The 7 Best Electrolyte Powders And Drinks For Good Hydrations

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Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved to play outside. I was the girl who, after dissecting earthworms in middle-school science class, couldn’t wait to roll in the mud and dig up more delicately slimy creatures in my own backyard.  

Honestly, not much has changed since then. Nature is my playground, my sanctuary.  It’s an all-access, 24-hour gym where I can romp around for free. I genuinely enjoy getting lost in my long run, soaking up the sounds and the smells of the trail.

Now if you’re an all-year-round runner like me, you know that Mother Nature can make things tricky — I mean, sticky — especially *this* summer. According to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Association, July 2021 was the Earth’s hottest month ever on record. Gross.

best electrolyte powder

Slogging through the summer heat means sweat, and a lot of it. And if you’re like me, your sweat can get so salty that it looks like you’ve just emerged from the Dead Sea. You need to rehydrate fast, and plain water isn’t enough to cut it — you need electrolytes.

Fortunately, sports drinks and powders are all the rage right now, so you’re likely to find at least one solution (pun intended) to best replenish your electrolytes. Over the years, I’ve tried just about all of them, and some are definitely more hydrating — and palatable — than others. Here are some of my favorites, right from my personal stash.

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Propel Flavored Electrolyte Water

 
 
 
 
 
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Of all the recommendations on my list, I’ve had the longest history with Propel flavored electrolyte water. To me, this stuff is the OG sports drink. We’ve been together for so long that I can’t remember if it was love at first sip, or if it was the mere fact that Propel was the first of its kind to not wage war with my stomach (I’m looking at you, Gatorade).  

In any case, as I tend to live masochistically on the edge and learn things the hard way, Propel electrolyte water has brought me back from what felt like certain death on many endurance adventures, and kept me alive and upright on others.

Per the website, Propel water “helps hydrate and replenish to get the most out of your workout without adding calories.” Each 12-ounce serving, which contains no calories or sugar, boasts 160 mg of sodium; 40 mg of potassium; and amounts of Vitamins B, C, and E. If you buy Propel by the case like I do, each bottle is 16.9 ounces, and usually I’ll suck down at least one bottle per hour of summer sweating.

Plus, there are a gazillion flavors to choose from, and they’re all pretty tasty. Sometimes I get hooked on one flavor until I experience palate fatigue, and then I’ll rotate to one that is completely different. You can even purchase variety packs to sample multiple fruity concoctions.

The cons: Let’s face it, plastic bottles aren’t that portable, especially if you’re going for a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail or summiting Pikes Peak. In that case, you’ll definitely want to pack light.

Plus, there are a gazillion flavors to choose from, and they’re all pretty tasty. Sometimes I get hooked on one flavor until I experience palate fatigue, and then I’ll rotate to one that is completely different. You can even purchase variety packs to sample multiple fruity concoctions.

The cons: Let’s face it, plastic bottles aren’t that portable, especially if you’re going for a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail or summiting Pikes Peak. In that case, you’ll definitely want to pack light. Which brings me to my next recommendation…


Propel Powder Pack

best electrolyte powder

Huzzah! Portable Propel. The powder packets are a newer phenomenon, or at least I’ve only seen them pop up on the shelves in recent years. Of course, as soon as I clumsily but serendipitously elbowed a box into my shopping cart, I did a touchdown victory dance and forgot all the other items I’d come to buy (except, of course, the ice cream). 

Like the Propel flavored electrolyte water, the powder packs come in multiple flavors and contain no sugar or calories. From the website, this product “provides an easy and convenient way to enjoy Propel for your on-the-go hydration needs.” Each 2.4-mg packet contains 210 mg of sodium and 65 mg of potassium, along with the usual Vitamins B, C, and E. 

Basically, you pour the entire packet into about 16 ounces of water, then shake ‘er up and sip — although the website recommends that, “for a lighter flavor, mix with one 20 fl oz bottle of water.” So, during those really long, gnarly adventures where you’ll certainly be wearing a hydration vest, you can just toss these into your tank.

