DIY Energy & Recovery Drink Mix
Searching for a formula to increase your alertness, recovery, and stamina on the trail all in one go? Or maybe you dislike the taste (or weight/mess/work) of coffee and want something you can easily mix with water to give you an extra kick? If so, you’re in luck because I’m about to show you how to get the best jolt for your buck by making your own all-in-one drink mix!
I’ve experimented with supplements regularly over the last decade as means of supporting my weightlifting and ultramarathon training regimens. I’ve tried many of the “Pre-Workout” mixtures such as Jack3d, N.O.-Xplode, and Gnar Pump (yes, it’s really called that–satirically). While they’ll all get you amped up for your next set on the bench press, they are more about marketing than results. And boy, do you pay for that marketing. A container of Gnar Pump with 25 servings costs $39.99 – over $1.50 per scoop! A few years ago, I started buying ingredients in bulk and mixing my own concoctions for energy and recovery. The mixture I settled on provides all the benefits of your standard pre/post workout concoction but with more of “the good stuff” and less of the garbage, providing a simple and clean tasting drink with a kick. I like to call this creation my Perfect Proprietary Portable Pixie Powder, or P5 for short. P5 is an all-in-one mixture which gives you energy to perform sustained activity (30s, anyone?) and amino acids to assist in recovery. If you’re putting up big miles on the trail, both of these elements are vitally necessary. By purchasing the ingredients in bulk and mixing them yourself, you’re able to reduce the cost of energy and recovery to about 1/4 of the price of a cup of coffee.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or health guru. What I write here is simply a suggestion, and you should always follow the guidance on the products you use. Mix at your own risk! With that out of the way, here’s what I use to make P5:
- MyProtein Flavored Creatine Monohydrate – Creatine is a naturally-occurring substance that’s found in meat and fish, and also made by the human body in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. It is converted into creatine phosphate or phosphocreatine and stored in the muscles, where it is used for energy. During high-intensity, short-duration exercise, such as lifting weights or sprinting, phosphocreatine is used as a source of ATP, a major carrier of energy within the human body. For hiking, it provides increased strength and stamina. More Info.
- MyProtein L-Leucine – Leucine is one of three Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) that are highly effective for stimulating muscle protein synthesis. L-Leucine is the most effective of the BCAAs, so there’s no reason to purchase the others. On the trail, L-Leucine translates to weight and muscle retention as well as increased recovery. More Info.
- MyProtein Taurine – Most commonly associated with energy drinks (e.g. Red Bull), Taurine is an amino acid that assists in recovery from endurance exercise and acts as an antioxidant. More Info.
- MyProtein CaffeinePro Tablets – GETS YOU AMPED!
I have no affiliation with MyProtein (other than a referral link for 25% off – despite my best efforts!), but in my experience they make good products and have frequent sales that make their prices the most affordable on the market (and I’ve been buying supplements for 10 years!). I tend to do a large order once or twice per year during one of their sales and get enough product to last me 6 months or more. Various versions of these products can also be found on Amazon.com, GNC, or anywhere supplements are sold as they are quite common. I’ve found these ingredients to be effective and reasonably priced, and have been using this combination for several years. Feel free experiment with different ingredients to see what tastes and works best for you! Using flavored creatine helps make the mixture much less bland – if everything is unflavored then it tastes a bit bitter and is quite terrible. To use this on the trail, you’ll need some way of making it portable. One option is to use ziploc bags with a small 5g scoop (each bag from MyProtein comes with a scoop equal to one serving). The problem with this method is durability and practicality – do you really want to take off your pack just to rummage around and find a baggie of powder, risking contamination by dirt and water? Believe me, this stuff gets messy when it’s wet and you risk ruining the whole batch if you get as much as a pinhole in your bag. Since syringes are a bit too cumbersome on the trail (I kid!), the next best option is smoothie straws. Regular straws are too thin and narrow to hold much, but smoothie straws have a bit more volume, which is what we’re after. The cheapest ones I’ve found are from Walmart and cost $2.50 per 40ct. These are durable, portable, waterproof, and colorful to boot! Here’s how to assemble your P5 packets for trail use:
Step 1: Gather Ingredients
As I mentioned before, one of the best places to source your ingredients is at MyProtein or Amazon/Wal-Mart. Consider buying small batches at first in case you decide you don’t like a particular ingredient and want to swap it out later. If you use my referral link, you’ll get 25% off your first order at MyProtein!
Step 2: Assemble your tools
You’ll need a pair of needlenose pliers, a lighter, and some kind of funnel to get the mixture inside its vessel (straw).
