What is the best electrolyte powder? For most runners it’s one that not only meets your sweat needs, but doesn’t overload your gut with sugar causing stomach cramps.
As always the answer depends on what you need from a product. Over the last year, I’ve been in search of my own go to electrolyte to help give my recommendation.
Through a lot of drinks and runs, I’ve tested a variety of flavors, brands and options from lower to higher sugar content.
I’ve written in depth about why runners need electrolytes, and even shared Shalane Flannagan’s homemade electrolyte drink, so today let’s focus simply on breaking down these products and what I looked for in making my own judgement.
AND what you use matters because the right mix, helps water move from your stomach in to your bloodstream more quickly!
That means fighting off dehydration which can impact your performance and mood.
Electrolyte Powder Options
One of the best things about electrolyte powders is that in this format there is less need for binding agents or fillers than you might find with pre-made drinks on the shelf.
There were a few considerations that immediately came to mind for me in testing:
- Taste – let’s be honest, if it’s awful I won’t use it continually and this one is subjective as we all have different taste budes.
- Sugar – higher sugar can be great for a drink utilized during long runs as part of your fueling strategy, lower or no sugar electrolytes are my preference when hydrating throughout the day. Additionally, we’ll look at the source of the sugar.
- Nutrients – what’s the % of electrolytes, minerals and nutrients in the powder
- Cost – while I was able to try many of these options for free through brand partners, long term I’m always considering how cost matches up.
You may notice that many of these don’t have a very high magnesium content, though it’s super important to prevent muscle cramps, we also know that magnesium can get things moving in our digestive system and we don’t want too much DURING the run.
Is Electrolyte Powder Good for you?
It’s supremely useful for runners and anyone who is sweating a good deal during the day. It helps with preventing muscle cramps, improving hydration and so many other things which I detailed in why we need electrolytes.
How do you mix electrolyte powder?
You should be able to put it in any bottle with 8-12oz of water and shake. They do not clump, unlike some protein powders, because they’re much finer and dissolve quickly.
9 Best Electrolyte Powders for Runners
Here’s the drinks we’ll be reviewing:
- Vital Proteins Hydrate
- UCan Hydrate
- Vega Sport Hydrator
- Sckratch Labs
- Liquid IV
- Tailwind Endurance
- Osmo Nutrition
Vital Proteins Hydrate
Honestly, I often use just the Vital Proteins Recovery as my pre-run. It’s filled with all the electrolytes and minerals I need, plus I’m getting a shot of protein and collagen.
But their Hydration Packets are specifically formulated for doing all the things we need our sports drink to do. I like that it also contains Vitamin C, B vitamins and the previously mentioned collagen. The studies are still debating the benefits of collagen, but there are no drawbacks and I always need ways to get in more protein to help with recovery!
Sugar: 1 gram of what they call functional sugar. Which is D-glucose, designed to help sodium reach the bloodstream quicker.
Nutrients: 800mg of electrolytes, 100% daily Vitamin C, plus B vitamins
Cost: Breaks down to $1.19 per serving
I started using this one recently and it’s one of my favorites for no sugar without any kind of weird taste.
I think that’s because UCAN was developed around their Super Starch to prevent creating products with high sugar content and thus this one doesn’t have any artificial sweeteners (has some stevia).
UCAN Hydrate was designed by a former Olympic dietitian named Bob Seebohar. He ran studies on the proportions of each electrolyte found in athletes’ sweat and modeled UCAN Hydrate off of that, so that you’re replacing what you’re sweating.
Sugar: 0 grams, sweetened with Stevia. I found no artificial taste to it, it was the perfect sweetness for me. I like a little sweet because it encourages us to drink enough and tells the brain we’re getting fuel.
Cost: Breaks down to $0.83 per serving, unless you have a discount code!!
UCAN discount code: RUNTOTHEFINISH for 20% off
Vega Sport Hydrator
The first electrolyte I ever used consistently was Vega when I lived in Miami! It was the first time I realized that sipping during the run was more ideal than guzzling before or after the run to keep me feeling good start to finish.
Sugar: 0 grams, sweetened with Stevia, which means some are not a fan of the taste. Having tried many brands now, I can say there’s a little aftertaste if you don’t like sweeteners.
Nutrients: Fantastic spread and good ranges to keep you balanced without overdoing any particular area. Bonus of 100% daily Vitamin C needs to boost immune system. 100mg sodium, 100mg magnesium, 400mg potassium
Cost: Breaks down to .48 cents per serving from the container, higher if you buy individual sticks
Hydrant Rapid Hydration Mix
I LOVE that this brand goes deep in to telling you why the exact mix of ingredients is really important for your hydration.
It’s all the science that I get excited about showing how the mix improves your overall hydration and with this sugar content can be something you utilize as part of your daily hydration or as part of your workouts.
