mountain biker drinking electrolytes from bottle

Most of the time, you don’t need a sports drink. Even if you’re a competitive cyclist training frequently, most of your hydration needs will be met by either plain water or some type of electrolyte beverage. So I’m sharing this list of the best electrolyte powders and drink mixes that will keep you hydrated properly all day, everyday.

These beverages are ideal for runners, cyclists, and everyone else that needs to maintain proper hydration in order to function at their best. That includes you!

Best Overall

There are so many good electrolyte drinks available, it’s really hard to choose. But I am ranking Nuun Sport at the top.

Nuun was the company that really put the electrolyte beverage on the map within the endurance sports community. They’ve been around for years and have consistently improved and expanded their products over time.

Nuun Sport tablets provide a hefty dose of all the important electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride). It’s low in calories (15 per serving). It contains no artificial sweeteners (it’s sweetened with stevia leaf extract). And it is available in 13 different flavor options, some with caffeine, some without. As well as some additional seasonal flavors!

All for a fair price – at $7 per tube, each serving costs $0.70.

Learn more about Nuun Sport on the Nuun website. Ready to buy? Available on Amazon.

Best Tasting

Taste is a personal preference, but I’m going to declare GU Hydration Drink Tabs the winner here.

Like Nuun Sport, these GU tablets are loaded with electrolytes, sweetened with stevia (rather than artificial sweeteners), and low in calories (only 10 calories per serving).

But GU really knows how to flavor something. The GU energy gels and GU energy chews come in phenomenal flavors, and that carries through here. GU does strong flavors, not the super subtle flavors of some competitors.

I suggest Strawberry Lemonade or Tri Berry.

Learn more about GU’s hydration tabs on the GU website. Ready to buy? Available on REI.

Best Effervescent Tablet

Effervescent tablets are very convenient whether you’re at home, traveling, or on-the-go. No liquids to leak in your bag, no powders to spill everywhere.

Obviously Nuun Sport, the overall winner, is also the best effervescent tablet. They have consistently improved their formula over the years, really honed in on the best flavors, and even expanded their product line to include recovery drinks and immune support drinks in addition to their sports and hydration drinks.

Other good choices include GU Hydration Drink Tabs, Hammer Endurolytes Fizz, and SIS Go Hydro tablets.

Best Value

I am ranking Zeal Naturals Enhanced Electrolytes as the best value.

This powder provides a hefty dose of all the important electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride) as well as zinc. Zero calories! It contains no artificial sweeteners (it’s sweetened with stevia). And it is available in two different flavor options (Lemon Berry and Peach Mango).

This blend also contains BCAAs, which sounds great, but in such a low dose, it’s inconsequential. Another addition is the B vitamins, which is nice, assuming you need them… not ideal if you only want the electrolytes. (I think this is why they say to limit it to 3 scoops per day. To limit the B vitamin intake.)

What does all this cost? About 30 cents per serving. (1 serving is 1 scoop, mixed in 12-16 oz water.)

Many of these products are close to $1 per serving, if not more.

Learn more about Enhanced Electrolytes on the Zeal Naturals website. Ready to buy? Available on Amazon.

Best Nutritional Value (Most Natural Ingredients)

This one comes from a company known for making energy gels based on chia seeds… so obviously they’ll make their hydration beverage as natural as possible!

It is, Huma Hydration, which is low in calories yet packs a hefty dose of electrolyte content!

Just 1 gram of sugar and 10 calories per 16 oz serving.

It is sweetened with stevia, which is unavoidable in these low calorie drinks. (Whichever one you choose, it’s either going to contain sucralose, stevia, or monk fruit. They need something really sweet to mask the saltiness!)

Huma Hydration uses natural flavors and comes in three interesting flavors: raspberry lemonade, lemon lime, and coconut pineapple.

Learn more about Huma Hydration at HumaGel.com.

Best for Sensitive Stomachs

Compared to sugar-filled sports drinks, these electrolyte drinks are usually easy on the stomach. But it’s still not a given. For example, some people prefer a non-effervescent drink. I’ve heard of people with IBS having problems with even mildly effervescent drinks, such as the Nuun tablets.

So, try a can of V8 +Hydrate. This beverage is based on sweet potato juice and contains naturally occurring electrolytes (50mg sodium and 150mg potassium). One can contains 45 calories, no added sugar or artificial sweeteners, and one full serving of vegetables.

This is a little low in sodium compared to a true electrolyte beverage. So it’s not ideal for severe dehydration.

But it is an isotonic drink, meaning that it has a similar osmolality as your blood and body tissues, so your stomach empties more rapidly and fluids and nutrients are absorbed more quickly. (The osmolality of a beverage plays an important role in how quickly and comfortably we can replenish fluids.)

Learn more at Campbells.com.

Easiest to Find at Any Gas Station

If you travel often, you might want to carry a few tubes of the electrolyte tablets with you. They are easy to use on the go, taking up little space and requiring only water.

But if you find yourself empty-handed, there are quite a few options at gas stations and convenience stores.

You will most likely find ready-to-drink bottles of Propel water in the refrigerated section. It contains important electrolytes (sodium and potassium) and zero calories. Unfortunately it contains two artificial sweeteners, so it’s only listed here as a last resort.

You may also find a selection of coconut water and alkaline water. Coconut water is all natural, but it’s higher in calories. Alkaline water often contains trace minerals, but not nearly as many electrolytes as other options.

Potentially, you may find Pedialyte in the pharmacy section.

