you are using three different types of sugar… each is processed differently by your body so you can absorb more calories more quickly than if you were just using one type of sugar.

During my last race (the Pine Mountain 46 Mile Trail Run) I was able to finish third in just under 8 hours using this mix as my main fuel (I had three bites of potato, two bites of grilled cheese and one pack of Honey Stinger Gels just to keep something solid in my stomach).

So here’s the recipe with Amazon links to all the products you’ll need. (If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you’ll want to order one of those too)

12 oz table sugar

12 oz dextrose

20 oz maltodextrin

3t citric acid

.9 oz table salt

.3 oz Morton Salt Lite

(If you like flavor in your drinks, try leaving out the citric acid and adding these all-natural citrus flavors… or you could add unsweetened Kool-Aid.)

Place sugar, citric acid, salt and Salt Lite in a blender and blend until it is a fine powder (this will allow the mixture to dissolve instantly). Note: I’ve since discovered that you really don’t need to do this step. It does make your mix dissolve slightly quicker, but it doesn’t make enough difference to worry about. Dump into a gallon ziploc bag, jar or other sealable container and add dextrose and maltodextrin. Mix thoroughly and you’re ready to go!

I use these 3×4 ziploc bags to portion out my mix so I can just dump it into my bottle while I’m running.

Each oz of mix gives you: 110 calories, 260 mg sodium, 47 mg potassium

During the winter I use 1.4 oz per water bottle (I drink about one bottle per hour), which gives me 160 calories. In the summer I use less mix, but I drink a bottle in about 45 min. depending on the temperature. Use these as a starting point and adjust according to you’re needs.

Please comment below and let me know what you think!


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  1. Jeneen December 14, 2015 at 11:58 am #

    This is great information. I too have enjoyed using Tailwind but typically get taste fatigue about 3+ hours. Gels have been unimpressive for me as I already have low BMI therefore I struggle with burning more sugar than fat late in races. Right now I’m playing around with UCan but you’re spot on, the price point gets steep when we’re putting in the miles. I will have to make some of your recipe and let you know how it goes. Thanks!

    • photobgray December 14, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

      Glad to share, please let me know how it works for you! I tried the UCan, but found it pretty unappealing… if I can’t keep drinking it during a race it really isn’t any use to me!

  2. Brad Goodridge December 14, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

    You use a 1.4 oz water bottle ?

    • photobgray December 14, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

      That’s the kind of badass I am!

  3. Rob December 14, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

    Can’t wait to try this out. You hit all the problem points for me: can’t seem to maintain a high enough (or steady enough?) caloric intake, eat salt caps like they’re candy (especially in the summer – I sweat like a river), and I start gagging on my shot blocks if I’ve been eating them for 5 or more hours.

    • photobgray December 14, 2015 at 5:08 pm #

      I hope it works as well for you as it has for me!

  4. Dave Price December 14, 2015 at 8:57 pm #

    Occassionally, one comes across articles like this that are concise and helpful. Thanks for the info!

  5. Carl Parmer December 19, 2015 at 11:00 am #

    I tried the bag you gave me. I think you are on to something. I have to get motivated and order the stuff and put it together.

    • photobgray December 19, 2015 at 11:43 am #

      Excellent, glad you liked it. Once you have everything (which you can order from the amazon links in the post), it’s really quick to make. I think it took me about 10 minutes to make a month’s supply the other day!