Ahh summer! Your sunshine makes one want to "squeeze the day," yet it is also draining at the same time. Your long days allow for large amounts of time spent sowing and reaping the harvest from the summer garden, basking in the sun out on the beach or in the orchard or hiking the mountains of our Cascade forest.
Those activities really require a lot of aerobic action and at the same time produce a lot of perspiration. Losing precious minerals and salts in the process. Leading to achy muscles, nerve issues and exhaustion.
Time to grab the Gatorade! Oh wait... bad idea. Dye filled, processed sugar laden, nay high fructose corn syrup filled, junk. Seems like two steps backwards. Time for some natural electrolyte drinks and there are many to choose from.
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Back to the Gatorade.
Most people think of Gatorade and drinks of similar a caliber when it comes to hydrating after a long hike, sporting event or similar activity. This drink invented in 1965 by the Gators football team, is super high in processed sugars which have been shown to cause diabetes, heart issues and weight gain. While the effects of consuming food dyes are highly debated, there are possibilities that it causes ADHD in children along with risks of cancer and other ill health, according to Healthline.net. Since they are not necessary to hydration, or getting our electrolytes, its better to just skip them.
Why is hydration and electrolytes so important?
Electrolytes are highly important to normal body functioning and not only can they be lost through sweating during high arobeic activities, but they can be lost during an illness, with anyone that is lacking a healthy digestive system and has issues absorbing their nutrients, those taking certain over the counter drugs may be susceptible to electrolyte loss (such as those on an antibiotic) as well as those who follow the keto diet.
Electrolytes are super important because they are the chemicals that form the electrical energy that helps the muscles in our bodies to contract and they also send the signals to our nervous system which tell it to act.
Ever get a charlie horse in your leg, or maybe you deal with jumpy legs (restless leg syndrome)? It might be time to up the electrolytes and see if that helps.
There are four keys to a great electrolyte drink which also happen to be the 4 items that are lost during aerobic exercise:
Helps to maintain muscle, nerve and bone health.
Helps to maintain blood pressure and keep the muscles from cramping.
Also assists with muscle cramping as well as digestive health, stress and anxiety.
Aides in keeping your body fluids balanced, nerves healthy and more help for those muscles.
Herbal Tea & Infused Waters
First up on the list of herbal, all natural, electrolytes, is herbal tea and infused water. These are grouped together because they are essentially the same, just one is made with hot water and the other infused via the cold brew method.
An infused water may be brewed using an herbal tea or be as simple as the addition of some cucumber and mint, fresh basil or lemon and lime added to plain cool water, that sets for a time to infuse. Also commonly known as spa water.
Why herbal tea and not black or green tea (those teas made from the camellia senesis plant)?
For a couple of reasons: caffeine content and their natural drying effects. When replacing electrolytes its best not to send an extra energy to the adrenal system through caffeine. The adrenals are likely taxed already through the exertion that caused the loss of electrolytes and need rest and recovery time rather than another jolt. Black and green tea can also have a drying affect and we are looking to hydrate, so its best to stick with herbal teas.
A great example of an herbal tea would be one made with hibiscus. The hibiscus flower is packed with great stuff and has some awesome benefits:
Hibiscus tea isn't the only herbal tea that helps out with electrolytes though.
Many of the fruits, herbs and botanicals used in herbal teas pack powerful nutrients to help maintain the body.
Just make sure that each tea is free from chemicals, is organic (don't steep those pesticides in your cup!), not packaged in a bleached tea bag and doesn't contain any added sugars or flavorings.
Botanicals that Aide in Hydration
Herbs High in Magnesium
In addition to awesome electrolyte boosting herbs, make sure to also include a carbohydrate (all natural sugar) as well as a sodium (quality sea salt).
We love to use a local raw honey because of it's added benefits. Maple syrup would be our second choice when choosing an all natural sugar for our homemade electrolyte. We also love to use Redmond's Real Salt for our sodium element because of the raw minerals that are included in it.
As always you can find our high quality, organic loose leaf, herbal teas in our farm store here. Our favorites for hydrating are High Desert Hibiscus, Oregon Harvest Berry and Farmer's Wife Raspberry.
Kombucha & Water Kefir
Next up on the list of all natural forms of electrolyte replenishing and herbal hydration, are kombucha and water kefir. These two lovelies are fermented beverages which add to the hydration benefits with some power packed probitocs for optimal gut health.
Kombucha is a fermented drink that is made with a scoby (symbionic colony of bacteria and yeast) and some black or green tea.
I know, I know, I just said that black and green tea is full of caffeine and can be dehydrating.
Would kombucha be my first pick to rehydrate with and grab some electrolytes?
Not necessarily, but hang with me for a minute.
During the fermentation process the yeast and bacteria eat some of the caffeine, sugars and add a whole bunch of other good stuff in the process. This makes it less caffeinated than a cup of green or black tea. (Thank you to Brew Dr, Kombucha for the deets - and the excellent kombucha on the go when I can't make my own.)
