Natural Gatorade Alternative- Healthy Sports Drink Recipe


Rehydration drink ingredientsAs my children get older, they’re more involved in sports and play hard on the playground.  When they come to me sweating, bright eyed, smiling, and rosy cheeked and thirsty I give them some homemade Gatorade. Water is good, and it’s what we normally drink with meals, but when exercising sometimes you want something more.

When you’re drinking to rehydrate, it works best to not use plain water. (read more about that here at Thank Your Body).  Also, when you’re drinking to rehydrate, it’s best not to use commercial sports drinks due to the food dye and corn syrup.

Obligatory disclaimer: I am a mom, not a medical professional. Ask your doctor before changing your eating, drinking, or exercise habits.

I first made this rehydration drink as I was super pregnant with my September baby, Hannah, 7 years ago.  I used it to keep hydrated in the hot days of summer, and froze it in a water bottle do drink slushy during labor and after birth.  I’ve heard it called ‘labor-aid’ as well :)

And now I’m making it for my children.  I mix it up in a mason jar and just add a tablespoon or two to each water bottle of filtered water.

Homemade Rehydration Drink RecipeHomemade Gatorade or Laborade

Place in a pint mason jar and stir to combine (the lemon juice and baking soda will react, so stir it down), keep concentrate in the fridge.  This can be added to 1 gallon of filtered water, or add 1-2 tablespoons to each 8 ounces (1 cup) of water.

*Read more about filtering water at home here

(I like these water bottles for my 4 and 6 year olds, they don’t have all the valves and straws that are hard to clean in the toddler versions but aren’t as big as the adult’s)


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About Cara

Cara is the main author here at Health Home and Happiness. She loves the health and energy that eating well and playing well provides and has a goal to share what she's learned with as many families interested in making healthy changes as possible.

She helps other families achieve health in simple steps with the GAPS Starter Package, The Empowered Mother Pregnancy Resource, and helps them stock their freezer for busy days with Grain-Free Freezer Cooking Guide.


  1. I will try this I don’t drink pop I like water but I’m looking forward to try this. I like lemonade but this sounds better.

  2. Just wondering, how long does the mixture keep for? Is it better to keep it in the fridge? And :) how many total servings are in each batch? Thank you! Excited to make this!

    • Oh, yes, refrigerate it. I just edited the post. I think it would last maybe 10 days max since it’s made with fresh ingredients. The honey and salt should help keep it from going bad too quickly though.

  3. Could you use oranges or a combo of oranges and lemons to make an orange flavored one? My kids prefer organge gatorade to regular. I am excited to try this!! Thanks!

  4. Just wondering….what does the baking soda do?

    • following..I’m interested in knowing too.

    • I think it balances the PH but I might be wrong. I’ll try to look more into it and get back to you

      • Ok, in this Livestrong article (not a reliable website for health info, but it was the first explanation I found) Enhancing Sports Performance
        Strenuous exercise leads to the buildup of lactic acid with associated muscle pain and fatigue. The longer an athlete can delay lactic acid buildup, the better his performance, especially in situations that require endurance. That’s exactly what drinking baking soda does for athletes. Baking soda has been found to be effective in boosting multiple sprint performances by neutralizing lactic acid buildup, thereby delaying muscle pain and fatigue.

        Read more:

        • Actually, it very well might numb the pain of muscle fatigue but it won’t prevent it. Lactic acid is produced when your muscles aren’t receiving enough oxygen to keep up with the cellular metabolism. Normally the mitochondria of the cell make most of a cell’s energy but it requires oxygen. When the muscle requires more energy than the mitochondria can make with it’s oxygen supply, glycolysis (the cell’s process of converting sugar to energy without oxygen) has to supply a large amount of energy sources and a byproduct is pyruvic acid. Pyruvic acid is normally used to help the mitochondria but since excessive amounts are being made, it converts to lactic acid and is dumped into the blood stream, which is when muscle fatigue occurs. Baking soda might nullify the lactic acid and therefore prevent that burning sensation but your muscles are being overworked either way and without the warning sign of burning, you might actually hurt yourself. That is, of course, assuming that is what baking soda is doing in the drink in the first place. I think it is perfectly plausible it is there to neutralize the citric acid.

