7 Nutritionist-Approved Electrolyte Drinks
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Sometimes spring water isn't enough: Try one of these thirst-quenching electrolyte drinks for maximum hydration.
Warmer weather is headed our way, ushering in sweaty outdoor workouts and sizzling afternoons at the beach or pool.
Sunshine is good news if you have a vitamin D deficiency, but it’s not so great if you struggle to stay hydrated.
“Warm weather, active lifestyles, and caffeine consumption can all dehydrate us,” says Lauren Minchen, New York-based nutritionist and nutrition consultant for Freshbit, the AI-driven visual diet diary app. However, she says adding electrolytes to your water can help.
“Thirst can be masked as hunger—so check in with yourself. Are you sipping water throughout the day?” adds Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, a culinary consultant and host of Nourishing Notes podcast. “If you are sweating excessively during your workouts, you’ll also have to replace electrolytes.”
(Here are the unexpected reasons you’re always thirsty.)
What are electrolytes?
“Electrolytes help your body control the water balance in your cells,” Minchen explains. “They are also responsible for supporting healthy nerve function and muscle contraction and managing acid balance in the body.”
“Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, and magnesium,” says Amy Gorin, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, Connecticut. She explains that when you sweat, you lose both water and electrolytes.
It’s important to quickly replace both the water and electrolytes that you lose after a sweaty gym session or day spent by the pool. Without proper hydration and electrolyte balance, you run the risk of sub-par heart and muscle function, according to Gorin and Minchen.
Signs of electrolyte imbalance
When your body is low on electrolytes, it struggles to stay hydrated and run on all cylinders.
Minchen says you could experience these symptoms if you don’t replenish the electrolytes lost during intense exercise:
- Muscle cramping or weakness
- Heart palpitations
- Fatigue or sluggishness
- Irregular blood clotting
- Trouble breathing
- Nausea or vomiting
Keep your muscles happy with electrolytes
You know your body struggles when it doesn’t have enough electrolytes. On the flipside, flooding your water with electrolytes before or during a workout might actually enhance athletic performance.
Recent research suggests that drinking electrolyte-infused drinks can prevent muscle cramps better than water alone.
Published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the small study required 10 men to run in the heat, then rehydrate with either spring water or an oral rehydration solution full of electrolytes. After drinking, the men received electrical stimulation meant to induce muscle cramps. Cramp susceptibility decreased significantly after drinking electrolyte water versus spring water.
What makes a healthy electrolyte drink?
You probably already know the perils of consuming too much sugar: pimples, energy slumps, tooth decay, and more. So it makes sense that when you’re looking for a healthy way to stay hydrated, sugar-free or low-sugar electrolyte drinks are best.
Minchen also suggests prioritizing drinks containing the full spectrum of electrolytes: calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride.
If your heart is set on a deliciously sweet beverage, Minchen says to opt for natural sweeteners (stevia, agave, or monk fruit extract).
She recommends seeking drinks with no more than a couple of grams of sugar and no artificial coloring. “It should contain vegetable or fruit coloring only—beet juice or annatto,” she says.
Healthy electrolyte hydration options
We asked our experts about their favorite store-bought electrolyte drinks for hydration. Here’s what to order before your next intense exercise session.
Nuun Sport: Electrolyte Drink Tablets
Nuun drink tablets are easy to throw into your gym bag or car when you’re headed out for a busy day in the heat.
Plunk a gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free tablet into your bottle or glass of water, and watch while it fizzes and dissolves into a flavored drink full of sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
Though Nuun Sport tastes sweet (thanks to stevia), each serving clocks in at only 15 calories and 2 grams of carbohydrates.
It’s worth noting that four of the thirteen flavors include 40 mg of caffeine from green tea. That’s equivalent to a medium cup of coffee.
Harmless Harvest Coconut Water
“This is one of my favorite electrolyte beverages because it’s a natural source of electrolytes, including potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Plus, it tastes delicious. When I drink it after an intense workout, I feel hydrated!” Gorin says.
Minchen also recommends coconut water as a completely natural electrolyte drink. She recommends opting for unsweetened varieties because coconut water already contains natural sugars.
Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Hydration Powder
Another electrolyte powder recommendation from Minchen, Ultima Replenisher is an ideal hydration solution if you’re counting calories.
This stevia-sweetened powder has no calories or carbs. It is also naturally colored by ingredients like beta-carotene (an antioxidant that your body converts into vitamin A) and beet juice concentrate.
Ultima Replenisher is also vegan, gluten-free, and certified organic. It’s available in several flavors, including pink lemonade and cherry pomegranate. This is a solid hydration choice if you have food sensitivities.
Evolution Fresh Mighty Watermelon Cold-Pressed Juice Blend
“Did you know that watermelon is another source of naturally occurring electrolytes, especially potassium? This juice is just watermelon and lemon juice,” Gorin says.
One of the most hydrating foods at the supermarket, watermelon is also naturally sweet. The lemon balances the flavor with a kick of citrus.
Despite watermelon’s natural sugar content, researchers have found that eating it could help reduce body weight and body mass index (BMI), according to a study published in the science journal Nutrients. That means this juice blend could keep you hydrated and support your weight loss efforts all summer long.
BodyArmor Lyte Sports Drinks
One of Minchen’s favorite electrolyte drinks (in any flavor, she says), BodyArmor Lyte is 10 percent coconut water, 90 percent electrolyte- and vitamin-infused sports drink sweetened with stevia leaf extract.
It’s worth noting that a bottle of BodyArmor Lyte contains 20 carbs per bottle. While not a good choice for people on the keto diet, this could be a great hydration option if you need more energy and fuel for your workouts.
Essentia bottled water
If you’re looking for a simple, tasteless electrolyte drink to stand in for regular bottled water, try Essentia. Recommended by Minchen, this bottled water is purified through reverse osmosis, then infused with “trace electrolytes,” according to the brand.
In other words, Essentia bottled water is best for those who are already hydrated and simply want to replenish a few electrolytes lost during a mildly sweaty workout.
This water is probably more hydrating than regular filtered water, but less hydrating than the other electrolyte-packed drinks in this article.
Electrolit Electrolyte Hydration Orange
“This drink contains a mix of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and other nutrients to help with recovery. It does contain added sugar, but I like that this is not in the first few ingredients,” Gorin says.
If you’re concerned about sugar consumption, Electrolit Electrolyte Hydration Orange is best consumed in small doses. Each bottle is 21 ounces, but the nutrition label states that one serving is 8 ounces.
Still, because of its electrolyte and sugar content, this drink works well for those who need fast recovery after a rigorous workout or long day in the sun. It could also be a solid contender for rehydration if you’re suffering from heat exhaustion or food poisoning.
Other tips for staying hydrated
“Your urine is a good indicator of hydration status. If it’s darker than lemonade, you are most likely dehydrated,” Shanta Retelny says.
Minchen also recommends tracking your caffeine intake to successfully stay hydrated. She suggests chasing down an 8-ounce cup of coffee with sixteen ounces of water. That’s in addition to her base recommendation of 64 ounces of water per day.
Here are a few hydration solutions recommended by our experts:
- Snacking on water-rich fruits and vegetables
- Smoothies and fresh juice
- Decaffeinated, unsweetened tea
- Fresh coconut water
Next, discover the 9 best stainless steel water bottles for staying hydrated.
- Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, Connecticut
- Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, LDN, author and host of the Nourishing Notes podcast
- Lauren Minchen, MPH, RDN, CDN, nutrition consultant for Freshbit, the AI-driven visual diet diary app
- National Institutes of Health: "Magnesium"
- NIH: "Calcium"
- NIH: "Potassium"
- NIH: "Vitamin A"
- European Journal of International Medicine: "Chloride: the queen of electrolytes?"
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?"
- Nuun: "Nuun Sport"
- Nutrients: "Effects of Fresh Watermelon Consumption on the Acute Satiety Response and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Adults"
- Essentia Water: "FAQ"
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: "Effect of oral rehydration solution versus spring water intake during exercise in the heat on muscle cramp susceptibility of young men"