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When you’re sweating your butt off, sometimes water isn’t enough to fully rehydrate you. That’s because you lose more than just water when you perspire: Sweat is also made up of electrolytes like sodium and potassium, so a major workout can leave you with an imbalance that makes you endlessly thirsty. Luckily, the best electrolyte drinks can help bring your body back to baseline.

How? Well, electrolyte hydration solutions include the minerals that help manage the fluid balance in our bodies to keep us hydrated. “The different electrolytes manage the shift between what’s going in the cell, what’s staying inside the bloodstream, and your plasma volume to make sure that everything’s flowing the way that it should,” explains Tim Dileo, MS, RDN, CSSD, assistant director of athletics for sports nutrition at the University of Connecticut and a registered dietitian with Top Nutrition Coaching. Meaning: Electrolytes help the fluid we’re drinking get to where it needs to go inside our bodies.


Experts In This Article


While we can certainly get electrolytes from food, Danielle Smith, RDN, LDN, another registered dietitian nutritionist with Top Nutrition Coaching, says that food alone doesn’t usually provide the necessary amounts. That’s where sports drinks and rehydration formulas step in to ensure that you’re hitting your daily targets and staying well-hydrated, no matter what’s on the menu.

The best electrolyte drinks, at a glance:

In This Article

Who can benefit from an electrolyte drink?

Anyone! But electrolyte drinks are most often recommended to athletes or people with strenuous jobs, like construction workers and landscapers working out in the elements. “If you’re doing a really intense workout or if you’re out in the heat, that’s the time when you’re going to want the electrolyte beverage to replace what you’re losing in sweat,” says Dileo. You’ll want to sip it throughout the entire time you’re sweating and after you’re done, adds Smith.

But it’s not just super-active people who can benefit from electrolyte drinks. “I often recommend that people start out the morning with electrolytes, just because I find that having an adequate balance of electrolytes really does help with overall hydration and just not feeling as thirsty,” Smith says.

Electrolyte drinks can also be particularly helpful when you’re sick or dealing with GI issues like diarrhea that leave you struggling to stay hydrated. Additionally, Smith recommends electrolyte drinks to people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, when maintaining adequate hydration is essential.

What to look for in an electrolyte drink

There are a lot of electrolyte drinks on the market today. Quality can vary, and certain varieties serve different purposes. So you’ll want to take a close look at the labels before purchasing. Keep an eye out for these five things:

Percentages: Consuming too many electrolytes when you don’t need them can have adverse side effects on things like kidney function, so check the nutrition facts on the back to see what you’ll be getting from each serving. “Some might have sodium levels that are in the 100 to 200 milligram range. And then you have other ones that are 1,000, or 1,700 milligrams,” says Dileo. If you’re not sweating so much that you need excessive amounts, choose an electrolyte drink with more moderate levels of each mineral.

Sugars: Added sugars can be helpful for workouts longer than an hour when you want to be taking in simple carbs for energy. Otherwise, you’re just drinking unnecessary extra sugar.

Sugar alcohols: Some zero-sugar electrolyte drinks might contain sugar alcohols like sorbitol or xylitol to sweeten the taste. But these can cause bloating or gas, so be cautious, warns Dileo.

Third-party testing: Smith recommends looking for products that are third-party tested. “That ensures that there are not going to be things like heavy metals, and also ensures that the amount of sodium, potassium, other electrolytes listed are actually there in the quantities that they say,” she says.

Straightforward ingredients: Smith says she only chooses electrolyte drinks with simple ingredient lists. “If I see something like red dye 40, I’m not going to consume it,” she says.

8 best electrolyte drinks for healthy re-hydration

Best tasting: DripDrop, Electrolyte Powder — $32.00

Servings: 32

Dileo uses this doctor-formulated powder with the athletes at UConn—both the zero-sugar version and the version with some sugar for extra carbs to fuel long workouts. Crafted with a perfect balance of sodium, potassium, and other essential electrolytes, DripDrop is his go-to beverage for replenishing fluids and restoring vital nutrients lost during intense workouts, illness, or simply hectic days. There’s also a burst of vitamin C in each hydration stick, which can help aid with immunity.

Flavors: 7

Added sugar? In some varieties

  • Doctor-formulated
  • Minimalist ingredient list  
  • Comes in sugar and sugar-free version

Best budget: Nutricost, Advanced Hydration Complex — $14.00

Servings: 20

Nutricost is Smith’s go-to recommendation for the best electrolyte drink. “It is third-party tested and has a variety of flavors,” she says. With 15 vitamins and minerals, Nutricost is sweetened with stevia to create a subtle taste that isn’t overpowering. Each batch is produced in an NSF-certified GMP-compliant facility, and undergo third-party testing by independent ISO-accredited laboratories. In short? They’re the real deal.

