Best and Worst Electrolyte Drinks

Best and Worst Electrolyte Drinks

Electrolytes are charged metallic “ions” that help balance fluid pressure inside our cells and control the pH of our blood. Normal nerve, heart and muscle function relies on adequate amounts of these minerals, and deficiencies can hamper performance dramatically. The root cause of muscle cramps is usually from a lack of electrolytes, especially potassium and magnesium. Water does not supply enough of these minerals anymore. In the past, our water would come down from the mountains, collect minerals from the rocks, become activated through movement and was free of pollutants. Today, our water needs to be purified, distilled and treated which can diminish or completely eliminate the mineral content. To top it off, much of the water has become fluoridated, which binds to magnesium and sets you up for leg cramps.

During our early days of agriculture, fermented drinks fit the bill more than water to maintain energy and hydration all day. These supplied ionic minerals to the body, supplying the muscles with the much needed electricity to function. Today, research has allowed us to design drinks to address the precise needs of the body during physiological, emotional and psychological stress to allow us to push beyond what is considered humanly possible. If you are really serious about performance, consider also reading the article Adaptogens: The Secret Weapon for Athletes.

 

Best


1. Hammer Nutrition HEED Sports Energy Drink 

 

hammer heedHEED is designed for those that will be experiencing heavy sweat loss and requiring a liquid carbohydrate source. It uses a different type of carbohydrate delivery system instead of simple sugars that may not cause the gastric distress that many sugary sports drinks do. The osmolality for Heed is 280-290, and the osmolality of blood is 280-290. A sports drink should be in this range or slightly less. The carbohydrate content for Heed is 25 grams, putting it at the exact range required by extreme exercise. It has the full electrolyte profile needed for mineral loss (including sufficient magnesium) and vitamin B6, an important precursor of neurotransmitters. The testimonials of many people using it shows that Heed is currently at the top of the class.

*If you are needing something over the 3 hour mark and beyond, you will need an easy to digest protein source and a more heavy duty profile. Under general circumstances, I wouldn’t recommend using soy. However, Hammer’s research and numerous testimonials shows it works. Very few use non-GMO soy and that’s also where Hammer stands out. The best one is Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem.

2. Hammer Endurolytes Fizz or Saltstick Electrolyte Capsules

electrolyteelectrolyte
Heavy sweat loss equals a higher need for sodium and other minerals. So if you are a triathlete or Ironman competitor and have experienced more than normal sweat loss, you want something a little more heavy duty. Hammer Endurolytes Fizz is a superior option for those that want it in drink form and have a separate carbohydrate source in mind.

electrolyteelectrolyte

Saltstick was created by a triathlete and organic chemist, for triathletes and carries the claim of being used by every Ironman World Champion since 2006 and winners of triathlons and events around the world. It uses bioavailable forms of the minerals, making sure they make it to your muscles. While not technically a drink, I decided to include this if you may have a system down and prefer to have your electrolytes as separate pills from your water and carbohydrate sources for precision of mineral loss. Top of its class.

3. Pure Encapsulations – Electrolyte/Energy Formulaelectrolyte electrolyte

electrolyteelectrolyte
Pure Encapsulations Electrolyte/Energy Formula uses glucose, alpha ketoglutarate and malate, l-tryosine and contains the full range of electrolytes. Alpha ketoglutarate is a precursor to glutamine, and may help protein synthesis and recovery. L-tyrosine is a precursor to catecholamine neurotransmitters including dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine, promoting mental focus and physical endurance under stressful conditions. Vitamin C is included to help promote tissue repair and regulate the adrenals. This is a popular choice from doctors for the patients low in electrolytes, struggling with dehydration and under duress.

4. Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydratorelectrolyte or Ultima Replenisherelectrolyte
electrolyteelectrolyte
The Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator contains just electrolytes with stevia as a sweetener. It comes in convenient small mini-pencil sized packets. Athletes sometimes get cramps from sugary drinks when you are not sweating profusely, making this an ideal solution. The taste of stevia however is too strong for some people and it may fall short for those requiring a steady supply of glucose, like for runners and cyclists.

electrolyteelectrolyte

Ultima Replenisher uses a wide range of electrolytes, vitamin C, non-GMO maltodextrin, silica and is sweetened with stevia and luo han guo. The taste is stronger than Vega and the opinions are mixed, but if you like the taste of stevia and luo han guo together then you will like this one. Popular choice for diabetics or those watching their sugar and carbohydrate count.

5. PaleoEdge Homemade Electrolyte Drink

32 oz. water
1 orange and 1 cucumber sliced (both with peel)
1 lemon sliced (with peel)
1/4 tsp. Himalayan Sea Saltelectrolyte or Endure Performance Electrolyte Dropselectrolyte

Combine in a glass water bottle, shake and cool in the refrigerator.