          • Baking soda is actually very dangerous for young children. I remember reading several articles about it and how it reacts with their stomach. It was a big deal because all of the colic waters were using it. I think the baking soda should be left out of the recipe. Kids

          • I’m not sure that 1 teaspoon in 1 gallon of water is the quantity that would be an issue, it’s commonly used to cook with and is in many foods that children eat daily. But of course follow your own intuition and best judgement :)

          • The burning in your muscles is from hydrogen, a byproduct of the lactic acid. The lactic acid increases the acidity of the blood and interferes with muscle contraction. It might work similarly to when people drink baking soda to mitigate heartburn.
            The baking soda is very alkaline thus reducing the acidity in the blood, thus reducing muscle burn & fatigue.

          • Deserae says:

            What you are saying makes perfect since because what baking soda does is it oxigenates the blood. That I’m assuming is why it’s in this recipe

        • Thomas says:

          I used to mix baking soda into orange juice right before a PT test in the Army. The first time I did it, my legs didn’t seem to tire as quickly. This would have worked so much better.

    • It gives the drink the “fizey” of carbination.

      • That would be true only if yoou drank it right away,

        I leave it out of my mixture with no noticeable differencce in

  5. I can’t wait to try this! Once I figure out how much I like per 8oz cup I think I will freeze single portions in ice cube tray so I can just pull them out as needed. Thanks for sharing!

    • This is a great idea, bothy the recipe and the freezing part! I try to drink a lot of water, but sometimes you just need a bit of flavor. I am just hoping this isn’t too salty. I am assuming that the dilution makes it doable.

      • I just tried this…modified it a bit…followed the recipe but added 1/2 cup lime juice, increased/changed salt to pickling salt (more sodium & minerals) to 1-1/4 tsp, and increased the baking soda to 3/4 tsp. LOVE IT!!! Thank you for this wonderful recipe! Its so flexible!

  6. Love this refreshing recipe! Going to bookmark it for this Summer when it finally gets hot here in the mountains and I am always wanting a natural sports drink :)

  7. Brooke Hargett says:

    This is awesome. Just wondering, can you make anymore flavors?

  8. Does the salt and the baking soda make it way too salty? I have tried other recipes and they were much too salty to drink.

  9. Once you make it into gallon of juice, It would make great popsicles.

  10. Love this! I made something similar a while back but used grape juice. It was great!

  11. if I juice fresh strawberries, instead of lemons will it still keep? I am not a fan of lemon juice.

  12. would Himalayan salt be appropriate to use here instead of sea salt?

  13. I love this! I practice Bikram Yoga regularly (4-5 times a week) and I do this all the time! I have never added baking soda. What is the purpose of this??

  14. What about potassium? I think that’s also a part of energy drinks and necessary when you need to be rehydrated.

    • That’s true, I’ll try experimenting with natural sources of potassium if I see them.

    • Mark’s Daily Apple had an article about electrolyte replacement drinks a couple years ago which indicate that one tablespoon, I think, of lemon juice has equivalent potassium to eight ounces of Gatorade.

      • Okay, just want to look up nutrition data. Gatorade has 30mg potassium per 8oz serving and lemon juice has 37mg potassium per 1oz serving. So one ounce of lemon juice in an eight ounce serving of a homemade drink will exceed the amount of potassium in a commerical drink.

        No need to add additional potassium.

        • Awesome, thank you! following these comments I had tried plugging it into a few calculators, but the ones I found only calculated carbs, calories, etc, and not potassium. Thanks for doing this for us!

  15. I will try this! I’ve been mixing 1/2 organic juice and 1/2 coconut water for my son’s sporting events, but it’s nice to have another option.

  16. I have stopped putting citric acid in plastic….it starts breaking it down and I don’t want to ingest it….

    • Cara and Martha,
      A lot of supplements have citric acid as a preservative. Do you have a source on this? I have mineral drops which come in plastic that contain citric acid. What concentration would cause this? Thanks, Karyn

  17. Black lava salt might be a better option to use than sea salt….it will provide more trace minerals perhaps even potassium not sure…but it will make it black in color just fyi

  18. Any thoughts for options without the lemon juice? My daughter has severe acid reflux, and can’t do any citrus. She also can’t do Gatorade because it is so acidic.

    • Bananas are high in potassium you could try banana puree & then coconut water instead of honey.