Step 3: Portion and Mix
1 serving of P5 consists of 1 serving of each of the aforementioned elements, as follows (be sure to follow serving instructions on the packages):
- Creatine – 5g
- Leucine – 5g
- Taurine – 1g
- Caffeine – 1 tablet (200mg)
Use a large mixing bowl and a kitchen scale to accurately measure each ingredient. For example, if I want 20 servings then I’ll measure 100g of Creatine, 100g of Leucine, etc. For the caffeine pills, I grind them into a powder with a mortar and pestle then add them to the mixture. Once combined, stir with a spoon or cover and shake like a paint can.
Step 3: Get Lit
Now that you have your vat of P5 mixed, it’s time to prepare the vessels. Start by clamping one end of a straw with the needlenose pliers, leaving about 1/8″ at the top, as shown.
Next, take your lighter and heat the area above the pliers, melting the plastic (you may consider doing this in a well-ventilated area, especially if you’re burning multiple straws at a time!). The plastic will melt pretty quickly and seal the end of the straw while creating a lip of accumulated plastic at the end. You only need to apply the flame for a few seconds.
Once melted, remove the flame and allow the plastic to cool so that it remains sealed. Blow on it a little (that’s what she said) to speed up the cooling process. After a few seconds, it should be fully cooled and you can remove the pliers. You should be left with a nicely sealed straw.
Step 4: Fill Me Up, Buttercup
Next, insert your funnel into the straw. Mine just happens to fit perfectly!
Then, scoop out a serving of your P5. Because of the viscosity of the powder, you may have to tap the bottom of the straw on the table or give it a couple shakes to encourage flow.
Fill the straw with P5, leaving about 1/2″ at the top. With my straws, I’m only able to fit about one scoop before it’s full. Pour off any excess.
Step 5: Finish Him
Re-clamp the end of the straw with the pliers and burn the end in the same way as the first. Try to keep the edges clear of powder and residue, at it causes the plastic to not bind and thus not seal. If this happens (you remove the pliers and the straw re-opens), simply snip the mangled end off with scissors, pour out a little powder, and try again. Then, you’re off to the races! Each P5 packet weighs .2 oz fully sealed and ready to go, making it a lightweight and easily packable solution for the trail.
By making your own energy & recovery drink mix, you stand to save a significant amount of dough versus off-the-shelf concoctions or even coffee. What’s more, you have complete control over the ingredients and the ability to add only what you like and want in the mix. Here are the costs of my ingredients, as of October 2017:
- Smoothie Straws – $2.50/40ct
- Creatine Monohydrate – $10.99/1.1lb (.5kg) – 100x5g servings
- L-Leucine – $14.99/1.1lb – 100x5g servings
- Taurine – $8.99/1.1lb – 500x1g servings
- Caffeine – $5.49/100 tablets (200mg ea) – 100×1-tablet servings
Total: $40.46 If you were to buy one bag of each of the product ingredients (minus straws, in case you choose a different vessel), you’d pay $40.46 and be able to make 100 servings of P5 with 400g of Taurine left over (which would reduce the cost of future batches). This comes out to a cost of $0.40/serving. If you decide to use smoothie straws as your vessel, add an additional $0.12 to the cost of each serving (I found that one serving requires two straws, so a total of 200 for 100 servings). You only need one serving per day to maximize the benefits. Note that the prices above don’t necessarily reflect the cheapest options. MyProtein (and other retailers) sell bags of product in larger quantities with a lower per-serving cost as well, so if you find something you like it’s cheaper to stock up! If you use my referral link at MyProtein, you’ll get 25% off your first order, which will knock down the cost significantly.
My recommendation is to test out various combinations and see what works best for you. Other popular, beneficial, and scientifically-backed ingredients you could include are L-Glutamine, Citrulline Malate (very sour!), Beta-alanine, and Gatorade powder. To make the process a little less banal, I suggest doing 10-15 straws at a time in an assembly-row fashion. I’ll usually mix a bunch of P5 (it keeps for a long time), burn one end of each straw, then go back and fill each straw, then go back once more and burn the other end. I keep the unused P5 in a Tupperware container for later use. If you’re really on a budget or don’t want to spend the time mixing P5 and burning straws, I suggest taking a mixture of caffeine pills & salt tabs. These will give you energy and electrolytes, but not the recovery or muscle retention benefits of P5.
If you are looking to increase your energy and recovery on the trail (or anywhere, really) and want to have maximum control over the ingredients, the best option is to mix your own. While you can certainly buy Gatorade powder for less than the $0.40 per serving of P5, you would simply be paying for colored sugar water. If you want real and natural ingredients without forking over $1.50 or more per serving, you should seriously consider making it yourself. As I mentioned, I’ve been using various combinations of these elements for years when training in the gym and for ultramarathons and seen great results. I will continue to utilize P5 on the trail during my 2018 thru-hike, and have already made over 100 packets to send ahead in mail drops.
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