This will serve the purpose of many recreational activities. It supplies a wide range of minerals and will replenish those lost during minimal sweat.

electrolyte

Worst

When looking at a label for bottled drinks, look for reverse osmosis water. If it doesn’t use it, it is most likely flouridated, and flouride binds to magnesium. If a drink doesn’t have magnesium to begin with and uses fluoridated water, I see an increased risk of muscle cramps. Look into it Lebron James. On a serious note, magnesium deficiency may cause sudden cardiac death in athletes, especially those in heat or doing long endurance events.

1. Gatorade

Gatorade is owned by PepsiCo, the makers of Pepsi and who dominate the sports drink market at 69 percent. Many of the colors and flavors seem a little extreme with their bright blues and reds. How are these made? The artificial colors and flavors are derived from aromatic hydrocarbons from petrochemicals. In other words, oil. Manufacturers are not required to divulge this information because artificial colors and flavors are considered intellectual property. Some contain hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils, hydrogenated coconut oil (fruit punch flavor), and brominated vegetable oil (orange, strawberry), a flame retardant that is banned in Japan and the European Union. A recent article reported that due to consumer pressure, Gatorade is now working on removing brominated vegetable oil and replacing it with sucrose acetate isobutyrate.

You know hydrogenated oils as “trans fats” and some products still contain these despite the numerous studies proving how dangerous they are to our health. They are cheaper than animal fats and provide a longer shelf life for food and beverage products. They are now banned in many restaurants across the US due to their negative health impacts, one of which destroys the porosity and flexibility of healthy cell membranes. Likewise, the bromine, in brominated oils, is a toxin and a goitrogen (harmful to the thyroid).

Gatorade went from GMO high fructose corn syrup, to GMO glucose-fructose corn syrup (changed the ratios to avoid the dreaded HFCS title) to the most recent combination of 21 grams of sugar and dextrose per 12 oz serving. Gatorade also only contains potassium and sodium, neglecting calcium, magnesium and chloride which seems like a major oversight for electrolyte loss.

 

2. Powerade 

Powerade is owned by Coca-Cola and dominates 30 percent of the market. The online ingredients of the Powerade Berry & Tropical are water, glucose, fructose, citric acid, mineral salts (sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium phosphate), flavourings, acidity regulator (potassium citrate), stabilisers (acacia gum, glycerol esters of wood rosins), sweeteners (sucralose, acesulfame K), colour (brilliant blue). (You have to go to 3rd party websites to find the US ingredients).

You have to break down the label a little more to see what exactly is water, glucose, fructose, “flavorings,” sucralose acesulfame K and “color,” which I can promise you is not brilliant. The other interesting part in my search is that Powerade is fairly clever in deceiving the customer by getting around the high fructose corn syrup label online. It is also interesting that the European spelling of flavour and colour is used.  Why would they do this? Because in certain countries, they label high fructose corn syrup as water, glucose and fructose! It is the SAME THING. High fructose corn syrup is water, glucose and fructose. The U.S. label has to tell the ugly truth. Nice try Powerade. If you consume high fructose corn syrup within two hours post-exercise, you will increase somatostatin which will in turn destroy the production of HGH, negating many of the benefits from exercise.

Here is the U.S. label. Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Less than 0.5% of: Citric Acid, Salt and Potassium Citrate and Magnesium Chloride and Calcium Chloride and Potassium Phosphate (electrolyte sources),Natural FlavorsModified Food StarchCalcium Disodium EDTA(to protect color), Medium Chain Triglycerides (contains coconut oil), Brominated Vegetable Oil,Vitamin B3 (niacinamide), Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride),Vitamin B12, Red #40

Despite pressure on Gatorade to remove Brominated Vegetable Oil, Powerade has at this time chosen to keep the flame retardant in their drink, not to mention a red dye.

Powerade has 20 packed grams of high fructose corn syrup leading the way to type 2 diabetes.

3. Powerade Zero

Also made by Coca Cola, you see the artificial sweeteners sucralose and acesulfame K and artificial colors. The troubling part for me with sucralose – also known as Splenda – is that is has a covalent bond with chlorine, creating an organochlorine. What are organochlorines? Agent Orange, DDT, PCB’s, pesticides and insecticides. That’s correct. Your body cannot break these down and are extremely harmful. Ionic bonds with chlorine are found in compounds like salt, covalent bonds with chlorine are found in poisonous and carcinogenic compounds. Sucralose has been found to wreak havoc on intestinal bacteria (up to 50% destruction), which makes sense looking at its chemical structure. Your beneficial bacteria is responsible for up to 80 percent of your immune system, your ability to lose weight, and emerging research is connecting anxiety and depression to low beneficial bacteria populations.

Ingredients: Water, citric acid, mineral salts (sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium phosphate), colour (anthocyanins), natural raspberry flavouring with other natural flavourings, acidity regulator (E332), sweeteners (sucralose, acesulfame K), color (E133).

