Home > Diet and nutrition > Beverages Updated 09 July 2013 Rooibos: an alternative energy drink Endurance athletes may be better off consuming simple, inexpensive, home-made rooibos drinks than relying exclusively on expensive, over-hyped energy products, endurance athlete, microbiologist and nutritionist Hannele Steyn-Kotze says. 1 Shutterstock Related Beware of energy drinks Rooibos can protect and support the liver Rooibos packs antioxidant punch Check Glycaemic index tool » Count Calorie counter » Quiz Ready for weight loss? » Ask DietDoc » Don't get into these bad winter habits Jamie Oliver and Ed Sheeran rap against obesity Endurance athletes may be better off consuming simple, inexpensive, home-made rooibos drinks than relying exclusively on expensive, over-hyped energy products, says uber-athlete, microbiologist and nutritionist, Hannele Steyn-Kotze.She should know what she’s taking about. After 25 years of competitive racing her CV includes 11 Triathlon World Cups, nine Mountain Bike World Cups, a ladies’ Cape Epic Win, numerous endurance World Championships and two more pages of achievements.Following her 10th Cape Epic and a number of 200km one-day races, Hannele began experimenting with alternatives as she found that the sugars in some energy products did not work well. Other endurance athletes she talked to related similar experiences.Artificial sweeteners, flavourings and colourants"There have been a lot of studies into exercise and nutrition, but very little has focussed on how to sustain energy levels during multi-day events," she says."I’m not saying that there aren’t some good energy products out there – I continue to use a very good, scientifically researched nutrition product and energy drink to supplement natural products - but not all of them work optimally for endurance athletes."Another concern is that some are packed with sugars, vegetable fat, artificial sweeteners, flavouring agents and colourants. Putting these into your body on a sustained basis, particularly if you are constantly pushing your limits, isn’t a good idea."Instead of relying entirely on supplements, Hannele has gone back to basics, experimenting with natural products which are easily digested."I love rooibos anyway and it also ticked all the other boxes; it’s natural, easily digested and packed with anti-oxidants, so it’s really healthy. I decided to try it in training, but to concentrate the flavour opted to use rooibos espresso powder. I mixed it with a little bit of honey, for fast energy and milk to provide fats and protein. Viola – a tasty, healthy, natural energy drink."Field testingShe says the milk can be replaced with other options such as soy, rice or nut milk, or for shorter races omitted altogether. Diabetics can use Xylitol.Depending on how organised you are you mix it up and freeze it overnight or make it fresh in the morning. There’s no risk of it going off as you should be consuming at least 500ml to 750ml of liquid an hour.Being Hannele, of course she’s done extensive field testing."I raced my whole eight days of the Epic and the Trans Karoo (a 240km one-day race) drinking only my rooibos mix and water. It worked like a charm. The proof of the pudding: I was the first lady to finish the Trans Karoo and the seventh solo rider in a field of 250."While Hannele acknowledges that different combinations will work for different people she’s found that combining the natural products and nutritional supplements work well for her. She uses a top protein supplement for recovery and to optimise her daily protein intake.The South African Rooibos Council is currently funding a research project into rooibos and exercise, headed by Professor Jeanine Marnewick from the Oxidative Stress Unit at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.- (South African Rooibos Council press release) More in Diet and nutrition Just loving CocoZone coconut water More: Diet and nutritionBeverages advertisement Get a quote Fedhealth - What cover is right for you? Momentum - save up to 35% on healthcare advertisement Read Health24’s Comments Policy Comment on this story 1 comment Add your comment Thank you, your comment has been submitted. Logout Comment 0 characters remaining Share on Facebook Logout Comment 0 characters remaining Share on Facebook Loading comments... From our sponsors Hydration is vital all year round Fifty and fabulous! There’s something newly cool about turning 50 Keeping your skin soft, moisturised and winter-ready The health benefits of donating blood Live healthier Your health » How well do you know the body? Your healthy liver lifestyle Are you healthy? Tell us about your health and you could win R5000. Up for grabs » Tell us about your health Stay warm when the lights go out Win R1000 in cash! Win an energy-saving Spindel Enter our competition and stand a chance of winning an energy saving Spindel valued at R2200!