Tested: NUUN Active Hydration Tablets

nuun tube

As soon as you pin down your fueling strategy, it seems like there’s a new revolution in sports drinks and/or energy bars. Ingredients and styles are always changing, or in the case of Nuun Active Hydration Tablets, you have all sorts of innovations.

Nuun is a sort of electrolyte-enhanced beverage, but instead of coming in powder form, in comes in tablets. That makes it super convenient. You just drop a tablet into your water bottle and you’re good to go.

You can find tubes of Nuun for around $6, and you get 12 tablets in each tube. Each tablet treats 16-24oz water, so that’s easy to figure out – one tablet per water bottle.

You can also get Bigger NUUN, where one tablet treats 32oz (1 liter) water. These are made for use in hydration packs. (Note: breaking these in half sucks, so don’t bother using them in anything smaller than a 32oz bottle or your hydration pack.)

Nuun is sugar-free and contains virtually no calories. This is so you can separate calorie intake from your hydration needs.

I always preferred the “get lots of calories and electrolytes from one water bottle” plan, to keep things simple. So I’m more of an Accelerade or Hammer Perpetuem kind of guy, in theory. But I understand their reasoning, and in practice, Nuun looks very promising…

Nuun Nutrition and Ingredients

Per original Nuun tablet (which treats one 16oz water bottle):

Sodium 360mg
Potassium 100mg
Calcium 12.5mg
Magnesium 24mg

That’s a good dose of electrolytes. Most sports drinks only contain sodium and potassium, and they contain less than Nuun does. Very few contain calcium and magnesium (which are less important, but potentially helpful.)

My favorite part is that they contain no artificial flavors or colors! The color actually comes from beets and B vitamins. There is no sugar (great for your teeth,) and Nuun is non-carbonated (good in all sorts of ways.)

One other ingredient (the second ingredient) is sorbitol, a sugar alcohol. It looks healthy enough. I doubt it’s any worse than sucrose.

All around, a seemingly healthy mix… Until you get to the end of the ingredients list.

Due to the sorbitol content, I figured Nuun was free of artificial sweeteners. But once I scrutinized the ingredients list, I saw that Nuun contains acesulfame potassium, which is one of many artificial sweeteners I try to avoid.

I stocked up on a year supply of Nuun before noticing that. I’ll use what I have since it tastes good, and I’ll probably buy more, but I will definitely use Nuun in moderation.

I still like Nuun, and my positive recommendation for Nuun comes from relative danger. See, it’s possible that artificial sweeteners could cause cancer someday in the future if you ingest large amounts (but what isn’t linked to cancer these days?)*

But… if you run low on electrolytes and end up with hyponatremia, you could die instantly. The point here is, if you need Nuun rather than plain water, take it.

*Acesulfame potassium has been around a while, and I’ve never seen it garner the negative press that aspartame does. However, I haven’t found any evidence that it’s safe, either.

Mixing Nuun

nuun fizzing drink

The instructions say “drop into water bottle, wait 2 minutes, viola.”

And they’re right. The good news is, not only is there no manual labor, you don’t even have to wait for anything. Just drop it in and go. By the time you’re on your bike and ready for a sip, it will have mixed up already.

This is definitely the easiest drink to mix. It’s even easier than Emergen-C since there’s no powder dust to pour.

Also, Nuun leaves no residue. It cleans up just like water. And it’s even supposed to be hydration pack friendly. So far, I’ve had no problems with it causing any mold build-up in my Deuter hydration pack.

Nuun is just so easy to mix, I can’t help but use it all the time.

[If you look at the picture to the right, you can see the actual Nuun tablet. It's the dark pink spot at the bottom of the glass, and it's fizzing away.]

Nuun Taste Test

Nuun comes in many different flavors, and I have tried a few of them…

Tri-Berry: I chose Tri-Berry to start with because I love Tri-Berry GU gel.

The Tri-Berry Nuun turned out to be very good. It’s a natural berry flavor, so it’s sort of tart, but plenty sweet enough to drink. It’s just plain good.

Lemon+Lime: This lemon lime flavor is similar to a lemon lime soda pop, but not as strong nor as sweet. It’s a very light flavor, which was almost too light for my tastes when I’m not exercising. However, the taste is perfect during intense exercise in hot weather. It’s plenty strong then, but not too strong.

Banana: BananaNuun is a relatively new flavor, and it got me excited.

But it turned out to be “alright.” It’s a light banana flavor, but sort of artificial. It just didn’t hit me as banana. It wasn’t too artificial, but it wasn’t realistic like the banana GU gel used to be.

It got better each time I tried it, but I was hoping for something stronger or more realistic. Something more like banana Runts candy would have been good, too!

It certainly wasn’t a bad flavor, but it wasn’t good enough to get me to buy any more.

After trying these three flavors, I got the feeling that Tri-Berry was the only one I’d really like. And since Tri-Berry is awesome, that was fine with me.

But luckily, my friend on a Nuun-sponsored race team gave me a sample of Orange Ginger…

Orange Ginger: I was not too enthused about a ginger-flavored drink while riding, but the label says it’s “just a hint” of ginger. (I had had an orange ginger drink in the past, and it was way too strong in the ginger department.)