Sugar: 6 grams sweetened with cane sugar, a great option for those looking lower sugar, but without an artificial sweetener! Very light flavor, I tend to like something stronger.
Nutrients: 260 mg sodium, 200 mg potassium, 30 mg magnesium, not a lot of other add-ons.
Cost: Breaks down to 1.30 per single pack
Skratch Labs Sports Hydration Mix
I always get excited to talk about local Colorado brands, but I was actually introduced to them when I was in Hawaii for the Ironman! They’re known for making high quality products and they use science to determine what’s in their product.
For example, they keep it to a 4% carbohydrate solution because that still optimizes fluid transport to the small intestine.
Sugar: Uses cane sugar for an avg 19 grams per serving, making this drink ideal for use on the run or immediately post run when you need to refill glycogen stores. I wouldn’t sip it randomly throughout the day because of the sugar, again personal choice.
Nutrients: Main focus is on sodium and carbs to fuel your workout (small amount of magnesium), they believe in not adding extras. 380 mg sodium, 39mg potassium, 39mg magnesium
Cost: Breaks down to .81 cents per serving from the bag, higher if you buy individual sticks
Perhaps you’ve seen this fizzy little tablet and wondered about it. In fact, in the last year they’ve expanded from just electrolytes to drinks to help with immunity, sleep and caffeine. Here we’re focused just on the basic sport electrolyte which is formulated for fast absorption.
If you’re a sparkling water fan, this will probably be your jam for an any time drink. Flavor is super, super mild and my husband likes this for his bike rides. I’m not a sparkling water person, so I drink it less often.
Sugar: 1 gram of sugar, sweetened with stevia.
Nutrients: 300mg sodium, 150mg potassium, 25 mg magnesium – especially ideal if you’re taking in other fuel on the run
Cost: Breaks down to approximately .50 cents per serving (easily portable)Trying to find the best electrolyte drink for you?! Check out all the options from no sugar to moderate sugar #runchat Click To Tweet
Are you a heavy sweater? Do you run in the heat and humidity? Then this might be the option you need to pay the most attention to, as it’s designed to be a super hydrator. In fact, it’s so dense that for me I can’t drink a full serving at once or my stomach feels like a water balloon.
That’s actually by scientific design! This was original developed to help with undernourished kids in third world countries and we’ve found it to be an option for rehydration as well. “1 packet can provide the same hydration as drinking 2-3 bottles of water.”
Sugar: 11 grams of sugar from pure cane sugar
Nutrients: 110% of Vitamins A, B, C, Niacin, plus 500mg sodium, 370mg potassium,
Cost: Breaks down to $1.50 per stick, but if you only use half at a time, which you could because of high density it could make each serving in to 2.
Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel
I think it’s important to know this is different than the other drinks listed. It’s designed to provide both calories and electrolytes, making it a replacement for needing things like gels.
A great option for those sensitive stomach running fuel during distance training. From research they determined that protein during intense long exercise can bother the GI tract and that’s why they don’t have it in here.
Sugar: 25 grams of sugar with 100 calories per scoop (10-12 oz water). Their recommendation is 2-3 scoops in 24 oz of water per 1 hour workout. Which makes sense for triathletes to me, but feels heavy as a runner.
Nutrients: 303 mg sodium, 88mg potassium, 14mg magnesium
Cost: Breaks down to .72 cents per serving from the bag
NOTE: Another excellent option here is UCAN, which is no SUGAR thanks to the super starch and helps to prevent blood sugar spikes and drops. Discount code from above works here too!
In terms of the pre-load, I could see where this would have been amazing when I trained in Miami.
“scientifically designed to prepare the body for high-intensity efforts and hot environments by raising plasma levels and boosting blood circulation while counteracting hormone-related drops in body water.” But it’s OVER 1200mg of sodium, so definitely use appropriately!
Following looks at their standard active hydration mix, I really couldn’t see why the “women’s” formula would be any better.
Sugar: 9 grams from cane sugar
Nutrients: 130 mg sodium, others are not listed by milligrams, but also contains some B vitamins which means a little energy boost.
Cost: Varies, but average breakdown is .50 cents per serving from container
Looking for some other alternatives?
Turns out that pickle juice for cramps is a real thing!
And there are indeed a lot of homemade electrolyte options. I’ve tried a number of options and they do taste great, I just need the convenience of the powders!
Looking for more reviews to find the best things for your run?
Checkout our full page of my must have running gear reviews and guides to save you time searching and money! I share what’s worked for me and fellow runners, along with what wasn’t worth the price tag.
A few common requests:
- Best electrolyte tablets – easier to carry with you and place in water on really long days
- Must have summer running gear
- Best running sunglasses
- Best natural sunscreen for runners
What do you look for when buying Electrolyte Powders?
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