Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
You know you need to be drinking fluids to fuel your workouts. But did you know you actually need more than just water to adequately hydrate your body?
Electrolytes, or the fuel that keeps your body in balance, are essential. You need electrolytes to keep your heart ticking, your muscles and nerves communicating, and much more. While you can get the most significant electrolytes (sodium and potassium) from both food and fluids, athletes may benefit from convenient performance hydration products to rehydrate and replenish electrolyte and nutrient stores faster.
Should You Consider Performance Hydration Products?
According to Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, a consultant sports dietitian and owner of Student Athlete Nutrition, because performance hydration products are so convenient for everyday and professional athletes, they’re a nice alternative to everyday foods or homemade sports drinks that provide similar nutrients.
Jones explains that while these products aren’t a necessity, they do have the ability to increase fluid consumption for those struggling to meet their fluid needs; the sodium these products contain can increase desire to drink, while the variety of flavors can make drinking more enjoyable, too.
Even if you’re not training as a competitive athlete, if you’re engaging in exercise activity that exceeds an hour, in a hot climate, or with equipment on, you should also be replenishing sodium and carbohydrate stores. Jones points out that both carbohydrates and sodium have been found to help speed rehydration, as they improve absorption of one another and fluid in the intestines. They also work together to maintain the body’s fluid balance.
Given that sodium losses will vary depending on the individual, Jones shares it’s important to replenish stores by consuming 300-600 mg of sodium per hour during prolonged exercise. While the amount of carbohydrate stores depleted will differ based on activity and intensity, research shows that for those who engage in moderate to high intensity activity, consuming carbohydrates before (1 to 4 g of CHO per kg of body weight), during (maximum of 90 g of CHO per hour of intense training), and after activity (1 g of CHO per kg of body weight per hour, within 2 to 4 hours after activity) will help with glycogen replenishment.
A Sports Dietitian’s Insight on 5 Trendy Hydration Products
As a sports dietitian who’s worked with both professional sports teams and everyday athletes, Jones has seen the effects poor hydration and low carbohydrate availability can have on both intensity and endurance of exercise. Jones offers up her thoughts on the top performance hydration products available right now.
1. Drink LMNT
LMNT powder is sold in packets and is one of the highest sodium hydration products on the market, with 1000 mg per serving. If you’re losing a lot of sweat in the heat for low intensity recreational activity or even work and don’t require timely carbohydrate replenishment, this product may be helpful. It may also benefit ultra-endurance athletes before exercise to be more proactive and better maintain fluid balance during activity. However, if you don’t choose a flavored option, adding three salt packets or just under a teaspoon of salt to water is a more cost effective way to obtain this. drinklmnt.com
Nuun offers a variety of naturally-flavored hydration tablets ranging from 200-300 mg of sodium. These are more suitable for everyday exercisers or those with low sweat rates who choose to ingest carbohydrates before, during, or after exercise in other forms. Their powdered endurance formula offers slightly more sodium along with carbohydrates, and it’s more appropriate for those engaging in longer bouts of activity at moderate to high intensities. nuunlife.com
3. NOW Effervescent Tablets
These effervescent tablets are formulated to help athletes and sports enthusiasts of all levels rehydrate, and they inch out Nuun’s standard sodium levels with 360 mg per serving. There are four tasty flavor options, but the tropical punch flavor sets itself apart with added B vitamins and 125 mg of caffeine from green tea extract. According to an International Society of Sports Nutrition position paper, caffeine may help to spare carbohydrate use during exercise. nowfoods.com
4. Liquid IV
Liquid IV is a hydration packet that offers 500 mg of sodium, plus B vitamins and 11 grams of sugar per serving. Since it replenishes carbohydrates and offers a higher level of sodium than other options, it may be more suitable for athletes or those with athletic activity levels. liquid-iv.com
5. Orgain HydroBoost
HydroBoost is another powdered hydration option that contains 50% less sugar than traditional sports drinks; at 9 grams it comes under what is provided by liquid IV and still meets the World Health Organization’s guidance on replenishing fluids. The four flavors offer 300 mg of sodium, but another nutrient not often seen in these products is vitamin C, an important antioxidant. It’s provided by the inclusion of Orgain’s “superfoods powder blend”, which consists of a variety of fruits. orgain.com
For more tips on hydration, keep reading: