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Exercise is wonderful, and long workouts are a wonderful way to improve your health while you push your body to its limits. However, to make the most of it and stay healthy, you need to make sure you feed your body the energy and nutrients it needs. The best way to do that is using this DIY Sports Drinks Calculator, where you can find out what you will need to complete your activity safely and to perform to the best of your abilities!

Endurance exercise: the benefits and risks of pushing your body

Exercising is the healthiest thing in the world; it makes our lives longer, and it makes our longer lives better. Its benefits to the quality of life, as well as the physical and mental health, cannot be overstated. However, even exercise can be dangerous when we push too far or we are careless.

To make sure we stay healthy, we must control the amount of exercise we do and take care of our bodies while exercising. Proper technique (especially -but not only- in weight lifting) and proper nutrition are the most fundamental things to get right if we want to stay safe.

Thankfully, Omni Calculator is here to help you, and with this DIY Sports Drinks Calculator, we will make it easier than ever to prepare for those long sessions that make you feel so tired and so happy once you're done. But before we start using the calculator, let's understand a bit better what it is exactly that our bodies need when exercising.

Hydration during exercise: beyond drinking water

Exercising generates a lot of heat in our body, which is not something our bodies like. To prevent overheating, we sweat; as the water in sweat evaporates from our skin, it provides a very powerful cooling effect, preventing any adverse effects from exercising. However, sweating means we are losing water. If we only sweat a lot, this is not too bad; the problem comes when we exercise very intensely and/or for long periods of time. If we don't replenish the lost water, we can become dehydrated, which lowers physical performance and can lead to very unhealthy situations.

The best way to prevent dehydration is to drink water while exercising. If we keep the difference between what we sweat and what we drink below 6-7% of our body weight, we should be preventing serious issues, and if we manage to keep it below 2%, our physical performance will stay at a high level throughout the activity.

But that's not the whole story; when we sweat, we also lose electrolytes and trace amounts of minerals. For professional athletes, each of them is crucial, and a personalized study and consequent tailor-made plan can be the difference between winning and losing. Regular people, even exercise enthusiasts, we can get great results just by looking at the main components of sweat: Sodium, Chloride, Potassium, Calcium, and Magnesium. These are the main electrolytes present in sweat and, therefore, the most important to replace.

It is important that you drink enough water and take in enough electrolytes during your activity, and that's why we built this calculator. It will give you a good estimation of how much you will sweat while exercising and create a personalized hydration plan to make sure you stay safe and stay hydrated.

How to use the calculator

Using the calculator is as simple as one would hope. With a few simple inputs and a myriad of presets already created for you, getting the knowledge you want is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

  1. Introduce the information about your workout or activity. You can choose the type of exercise you will do, for how long you will do it, and, additionally (very important for calculating the calories burnt), your weight. If you already know your sweat rate and caloric consumption, you can select that option in the first field for an even more personalized result.

  2. Select your favorite foods. We have 5 different lists of foods organized by their main nutrients. Choose your source of carbohydrates and the 4 main electrolytes you need to replenish with your favorite options!

  3. Choose how you want to see the results. You can select to see the amount of each food selected that you should ideally take during your activity, or if you want to dive deeper, you can see the balance of each nutrient if you were to follow our fuelling recommendations.

For those of you who want even more control, there is an advanced mode where you can select the intensity of the activity as well as the environment in which you will exercise; this will slightly modify the predicted sweat rate as well as the expected calorie consumption. You will also find there the carbohydrate uptake rate. This is an advanced field, and it's best left in the default value of 60g per hour unless you know what you are doing. We explain a bit more about this in a few sections below.

This calculator follows the SISO principle of operation; we have implemented checks to make sure the inputs are reasonable and that we catch input errors when they occur, but if you want to cover your energy needs for an ironman using only watermelons... that's gonna be a ton of watermelons, or to be precise, 9.2 metric tons of watermelons!

I got the numbers, what do I do now?

Once you input your data and preferences, the calculator will automatically tell you how much of each food you should eat—in total and per hour—and it will breakdown the nutrient consumption/intake for you. You can switch between them using the bottom-most field. But you might still be wondering what to do now.

The short answer is: whatever you want, it's a free country! But we don't want to leave you with analysis paralysis, so here are some recommendations!