Flavors: 5

Added sugar? No, but sweetened with stevia

  • Third-party tested
  • Affordable
  • Various flavor options
  • No added sugar
  • Often sells out

Best minimalist: LMNT, Electrolyte Drink Mix — $41.00

Servings: 30

When you don’t need the extra sugars for carbs, LMNT offers strictly electrolytes. “I’ll use that as a preload or maybe post-activity hydration drink because it doesn’t have any extra carbohydrates,” says Dileo. The taste is slightly sour and salty, but doesn’t leave an aftertaste behind. And each stick is loaded with electrolytes; there’s 1000 mg of sodium, 200 mg of potassium, and 60 mg of magnesium, to be exact.

Flavors: 7

Added sugar? No

  • Third-party tested
  • Low carb
  • No added sugar
  • Various flavor options

Best for intense workouts: The Right Stuff, Electrolyte Liquid Drink Additive — $32.00

Servings: 10

For super-sweaters, Dileo recommends The Right Stuff, which was developed by NASA to hydrate astronauts. “For some of my athletes who sweat quite a bit, who have a history of cramping and are about to play a game or [have] a long practice, I’ll give them that higher dose sodium drink to help with the rehydration,” he says. Made with sea salt, each packet of liquid concentrate has 1780 milligrams of sodium, or 77 percent of your daily value. That’s an extreme amount, so Dileo suggests only using this if you know you’re a really heavy sweater.

Flavors: 8

Added sugar? No

  • High sodium content
  • No sugar
  • Drinkable right out of the pouch—no mixing required
  • Third-party tested
  • Strong salty taste
  • Pricey

Best bulk: JUNP, Electrolyte Powder Mix — $27.00

Servings: 90

Smith also recommends JUNP because it’s third-party tested, and has a short ingredient list. “There aren’t hidden flavorings or chemicals that you don’t recognize,” she says. It’s just lightly sweetened with stevia for a refreshing taste.

Flavors: 9

Added sugar? No, but sweetened with stevia

  • Third-party tested
  • Good value
  • No sugar
  • Currently only available in canisters, but individual packets coming soon

liquid iv hydration multiplier
Photo: Liquid I.V.

Best flavor: Liquid I.V., Hydration Multiplier — $24.00

Servings: 16

Want your daily dose of electrolytes to taste like a piña colada? How about tart golden cherry? Or perhaps you’re more of a guava fan… whatever your preference, Liquid I.V. makes a delicious Hydration Multiplier for you. Each electrolyte-packed pouch contains a tasty dose of rehydrating nutrients, plus five essential vitamins for an extra boost. It’s flavored with pure cane sugar and stevia, making it one of the better-tasting options out there.

Flavors: 13

Added sugar? Yes

  • Wide range of flavors
  • Tastes great
  • Non-GMO
  • Added vitamins
  • Not as many servings as other options

cure

Best natural: Cure, Hydrating Electrolyte Mix — $22.00

Servings: 14

In addition to having some of the best flavors on the market, Cure’s hydrating electrolyte mixes are also some of the most natural. Each batch is made with plant-based ingredients, mainly from coconut water, and Himalayan sea salt, stevia, and monk fruit extract. Simply pour into your water, stir, and enjoy.

Flavors: 9

Added sugar: No, but sweetened with stevia and monk fruit extract

  • Plant-based ingredients
  • Wide variety of flavors
  • Tastes great
  • Non-GMO
  • Not as many servings as other options

nuun hydration tablets, one of the best things you can buy from REI

Best for on-the-go hydration: Nuun, Electrolyte Tablets (Pack of 4) — $25.00

Servings: 40
You might have come across tubes of Nuun in the checkout line of your local grocery store. The brand’s sports line is meant to help replace electrolytes lost through sweat. With just one gram of added sugar, the taste is slightly sweet but not overwhelming. And if you’re not sure which flavor you’d like, single tubes of 10 tablets are available for just $7, so you can easily try out different ones to see which you like best. We particularly like them for on-the-go hydration, thanks to the convenient tube. Throw one in your purse, one in your carry-on, one in your car—wherever you may need an extra pick-me-up.

Flavors: 14

Added sugar? Yes

  • Convenient portable tube
  • Wide variety of flavors
  • Low sugar
  • Third-party tested
  • Can have a chemical-y taste

FAQs

How can you tell if you need electrolytes?

The signs you need electrolytes can vary, but generally, if you’re experiencing persistent fatigue, muscle cramps, or even brain fog, chances are, your electrolyte levels could use a boost. Keep an eye out for signs like increased thirst, frequent headaches, or even a sudden onset of dizziness—these are all red flags that your electrolyte levels might be out of whack.

Is there a downside to drinking electrolytes?

Overconsumption of certain electrolytes, particularly sodium, can pose risks for individuals with specific health conditions such as hypertension or kidney issues. Talk to your doctor before buying a sports drink to see if they’re safe for you.

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

Source: Well and Good

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