The cons: Quite honestly, these packets are not the easiest wrappers to tear with your bare hands, or even with your teeth. I thought it was just me, but recently I offered a packet to a fellow runner in a race, and she wrestled with the damn thing as if she were fighting off a bear. Sure, you could more gracefully open a packet with a pair of scissors, but…my mama always taught me not to run with scissors.


Nuun Hydration Tablets

 
 
 
 
 
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Nuun (pronounced like “noon”) is another favorite of mine that is marketed mostly to runners. It’s even more versatile than Propel because, in addition to being chock full of electrolytes, the tablets tout extra benefits like energy, immunity, or rest, depending on the formulation you choose (or choose them all). 

Let’s start with the basic formulation, Nuun Sport. The website describes this product as “a tasty and hydrating blend of electrolytes for exercise and on-the-go.” I’d say this is an accurate description. Tasty? Yep, I haven’t met a flavor I don’t like. Hydrating blend of electrolytes? Yes again. One 5.2-gram tablet, meant to dissolve in 16 ounces of water, contains 300 mg of sodium, 150 mg of potassium, and 25 mg of magnesium. Be aware, each tablet does contain 15 calories and a single gram of sugar, but if you’re an endurance athlete, you usually need the fuel (and more) anyway. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Oh, and on-the-go?  Yep, Nuun tablets sure are portable. One easy-to-open, durable tube contains 10 neatly stacked tablets. Pop one out, plop it in your hydration flask, and let it fizz for a minute. Ah, effervescence. It’s eerily soothing.

Okay, now let’s get fancier. Nuun Energy tablets have the usual electrolytes, plus 80 mg of caffeine (derived from organic green tea), 20 mg of panax ginseng (an herbal remedy), and a blend of B vitamins. (Try the Kona cola flavor; it tastes almost like Coke!) Nuun Immunity? That blend has, you guessed it, a crap ton of Vitamin C. And then there’s Nuun Rest, which contains recovery-promoting ingredients like black tart cherry extract, avocado oil, and chamomile. I have to admit, I’ve never tried this formulation, because I’m a veritable pro at sleeping, but you really can’t go wrong with Nuun.

 
 
 
 
 
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Of course, there’s a long list of additional formulations that I have yet to get my hands on. Maybe someday, like those Troll dolls from the ‘80s, I’ll collect them all.

The cons: Unfortunately, after a few hours in the blazing heat, these tablets do melt and stick together. When they’re melted, they can be hard to shake out of the tube — and when you finally yank them out, your hands will get all sticky. Be sure to pack some hand wipes for your adventure.


Pedialyte

 
 
 
 
 
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I always assumed Pedialyte was a nasty-tasting, gag-inducing elixir meant only for the sickest of children with projectile vomiting or explosive diarrhea. I never thought I’d be putting that sludge anywhere near my mouth — especially as an adult.

That is, of course, until I came down with The Virus this past January, and I found myself plagued with both of these symptoms. The experience was anything but child’s play.

I’ll avoid getting too graphic here in case you’re enjoying a hearty meal, but let’s just say I couldn’t keep anything down, especially not water. But then, with some Internet sleuthing, I discovered this nifty little product called Pedialyte Freezer Pops, designed to quickly replenish fluids and electrolytes, and they happened to be available at my local Walgreens. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Since I couldn’t get out of bed, my supportive friend hurried to the store, donned his modern-MacGyvered PPE, and dropped off these suckers at my apartment. I had to freeze the pops for a few hours — they are sold at room temperature off the shelf — but soon enough, I had an electrolyte replacement I could keep down. And I did feel better.

I lived off these popsicles for two days, then graduated to the “AdvancedCare Plus” liquid form, formulated for substantial electrolyte loss. I’ll admit, neither the pops nor the drinks tasted spectacular, especially after a few days on a Pedialyte-powered diet, but the benefits of reviving me from the state of withered zombie were worth the cost.

 
 
 
 
 
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Eventually, I recovered from the plague and was back to running my usual mileage. And I thought to myself, if Pedialyte is more potent than the common sports drinks, why wouldn’t I use it for particularly grueling workouts?