Honorable Mentions

This product category has really taken off in recent years, right alongside the athleisure trend. There are quite a few worthwhile options I didn’t have the space to list above. I’m still trying to catch up! So here are the ones that are worth a look:

Hammer Endurolytes Fizz
These tablets provide a significant, but not overly huge dose of important electrolytes. Sweetened with stevia so a serving is only 7 calories. HammerNutrition.com.

Honey Stinger Rapid Hydration
With more calories than most electrolyte drinks, but fewer than most sports drinks (50 calories per packet), this honey-based mix is intriguing. I still need to sample the Mango Melon signature flavor. HoneyStinger.com.

Hydrant
Based on cane sugar and lightly flavored with real fruit juice powder, Hydrant contains no artificial sweeteners, not even stevia, and comes in at just 25 calories per stick. (Although some specific low-calorie flavors have 10 calories because instead of cane sugar, they are sweetened with monk fruit extract.) Speaking of which, there is a long list of flavor choices! They all contain a good dose of electrolytes. DrinkHydrant.com.

NOOMA
This drink is based on evaporated coconut water + Himalayan pink salt. It is USDA certified organic. The ingredients are top notch. Just 25 calories. The catch is that it contains an “added boost” from adaptogens like cordyceps mushroom extract and ashwagandha root extract. You might be really excited about that… or not. DrinkNooma.com

Pedialyte
The #1 doctor recommended brand, it comes in various flavors – even “unflavored” if that’s your style – and various strengths, depending on how many electrolytes you need. Unfortunately it contains artificial sweeteners – both sucralose and acesulfame potassium – and artificial colors like the infamous yellow #5, among others.

SIS Go Hydro tablets
A solid offering from SIS, as usual. These tablets contain the most important electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium), and because they are sweetened with sucralose, contain just 7 calories per tablet. Flavors include: Cola, Pineapple & Mango, Pink Grapefruit, Strawberry & Lime. ScienceInSport.com.

Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Drink Mix
One of the best options if you only need moderate amounts of electrolytes. (It contains just 55 mg sodium.) You can buy Ultima Replenisher in small or large canisters, or single serving sticks. It contains zero calories. (It’s sweetened with stevia.) And there are so many flavor options! UltimaReplenisher.com.

Vega Sport Hydrator
Based on coconut water powder, this hydration beverage offers electrolytes and Vitamin C in a low calorie blend that contains no added sugar and no artificial sweeteners. There’s likely a little sugar from the coconut water powder and some sweetness from the stevia. This one is certified vegan and NSF certified sport. MyVega.com.

How to Choose a Good Electrolye Drink That’s Right for You

Choosing an electrolyte drink is crazy difficult. There are more choices here than with energy bars, protein bars, energy gels, or sports drinks.

There are the sport-specific companies doing it (Skratch, Science in Sport, GU, etc.), some vitamin and supplement companies are doing it, plus there are so many new companies popping up with products purely for improved hydration (Hydrant, LMNT, etc.) Here are some criteria to help you narrow down the list.

Ability to drink it and digest it

First and foremost, it must agree with your digestive tract. If the drink causes cramping or doesn’t sit well, it’s no good for you!

Watch for any allergens, and be careful with certain ingredients like sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners.

Electrolyte content

An electrolyte beverage needs to contain electrolytes. Pay attention to 1) the variety of electrolytes and 2) the amount of each one.

Most important are sodium and potassium. But a good mix will also include calcium and magnesium, and perhaps zinc.

Calories

Calorie count is not really a concern, because most of these drinks are very low calorie. Some are zero calorie.

On average, these drinks are probably 10-20 calories per 16 oz serving. (For beverages in my list, I tried to institute a cutoff of 50 calories per 16 oz serving.)

But if you are on a keto diet, do check for keto-friendly options that are very low or zero calorie.

Flavor

There’s no way around it. Flavor is important. You should enjoy drinking it!

You want to find one that you like. Also important is the number of flavors available. This way you have options and you’re less likely to get sick of it because you had to drink the exact same flavor every single day.

Finally, the aftertaste. If you’re doing some taste testing for yourself, take note of the aftertaste. Ideally, the beverage has no aftertaste, and leaves your mouth feeling clean.

Quality of ingredients

I choose natural ingredients when possible. And I prefer to avoid artificial sweeteners.

This is not always possible, and it’s a personal preference, but it makes a good tie-breaker if you’re comparing 2-3 options.

Price

Finally, price. Because if you’re going to be drinking this once or twice a day, every day, the cost adds up.

You’re going to find drinks that cost from 10-20 cents per serving to more than $1 per serving.

Why trust Coach Levi?

I’ve been using sports drinks since the 90’s, when my only choices were Gatorade, Powerade, and All Sport. I’ve been using electrolyte supplements since the only option was to swallow some Hammer Endurolytes pills before a ride. Since then, I have watched the industry grow and improve. I’ve tried quite a few different electrolyte drinks, in a wide variety of conditions.

Unlike some “reviewers,” I’m out there breaking a sweat to where I really need an electrolyte drink to make sure I’m hydrated. And I’m taste testing each and every flavor.

I’m also a certified nutrition coach (Precision Nutrition Level 1) and like to combine my practical experience with scientific evidence.

Electrolyte Drinks vs Sports Drinks

If your workouts last longer than 2-3 hours, take place in extreme conditions, and/or you are eating a low-carb diet, you may need a sports drink to supercharge your workouts.

To get hydration and fuel for your workout, in one beverage, read The Best Sports Drinks for Cyclists.

 

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