    • I was under the impression that lemons become alkaline when you drink it even though it seems like they are acidic. Also have you ever heard of Kangen water – it is alkaline (produces 8.5, 9.0 and 9.0 pH drinking water, antioxidant and micro-clustered making it super hydrating. Go onto for more info :)

    • Something that really helped my acid reflux and a number of other issues is homemade kombucha tea. Worth considering. Expensive to buy on a regular basis, but easily made at home for pennies on the dollar. Many good videos on youtube for making it.

  19. Thank you! I have been looking for a recipe like this!

  20. Christina K. says:

    Thank you!! I’m going to do this with limes since that’s what we have…looking forward to getting some lemons and doing them lemon-lime mix since my daughter likes the lemon-lime gatorade.

  21. Vicki D. says:

    Just a note If you go out to eat & order tea chances are the baking soda is in there not a lot but some.
    Keeps the tea from being bitter.

  22. Sounds good. Wondering if the honey adds something beyond the sweetness? I often make “Salty Lemonade” for myself and my girls – just adding lemon and sea salt to taste. We love it!

  23. This is very tasty. I’m hoping my sons will like it as much as I do. I just had one problem. When I added the soda it bubbled over just like a volcano. science experiment. ;) Did anyone else have this problem and is there anything that can be done?

    • I had the same problem! I had seen your comment before making it, so I had it in the back of my head that it might bubble over. But I just didn’t believe it would happen. It did. I stirred, rather than putting the lid on and shaking it, so I wonder if the lid would’ve contained it. Anyone else?

    • Beverly,
      That is the base (Baking Soda) neutralizeing the acid (Lemon Juice). Pretty much the same as the baking soda/vinegar volcanoes made in elementary school science class…
      Try putting it in a larger container and adding the baking soda very slowly. This should help prevent it from overflowing all over the counter.

    • Don’t shake it!!!!!!! I just posted my “experiment” from today, but in a nutshell, mine exploded after I shook it! Live and Learn!

  24. This post is awesome! I do mine a little different, but I’m gonna try this one. I like that you can make the concentrate and take up less space in the fridge. Cara: Expert Minimalist :)

  25. Jeff Toland says:

    Thanks for the recipe. You said that you drink water with meals. I was under the impression that doing this washes away the enzymes etc from the mouth and the gut and interferes with proper breakdown of food.

  26. that might be good to add to kefir water.

    • Leanne Kudahl says:

      I think because the baking soda is a neutrilizer the kefir grains might like this as they like acidity :)

  27. Just made drink. It did bubble over. Kind of funny it remained me of homeschool experiment days.
    I may try adding Braggs Apple Cider to it.
    Can’t wait to try it tommrow while working in the yard.
    Also sent it my Daughter in law.

  28. Cara, look into potassium citrate. I use it in my own home made Gatorade as potassium is a necessary electrolyte replacement post-workout. With the K-citrate you’ll need less of the citric acid (because citric acid is very rough on your teeth). If you can find a natural kool-aid type powder it’s much easier for flavoring and you can just add a small amount of NaCl and K. The NaCl and K should be about a 2:1 ratio. With a powder like that you can make it as needed. Aim for about 300mg of NaCl and 150mg of K. It tastes great and I only make enough for my long runs.

  29. Just made this. I was very excited about making it as I train pretty hard each week and sweat a lot. So I bought my organic lemons for $.99/each today and thought, I’ll make this real quick and I’ll use my juicer for the lemons. I was thinking it’d be a 5 minute job. Well, it was! The lemons juiced beautifully in my juicer and I had almost 2C worth of lemons since I used 9 lemons in my juicer. I added a little more of the other ingredients since I had almost 2C of lemon juice. It was great……….until I added the baking soda, and SHOOK the bottle! Thankfully, I used my “blender bottle”, that I hardly ever use, and shook it over the sink. Well, it EXPLODED! Everywhere!!!!!!! My husband said “no more chemistry projects for you!” LOL! After I cleaned everything up, including having to mop my kitchen floor, my 5 minute job turned into more like 15 or 20 after clean-up! But, aside from all that, it turned out ok, even though so much was wasted. I still have some left that I’m going to try tonight after kickboxing and Muay Thai! Thanks for the recipe!


  30. I use Kombucha in my recipe rather than juice and usually add magnesium powder as well for an extra boost.

  31. Hi! is it ok if you dont add the salt? wouldnt be that kind of intake with salt be bad for your body? how many times do you actually drink this in a day or in a week? is it safe for 7yr olds? just wondering…thanks!

    • Jaime Peterson says:

      Actual Gatorade has a higher concentration of salt in it than this stuff so it should be safe unless you are allergic to anything in it.

  32. My only concern is the baking soda. Some people may have undiagnosed irregular heart rythms and the baking soda could be dangerous. I had a friend when I was a child and her dad took it for indigestion and dropped dead at his job 30 minutes later. Could you ease my fears on this?

    • The amount you would take for indigestion would be larger than what you would get in this drink. I can understand why you would feel so nervous because someone you knew personally was killed by baking soda, but this must be quite rare. You could make the drink without baking soda if you’re worried, and it will still be helpful, just not quite as balanced. I’m about to explain the baking soda in a general comment (not a reply to anyone specific) because I see a lot of confusion here!

  33. Margaret Devine says:

    My great nephew is playing in Little League now & his mother gets him a bottle of Gatorade for each practice & game. I may just mix this up, freeze it in an ice cube tray made for putting in water bottles & see if it works better. Of course, I would thing it will last longer than 10 days if it is frozen immediately after being made.

  34. LadyEz says:

    This is a great recipe….Reading the comments it struckme how l-o-n-g comments on ”alternative” sites are because there are so many schools of thought. Science and the scientific method are a great tool for avoiding confusion…If anyone actually IS trying to poison us then I doubt it is the scientists – this isnt 1960’s James Bond you know and they are usually a modest,logical and normal bunch….If you read a little about how chemistry works then it will all make more sense…..Water doesnt actually rob your body of more water – you can drink it pure fine, but you need salts in your diet to survive. You could make this fresh with all sorts of other fruits I would think but it wouldnt necessarily keep like lemon mixtures do….

  35. Ruth Cobb says:

    Track coach told us to dilute the sports drinks with water as they were too sweet. There have been reports of athletes collapsing due to too much water intake lowering sodium content of body. This sounds like it isn’t too sweet or salty. As you said, check with your doctor about the right course to take.

  36. Be aware that more than 1/2 the Maple Syrups out there are NOT natural (some say 80%) and may contain dangerous chemicals. Many are corn syrup and Karo based with refined sugar and other “additives” you wouldn’t ordinarily feed your family or yourself.

    The lactic acid is built up from using your muscles and not being hydrated enough, so the more liquid you take in, the quicker it’s washed away.

  37. Malisa Hodges says:

    Feedback please regarding baking soda and heart. Is there a substitute for baking soda if it’s an issue?


  38. Please becareful when you say water is a diuretic, as it is not! I really like your recipe, but water is not a diuretic!

  39. Veronica N. says:
  40. Mackenzie says:

    I like sekanjabin for an alternative to Gatorade. It’s an ancient Persian syrup made of sugar/honey, vinegar, and mint leaves. It can be used for dunking cucumbers and lettuce in, like a salad dressing, or watered down with ice as a drink. The vinegar ensures you get all the electrolytes you need.

    Medieval reenactors drink a TON of this stuff.

  41. Could freeze in ice cube trays to keep longer. Drop a cube or 2 into some water and stir until dissolved.

  42. Could freeze in ice cube trays to keep longer. Drop a cube or 2 into some water and stir until dissolved. Can do this with fresh squeezed orange juice or lime juice too

  43. Where do the electrolytes come in at? Is it in the salt and baking soda?

  44. Baking soda is included because it is a different type of salt than table salt, and our bodies need both kinds. Even better is to include potassium chloride as well. Here is a reference with the World Health Organization’s rehydration recipe (I can’t find it on WHO’s own site anymore). However, as has already been pointed out in the comments here, lemons have lots of potassium, so if you are using lemon juice you do not need an additional source of potassium–the WHO recipe contains no juice so that it’s easy to prepare in desperate situations to treat severe dehydration.

    Getting the baking soda and lemon juice to react with each other is NOT desirable as the reaction neutralizes some of the properties of both. I’m not a chemist and can’t tell you if it neutralizes any of the effects you want from a sports drink, but I can tell you the drink tastes better if you minimize the reaction. I mix the dry ingredients into the water first and then add the juice, and I make it just before drinking (or if taking it on a hike, just before leaving) rather than store it pre-mixed. Here is my recipe for sports drink by the glass.

