Electrolytes are made up of four electrically charged minerals: sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium—which we lose through sweating. For endurance runners, excessive loss of electrolytes, primarily sodium, along with inadequate hydration could lead to muscle cramping—it’s the body’s first indication, along with salt streaks, that you’re low on these essential minerals.
“Electrolytes are essential for chemical reactions, muscle contraction and transport of fluid into the blood and cells to maintain equilibrium of fluid balance in the body,” says Liz Broad, a USOC senior sports dietitian. “The amount of electrolytes an individual loses during exercise depends on their sweat rate and a range of other factors.”
Broad adds that most people don’t need to replenish their electrolytes if they’re working out for less than an hour. Otherwise it’s recommended to drink 500 to 750ml of water with 200 to 500mg of electrolytes per hour during exercise, especially in hot conditions and if you’re a particularly aggressive sweater. For this summer’s peak temps when you’re sweating buckets, drinking only water might not cut it, and these electrolyte supplements will do more than just quench your thirst.
Photos: Oliver Baker
Herbalife 24 CR7 Drive, $32 for 29-ounce container
With a total of 320mg of electrolytes per single scoop serving mixed with 8 ounces of water, this formula is most ideal for workouts lasting longer than 90 minutes. Unlike most traditional sports drinks, the CR7 Drive does not rely on artificial sweeteners, giving the acai berry flavor a more diluted and crisp taste. However, our testers did notice that the powder took some time to dissolve completely and much of it seemed to linger at the bottom of the bottle.
Tailwind Endurance Fuel, $16 for pack of 7 sticks
It’s called Endurance Fuel for a reason—a single on-the-go stick contains 200 calories and 431mg of electrolytes in 24 ounces of water. It’s meant for ultra races and all-day hydration in which constant electrolyte replenishment is key. The all-natural ingredients make this product easy to digest, and gives it a clean and light flavor. Compared to the Herbalife 24 CR7 Drive, the powder dissolves more quickly after a few vigorous shakes.
Glukos Energy Gel, $24 for case of 12
Instead of carrying a bulky water bottle mixed or dissolved with hydration powders or tablets, grab a pouch or two of this energy “gel” that’s more liquid than GU-consistency. The ingredients are simple: Its main ingredient is, yes, glucose. Out of all the sugars (which include sucrose and fructose), glucose is the fastest absorbed sugar, starting the moment it’s consumed. One highly concentrated 2-ounce gel pouch will provide the same amount of energy and 168mg of electrolytes as mixing one scoop of the drink powder in 8 ounces of water. Be prepared, though, because of the high concentration, the flavor is more intense than most products.
Nuun Energy, $7 for a single tube of 10 tablets
Nuun has reformulated its electrolyte tablets, which now contain plant-based sweeteners and essential B-vitamins, including monk fruit extract, beet juice powder and avocado oil. The Energy formula also contains 40mg of caffeine sourced from green tea leaf extract—great for morning runs where coffee might not be an option. A single tablet contains the least amount of calories with the most electrolytes: 10 calories per 498mg in 16 ounces of water. Plus, our testers found that the tablets dissolve better than its powder counterpart (and it’s easy to pack on the go or while traveling).
GQ-6 Flooid, $40 for 33-ounce container
Not only does this electrolyte drink mix keep you hydrated, it also doubles as a fuel source with three different carbohydrate sources (maltodextrin, glucose and fructose). It contains zero artificial flavors or colors (hence the clean taste that blends easily in water) with only 115 calories per serving.
Clif Hydration Electrolyte Drink Mix, $20 per 15.5-ounce pouch
Clif Bar now has its own hydration product that packs 150mg of electrolytes in a single serving. The ingredients are organically sourced and provides a light tart taste that dissolves well in water. Tip: Best served with ice for an even more refreshing flavor.