This turned out to be awesome! It has a great orange taste, like orange Gatorade but less sweet. And the hint of ginger is kind of like a hint of ginger ale. It’s a pleasant taste overall, with the majority of the flavor coming from the orange, but just enough ginger to make it special.

Other NUUN flavors include Citrus Fruit and Kona Cola.

Nuun’s texture is a bit odd because it starts out like a carbonated drink. It’s just slightly fizzy, but fizzy enough that you notice it. After an hour of riding, the fizz settled down to a nice level where it was just barely noticeable, which I liked.

And while the fizz was a bit odd the first couple rides, I got to liking it. I actually missed the fizz when I switched back to my regular Powerbar Endurance drink!

nuun tablets

When To Use Nuun

Nuun could actually be the best option out there for one hour workouts. In that short time, you don’t really need calories, but I prefer the flavor of Nuun plus the electrolyte content in place of plain water. Sure, a single short workout shouldn’t get you dehydrated or cause hyponatremia, but one workout amongst many longer days is no time to slack off.

I will also use this as a tasty Endurolyte replacement. Not necessarily drinking Nuun during rides, but in the evening before or after a super hot ride or race. That would be one way to replenish electrolytes without taking in needless calories.

On another topic…

Nuun’s tubes are recyclable, so Nuun recommends you do just that. It’s good to see their commitment to environment.

My final verdict is…

Nuun is awesome. It has a great taste, it gives me electrolytes, and it’s easy to use. Other sports drinks still have their place in my diet (like Hammer Perpetuem for long rides,) but Nuun is something I’ll stick with.

Nuun is now very close to the top of my favorite in-ride drinks. If they could somehow ditch the artificial sweetener acesulfame K or replace it with something better, I’d be even happier.

Official website: www.nuun.com

Buy online: www.REI.com | www.JensonUSA.com

Product Review Details
Company: Nuun.
Obtained Product: Purchased at retailer.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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9 Comments so far

  1. hstryk on June 18th, 2009

    I am so glad you reviewed this! I read your blog a lot and noticed your preference for natural sports products. I was going to recommend you try Nuun. I LOVE this stuff, thanks for the thorough review. I was convinced there had to be a bad sweetener in this, and now my fear is confirmed. I get cramps easily, and found that drinking Nuun (along with 2 other pints of water) before my runs really prevents cramping. (I sweat A LOT)
    Can I recommend you try Fluid Recovery Drink? http://www.livefluid.com/ It’s a more natural option for a recovery drink than my past favorite, EnduroxR4. Endurox’s sugar made me crash, and thus continue crashing throughout the day. I find Fluid helps speed recovery without the awful crash, and contains better ingredients.

  2. James Greenwood on June 18th, 2009

    I thought you mike like this comparison of a few of the electrolyte products out there.

    http://new.eletewater.com/index.php?page=compare-elete

    I have been using Elete (http://new.eletewater.com/) for 2 years now (fluid and tabs) and have been super happy, but I think the flavor might be nice for shorter sessions like you said.

  3. Levi on June 18th, 2009

    @hstryk

    Yeah, I used a tube of Nuun before even catching the acesulfame K in there. Ingredient lists are tricky, especially when it’s royal blue text on a light blue background!

    Fluid looks interesting, I’ll check into that.

    @James

    That’s a good comparison chart. I’ve tried Elete in the past, and I thought I’d be replacing it with Nuun because I liked the flavor… but now it looks like I’ll have to get some more Elete.

  4. Bob Sharpley on June 19th, 2009

    Hi Coach- just wanted to give another point of view on sorbitol and maltitol. In my case I have tried these ingredients in diet products and they cause a lot of gastric distress including cramps and flushing of digestive system. The distress caused by maltitol is much worse than the distress caused by sorbitol. Oddly enough this does not affect everyone the same. My wife can ingest both these ingredients without any adverse effects. Thanks for all your information and your help!

  5. Levi on June 22nd, 2009

    @Bob

    Great point! Gastric distress is definitely a problem when it comes to artificial sweeteners and similar substances.

    Luckily I have an iron stomach when it comes to sports drinks. Sugar, HFCS, maltodextrin, sorbitol, sucralose, etc. – I’ve tried drinks with all that, and I can do alright with any of them.

    (The only downside to that is that I forget to mention potential gastric distress issues in my reviews!)

  6. Dom on March 13th, 2010

    I’ve had good experiences with NUUN too, but i’m not diggin the AS either, everyone write a letter to the company asking for a completely natural version?

  7. CK on July 2nd, 2012

    Sorbitol has some nasty side effects, it’s the sweetener in Nuun. Google on side effects sorbitol to learn more. Diarrhea, bloating and worse with prolonged use.

  8. Levi on July 2nd, 2012

    @CK

    I think everyone should assume that there are *potential* side effects like that to any processed food (as well as many natural foods.)

    I’ve never noticed any issues with sorbitol though, whether from Nuun, Trident sugar-free gum, etc.

  9. Angela on March 12th, 2014

    I bought multiple packs of Nuun due to great reviews, but I am one of those people who do get the side effect from the ingredients of Nuun. I had very bad stomach ache and bloating.

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