So I did, and I found that other active adults and athletes are doing the same.  That’s because, as the website mentions, the most advanced form of Pedialyte contains 33% more electrolytes than leading sport drinks. For example, a 12-ounce serving of the AdvancedCare Plus formulation contains 490 mg of sodium, 280 mg of potassium, and 630 mg of chloride. Plus, Pedialyte includes zinc for immune support. (A serving of Pedialyte also contains 35 calories and 4 grams of sugar.)

Like Nuun, Pedialyte comes in various formulations. There’s even a product called Pedialyte Sport, specifically designed for athletes, that contains 490 mg of sodium, 470 mg of potassium, 690 mg of chloride, 40 mg of magnesium, and 140 mg of phosphorus per 12-ounce serving. This formula also contains 30 calories and 5 grams of sugar per serving.

 
 
 
 
 
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And if you’re worried about portability, you don’t have to buy the colorful liquid jugs — Pedialyte products have powder packs you can mix with your own water, too.

The cons: IMHO, I’m not a fan of the taste. Avoid the orange flavor at all costs. Still, I’ll use Pedialyte for days when I’m going extra hard in the heat and need the super-hydration. At least it tastes better than cough syrup.


Liquid IV

 
 
 
 
 
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Speaking of Pedialyte, it was professional athletes’ use of this very beverage that inspired the creation of another must-have mix, Liquid IV

As the story goes, Brandin Cohen, Liquid IV’s CEO, founded his product in 2012 (at the young age of 24), after he noticed that baseball players for the Arizona Diamondbacks were guzzling Pedialyte to rehydrate their bodies. A former athlete himself, the young entrepreneur wanted to develop something with at least the hydration power of Pedialyte, but without the artificial sweeteners and preservatives.

I tried Liquid IV for the first time a few months ago, at the recommendation of a running partner, who handed me a few sample packs of lemon-lime. The product comes in a powder packet, much like some of the others, although the package is easier to tear than Propel’s. (Also, you can rip open the packet without having the powder shoot all over your face, which is an advantage over the other brands.) Like the other products, each stick is meant to be mixed with about 16 ounces of water.

Liquid IV uses cellular transport technology (CTT), which, according to the website, “uses a precise ratio of sodium, glucose, and potassium to create an osmotic force that allows water to be delivered to the bloodstream earlier on in the digestive system.” It’s touted as an “expedited water delivery system in your body.” In terms of ingredients, each 16-gram serving of the standard hydration multiplier contains 510 mg of sodium, 380 mg of potassium, and 11 grams of sugar (there’s your glucose); plus, it contains Vitamins B and C. Total calories are 45 per stick.

I have to say, of the flavors I’ve sampled so far (lemon-lime, strawberry, passion fruit, and lemon ginger), Liquid IV is pretty tasty. The powder mixes well for a palatable consistency, and you don’t get the predictable aftertaste of artificial sweetener, since Liquid IV uses cane sugar and Stevia extract. Also, like Nuun and Pedialyte, Liquid IV comes in other, fancier formulations depending on whether you need a caffeine jolt (matcha, guayusa, and ginger), a boost of immune support (Vitamin C and zinc), or a restful night’s sleep (melatonin, L-Theanine, and Valerian root).

 
 
 
 
 
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Now, the verdict on whether Liquid IV’s special osmosis provides faster hydration than the other brands? Good question — the jury is still out. I will say that, despite my science nerdom and education, I’m still a sucker for the placebo effect. If anyone’s up for a fun, double-blind, randomized experiment involving endurance and hydration, do hit me up.

The cons: Yeah, Liquid IV is pretty expensive. A single serving (one drink) will cost you almost $2.00, even if you buy the bundles. Of course, if you sign up for text and email notifications (beware: there are a lot of them), you’ll receive some decent discount codes. And hey, this stuff is *way* cheaper than a real IV — without the needle.

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Which electrolyte drinks and powders are the best for some of that good hydration? Share in the comments!


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