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 Pin It 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 » What 100 calories of fruit looks like Should you try the Paleo diet? 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 Sugary drinks could fuel diabetes More: Diet and nutritionBeverages advertisement Get a quote Bestmed - offering you quality healthcare and freedom of choice Momentum - save up to 35% on healthcare Medihelp - quality, affordable medical scheme cover 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 Your retirement - a healthy mindset So many people, why so alone? You can still enjoy the sweet things in life Take the sugar test, it could save your life. Live healthier Depression » Depression Depression and ageing Teen depression Depression: do you know the signs? One of the key roles you can play in the health of someone who is depressed or suffers from anxiety is to make sure they get the help they need. Here's what you need to know. Healthy dog » Dog weightloss Dog behaviour Overweight dogs Food not to feed your dog Feeding you dog 'human food' may be detrimental to its health.