    For those concerned about heart conditions, probably the best choice is to substitute potassium chloride (sold as Salt Substitute or Lite Salt) for the baking soda and possibly for the table salt as well. Talk to your doctor. You should read the ingredients of any commercial sports drinks you consider drinking, too.

    Thanks for spreading the word! This drink has been great for me since I learned about it several years ago.

  45. The article you linked to says nothing about it being better not to drink plain water. It just says that it is possible to overhydrate.

  46. Just wanted to say that I made this drink alternative and love it. I am doing lots of running, 10Ks and 20Ks, and this drink really hits the spot. I used half the honey, only b/c I ran out of honey!, but it is sweet enough with half. I suppose with full honey you would get more energy while exerting yourself. I also froze the concentrate b/c I didn’t want it to spoil – works great to throw a couple cubes in a glass after getting back from a run. Thank you.

  47. Love your recipe. We used to do the same until our family’s got so busy that we needed something “on the go” and we made this,

    All-natural, honey based, nothing artificial.

    We still do the home made from time to time, but if you need something on the fly, check us out.

  48. If you were to use coconut palm sugar in place of honey you’d have about the same amount of electrolytes as Gatorade plus other nutrients and minerals Gatorade doesn’t have. Here is a link to the nutritional info on coconut palm sugar:

    Thanks for the recipe! I’ll be trying it!

  49. IrishDaze says:

    I just made this, with 100% maple syrup (it’s what I had on-hand). It tastes JUST like a commercial spots drink, except less sweet (which I prefer, anyway).

    This is how I made it without the bubble-over effect in a 2-qt pitcher (I don’t have a 1-gal pitcher):
    Grab clean 2-quart pitcher
    Add lemon juice
    Add maple syrup
    Stir to mix well (not tough, as the sugar is already a liquid)
    Add salt
    Add 1/8 t baking soda
    Add 1/8 t baking soda
    Add 1/8 t baking soda
    Add 1/8 t baking soda
    Stir ~ 5 times until no more white specks are obviously visible
    Fill container with water
    Stir once more
    Fill a drinking glass half full with drink, then fill glass with water (this makes the 2x solution a 1x solution when consumed)

  50. Bethany says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I am training for a marathon and regular gatorade or sports drinks aggravate my IBS symptoms really badly. I tried this recipe on my 10 mile run last week and it worked great! Thanks!

  51. I was wondering about adding powdered calcium magnesium? I wouldn’t know how much to add for the concentrate. Any thoughts?

  52. So to re-hydrate you can’t use just plain water but what did people do before sports drinks were available? Eat oranges? Salt water? I mean aside from this recipe is there another Gatorade alternative? (I was told to use a sports drink to re hydrate during labor)
    Also, what is the benefit or reason for adding baking soda?

  53. Basic Nutrition Info for those that want it.. (8oz serving)

    Ingredients Calories Carbs Fat Protein Sodium Sugar
    Lemon juice – Raw, 1 cup 61 21 0 1 2 6
    Honey, 0.5 cup 515 140 0 1 7 139
    Reese – Sea Salt, 1 tsp. (1.2g) 0 0 = 0 0 1,880 0
    Baking soda, 0.5 tsp 0 0 0 0 629 0

    Total: 576 161 0 2 2,518 145
    Per Serving: 72 20 0 0 315 18

  54. I am interested in using this while I cut and bulk! I have a question .. Would Kirkland Organic Honey be good to use? Also just lemon juice bought from the store is okay?

  55. Also, is this healthy enough to drink at least once or twice a day or more??? At least after workout?

  56. Tabitha Farley says:

    I didn’t read all of the comments, but I have heard that Cream of Tartar is a good source of potassium. I mix CoT and salt into orange juice every night to fight 4 am insomnia and it seems to work well.

  57. Tried this, love it. And I upped it with a little adult element – adding a pinch of cayenne pepper powder, just enough to perk up the taste buds. The pepper slows down the intake for someone wanting to do a little unhurried sipping in place of alcohol. Knowledgeable comments on whether or not the addition of pepper is appropriate would be most appreciated.

  58. Question….why would you want to neutralize the acid in the lemon? My basic understanding is that lemons and limes are at the top of the chart in keeping your body on the alkaline side.

  59. @Frank, citric acid is tough on the enamel of your teeth.


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