  1. 😱The number-phobic approach: Maybe you are here trying to save time as well as money, but you don't really care about having the perfect drink; you just want something simple that will get the job done. If that's your case, then take a bottle of water, a couple of tablespoons of honey, a couple of pinches of salt, and the juice of a lemon; mix it all together, and you're done! This might not cover perfectly everything you need in the right proportions, but it takes no time to make and involves zero numbers!

  2. 😎The laid-back approach: Just take the snacks with you! If you are hiking or riding long but not very hard, you can take the food with you in a backpack or a basket and slowly eat from it as you go. You do not need to perfectly match the recommended hourly intake, especially if you're not after the ultimate performance.

  3. 🧮The accountant approach: Prepare smaller bags of all your selected foods in the recommended hourly amounts. This way, you know that all you need to do is eat one bag per hour, and you will be fine. This approach might not work great depending on your food choices (pickles and bananas, and kale in a bag doesn't sound very appetizing), but with the right selection, this can be an ideal way to stay on top of your nutrition. Extra points for doing half-sized bags to control your nutrition in a half-hour timeframe.

  4. 🤪The 'psychopath' approach: If you are looking for the most efficient way to get your nutrients in, we can go one step further and just blend all of our foods together. This way, you can prepare your hour or half-hour bottles in an easy-to-ingest format, and all you need to do is drink the "smoothie" as you go. It does sound great until you realize you might be mixing water and sugar with olives and kale in a single drink. So unless you don't care about the taste, this is best used only when your foods match very well.

  5. 🧑‍🍳The baker approach: So why not take an in-between approach? Look at your selections and blend together everything that can make a nice smoothy (sugar, bananas, and milk, for example), and then take the rest of the ingredients in a separate, dry bag (walnuts and salt are great candidates) to get the best of both worlds! This approach is a bit more involved but can yield very tasty results. 😋

  6. 🧠The smartass approach: This one is either a cheat or a hack, depending on how you look at it. Since some of the best carb sources are also very rich in electrolytes, we can get an all-in-one. Did you know that with just under 170g of dates, you can cover your needs for carbs, potassium, calcium, and magnesium for two hours of cycling? It's true! The only extra thing you need to take is salt (or another sodium source) for the most space-efficient and simple fueling strategy!

A deeper dive into electrolytes

As we have mentioned before, proper electrolyte balance is crucial for optimal and safe exercise. Too little sodium concentration in our blood can lead to hyponatremia, which is a very unhealthy state to be in and might even require hospitalization in extreme cases. On the other hand, having a concentration of sodium that is too high can lead to hypernatremia, which is not good either. Luckily, for most of our daily lives, a good, healthy diet and plenty of water will provide us with the nutrients we need in decent concentrations.

It is only when we sweat a lot (due to excessive heat or when we are physically active) that this balance is at risk of being disrupted, and we need to be intentional with our fueling and hydrating strategies. Generally, though, exercises under 1h and/or at low intensity (think walking, for example) do not pose a risk to our bodies. It is important to mention that sweat composition and sweat rates are highly personal, so if you are really serious about your training or your next competition, it is well worth getting a proper study and a professionally made hydration plan.

For most of us who want to make sure we are doing our best to stay healthy and have a good time exercising, it is only necessary to not get things wrong, as opposed to getting things perfect. For example, this very easy tool is ideal. It is based on several research papers studying sweat rates as well as sweat composition under different conditions, and while sweat remains a very personal thing, there are some key takeaways that can guide your own hydration:

  • The hotter it is, the more we sweat for the same activity and intensity
  • Sweat rates are roughly proportional to MET (Metabolic Equivalent of Task), which is a proxy for exercise intensity
  • Women tend to sweat less than men under the same conditions
  • Electrolyte concentration, just like sweat rate, is very individual; that's why we have advanced options in the calculator to cover extreme individualities
  • You do not need to replenish ALL of the water and electrolytes you lose during the activity; you can correct small differences before and after exercising.
  • When taking electrolytes, you should be careful not to deviate too much from your own sweat composition in terms of the concentration of salt and electrolytes.
  • Chloride is generally omitted from electrolyte conversations because it almost always is lost and ingested together with sodium (think about table salt or sodium chloride)

It is a lot, I know, and that's not even half of it. It is no wonder why some people just turn to a ready-made electrolyte solution, trusting that it will give them all the nutrients they need, and stop thinking about it. Thanks to this calculator, that is no longer the only easy option, and you can now have the best of both worlds: cheap, natural, easily available nutrient source, AND zero effort required counting milligrams and studying sweaty scientific papers.

But wait, there's more! Like a bad salesperson, we have one extra goodie for you, but unlike said salesperson, we will give it to you for free! Because hydration and nutrition go hand in hand, we have included the option to count calories and plan your fuelling strategy for your race or workout.

Fueling your activities, what you should do and what's possible

Same as with hydration, you don't need to think about eating while exercising every single time you go for a run or a walk. With food, the rule of thumb is that anything under 60-90 minutes can be done without fuelling. Assuming you're not doing crazy intensities and you are not fasted when you start. For those longer activities, be it a hike, a bike ride, or an ironman, you need to think about eating something mid-activity.

Technically, you could eat anything you want, but the time it takes to digest certain foods means there are better and worse choices. Opposite to what is recommended as healthy eating habits in regular life, simple carbohydrates tend to be the best option for sportspeople. White sugar, honey, or even corn syrup are widely used by athletes as their intra-workout source of energy due to their easy digestibility and how fast the body can absorb the calories into the bloodstream.

Unfortunately, there are limits to how fast our bodies can process nutrients while exercising. This is often not a problem for electrolytes, but when it comes to carbohydrates, research has typically found 60 grams per hour to be the limit of what a normal adult can absorb. This is clearly lower than the burn rate of many activities (60g of carbs are about 240kcal, while you can easily burn double or triple that while riding your bike), so for long, intense activities, it is important to fuel properly pre-workout (a common practice is called carb-loading) since we will almost always be in a calorie deficit for the duration of our exercise.

More recently, elite athletes such as Tour de France cyclists and professional Ironman participants are starting to push the limit to 90 grams or even 120 grams by gradually increasing the intake in training and using different types of sugars that are absorbed by the body through different pathways. One such example is mixing fructose and glucose to achieve more than 60 grams of carbs in total.

This fueling strategy requires careful planning and a training phase, or it could lead to gastrointestinal issues. In the calculator, you are able to play around with this limit in the advanced mode, experiment at your own risk and never during an important race to avoid unwanted surprises.

Real food vs sports nutrition/hydration

We have been talking about the health benefits of exercising, but at the same time, the calculator recommends sugar intakes well above the general guidelines of any health organization; what gives? Here is where context matters: what's ideal for an athlete might not be ideal for a sedentary person. Excessive sugar consumption can lead to multiple deadly conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, so we do not recommend you go and stuff your face full of candy.

However, during physical activity, your body might be in need of quick energy to burn and keep going. In such situations, sugars might be the best option for you, especially if performance is important for you. As the old saying goes, "Everything can be good in moderation, everything is bad in excess". Moderation and excess here are relative; relative to your age, your sex, your activity levels, and even your goals.

If you are concerned for your health, always consult a professional who will be able to give you personalized recommendations based on your unique individualities and even monitor you to make sure everything goes as it should. And always take information you read online with a pinch of salt, specially if you're going for a long ride, as it might give you just about enough sodium to keep you going ;)

Álvaro Díez and Joanna Michałowska, PhD
💫With the DIY Sports Drinks Calculator you can turn the food you already have at home into the perfect workout meal/drink🏃‍♀️

🧑‍🔬Tell us how you exercise and what food you like, and we will tell you what you need to eat/drink to perform your best. Exercise more, perform better, and stay healthier with this practical tool.🏅
Your activity
Input
Input activity details
What activity will you do?
🚲 Cycling
How long will it be?
hrs
How hot/humid will it be?
Average
How intense will be your activity?
Medium
About you
How much do you weigh?
lb
Sex
Select...
How much do you sweat?
I don't know
What will you be eating?
Carbohydrate source
🍚 Granulated sugar
Sodium source
🧂Table salt
Potassium source
🍋Lemon juice
Calcium source
🥛Yogurt, plain whole milk
Magnesium source
🥜Peanuts, dry roasted
Results
Show me...
Total amounts of food/drink
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