Add to your tea some herbal goodness from above and you have a nutrient power packed hydrating drink - with the addition of probitocs. Learn more about making your own kombucha at home here and if you already are making your own check out these organic loose leaf tea blends and flavorings. Want to totally skip the black and green tea, learn how to make herbal caffeine free kombucha here.
Water Kefir is another fabulous fermented drink full of probiotics.
While it is not made with tea but rather sugar water, it can still be flavored with herbs, fruits and botanicals during it's second fermentation. Adding this step gives water kefir that calcium, magnesium and potassium boost needed to balance electrolytes. Since it is in a base of sugar water, the carbohydrate is already included and the sodium may be added right before drinking.
Water kefir is a little less labor intensive to make than kombucha and can offer a totally caffeine free, probiotic alternative, compared to using kombucha as an electrolyte.
Wardee, over at Traditional Cooking School, has an excellent tutorial on making your own water kefir at home.
Looking for quality water kefir grains to get started? Grab them here from Cultures for Health.
Moving away from tea and probiotics, next are shrubs. No, I'm not talking about the bushes in your front yard. I'm talking about a drink that originated from the 16th and 17th centuries used as a way to preserve fruit.
A shrub is basically a fruit flavored drinking vinegar.
In the 17th century vinegar was used as a preservation method. Fruit naturally fermented in the vinegar making it a slightly sweet, yet tangy drink. Once the fermented fruit was removed from the vinegar a sweetener was added. The vinegar was then mixed with water or as some do today, a carbonated water. Sometimes it was cooked down instead of adding water to make a simple syrup. When refrigerators came to be, shrubs were not as popular any more because there was not as much need to preserve the harvest using this vinegar method.
So why would you want to drink vinegar? Sounds super tasty, right? Hmmmm ... maybe not.
A look at the benefits that raw apple cider vinegar has to offer may motivate you though. Also, don't forget a sweetener is added to make it palatable!
Raw Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits
* Andidiabetic and Antioxidant Affects of Apple Cider Vinegar
^ Does Apple Cider Help with Diarrhea?
" Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits, 30 Uses and best Types
Off Grid with Doug and Stacy have a couple of excellent shrub recipes here!
As you can see raw apple cider vinegar is super helpful. Since it is packed with so many probiotics and enzymes along with vitamins and minerals. It is easy to understand how a shrub can help hydrate you on a hot summer day or after a work out. If you want to read more about apple cider vinegar, check out Dr. Axe's 30 things you can do with apple cider vinegar.
With the benefits of raw apple cider vinegar, shrubs have yet another powerful punch as the fruits and sweeteners added to them just continue to compound the benefits. Be it strawberries, or blueberries. Make sure to use a natural sweetener when making your shrubs such as coconut sugar, real maple syrup/maple sugar or local raw honey.
Switchel, Haymakers Punch & Oxymels
What is the difference between switchel and a shrub?
Basically shrubs were used to preserve fruit and not made with the intention of being a drink, a drink was just an extra benefit.
Switchel, also known as Haymakers Punch or an oxymel, is a drink made in a base of water with the added ingredients of molasses or maple syrup, vinegar and ginger. This drink comes from the 18th century and it is naturally high in potassium. Great for after a hard days work, laboring in the garden, after a workout or hike. Any time that a lot of water is lost through perspiration, this drink can be helpful. Switchel is the original sports drink and free from dyes as well as free from processed sugars that are so commonly found in todays sports drinks. They are also very simple to make from home!
Switchels are great at easing inflammation thanks to the ginger in the drink, as well as easing pain.
Ginger also helps to break down the toxins in the body. The molasses and/or maple syrup used in the switchel are high in potassium which helps to replace electrolytes, as noted by Dr. Axe.
Switchel carries all of the benefits from raw apple cider vinegar as mentioned earlier in the the section about shrubs. The maple syrup/molasses carries a powerful punch of nutrients, antioxidants and minerals which modern sports drinks don't have because they use highly processed forms of sweetener.
This drink may also be made with raw honey instead of molasses/maple syrup and would be called an oxymel coined by the ancient Greeks. An oxymel is also a term used in the herbal medicine world for a concoction made from raw honey and vinegar infused with herbs (leaving the water out of the mix).
Find some fantastic Switchel and Haymaker's Punch Recipes here from our homesteading friends around the web:
Prairie Homestead Cookbook - Haymaker's Punch Recipe
Maple Switchel @ Souly Rested
Homesteading Family's DIY Switchel Making Video
Pioneering Today's Ginger Water Drink
Probiotic Water by Cultured Food Life
Such a vast amount of options for "homemade gatorade," from herbal teas, infused water, kombucha, water kefir, shrubs, switchel, haymakers punch, oxymels and ginger drinks! Top that with all the flavor options and the possibilities are endless. No need to stock up on that dye filled, high fructose corn syrup nonsense from the store.
It's time to hydrate naturally with these herbal electrolytes and help our bodies do what they were created to do.
The real question is though..... which one will you choose?
Share with us your choice and why and what flavorings you are going to try!
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