4. Vitaminwater

Vitaminwater is also owned by Coca-Cola. You may have noticed that the bottle contains “2.5 servings” which means you need to multiply everything by 2.5, a deceiving way to lower the amounts on the label from first glance. There are 31 grams of sugar (use to be crystalline fructose, a form even higher in fructose than HFCS and often tainted with heavy metals. Changes now say “cane sugar”) in each bottle of Vitaminwater, compared to 39 grams of sugar in one can of Coke. You may have even read the about the lawsuit against Vitaminwater for calling itself a healthy beverage, and Coca-Cola has since acknowledged that it is indeed not. Too much sugar will make you cramp while you’re competing, upset your stomach, lower your immunity, deplete minerals and actually dehydrate you. As for the vitamins, they are synthetic, incomplete and worthless to the body.

5. Accelerade 

This has a poor combination of sucrose, fructose and GMO soy protein (many of the documented health risks of GMO’s can be found in Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foodselectrolyte). For many sports and activities, drinking protein while exercising at maximum effort can cause gastric distress. For triathletes and the Ironman, the requirements and replenishing schedules are different. Look for non-GMO protein sources like Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem.

Ingredients: Sucrose, whey protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, citric acid, fructose, natural flavors, soy lecithin, magnesium carbonate, salt, red beet, xanthan gum, maltodextrin, potassium phosphate, vitamin E acetate, ascorbic acid.

6. Cytomax

From the makers of Muscle Milk – one of the most contaminated protein drinks – comes Cytomax.  Its advanced carbohydrate system doesn’t look to be anything but derivatives of GMO corn and it uses both natural and artificial flavor (both which are not named) making this a poor choice. *Update: They took the artificial flavor out recently but have not updated their labels online. Still not convinced of the purity of this product until further testing is done.

7. NUUN Active Hydration

I have seen these popping up near counters everywhere, and I almost purchased one as something quick I could take on a hike in my water since I was running short on time. Then I looked at the label.

Other ingredients: citric acid, sorbitol, sodium carbonate, natural colors flavors, sodium bicarbonate, potassium bicarbonate, polyethylene glycol, magnesium sulfate, sodium benzoate, calcium carbonate, acesulfame potassium, riboflavin-5-phosphate.

I went in detail regarding acesulfame potassium (which is also in Powerade) in my article Best Electrolyte Drinks for Diabetes, so I will focus on the preservative sodium benzoate. The concern is that when you combine sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid you create benzene, especially in the presence of heat and light (common with storing citrus flavored soda in a warm garage). Citric acid may act as a catalyst for this process in the presence of ascorbic acid. Even if ascorbic acid isn’t in the product with sodium benzoate, you could be consuming food containing vitamin C or a food product/supplement with ascorbic acid for this to occur.

Benzene damages the cells mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell where you are generating energy in the first place! It has been found to cause cancer – leukemia and other cancers of the blood – by disabling a cell’s DNA. Benzene is also found in cigarettes, pesticides, car exhaust, paints and certain laundry detergents. Runners and bikers exposed to car exhaust should be especially mindful of this, since vitamin C is an important antioxidant to protect against oxidative stress and promote tissue repair.

I hope this helps you choose your electrolyte drinks. Stay hydrated my friends.

See also:

Best and Worst Whey Protein Powders

Best and Worst Multi-Vitamins

90 Responses to Best and Worst Electrolyte Drinks

  1. Regarding Accelerade. I’m not sure what sort of training this blog addresses. Check the 2nd water bottle on 1/2 of the people in any triathlon group training ride. They have Accelerade or Hammer Perputuum in it. (The other bottle is plain water.)

    The theory is this. Protein takes 4 hours for the body to process. Having protein in the drink places it in the digestive system to be picked up for recovery. Most group rides last around 2-3 hours. So the timing works. It’s probably not good timing for a 1 hour trip to the gym.

  2. Hey Rick,

    This blog addresses a wide range of sports and activities. I should clarify that the entire electrolyte list is not limited to triathlons and will update it to be more clear. You are right regarding the protein requirements for triathletes, and Accelerade and Ensure are popular choices. However I would still not endorse them due to the use of GMO soy protein, which has many documented health risks. Hammer Perpetuem uses GMO free soy protein, and while it’s not my favorite protein, it would be the best option of the three.

    • Ultima Replenisher is definitely a solid choice in terms of ingredients, I have just received complaints regarding the taste. It’s probably because they mix stevia and luo han guo which can be a little too sweet for some people. I will add it next to the Vega product which also uses stevia so people can try both. Thanks for the comment!

    • Hey Jeff,

      For an event of that duration, you will definitely want something more like Hammer Perpetuem, in addition to adequate water, gels, easy to digest snacks etc. Muscle repair will be an important part of your endurance. Remember that once Perpetuem is mixed, it is only good for 3-5 hours so you may want to mix it as needed. Keeping measured amounts in plastic bags is a good way to do this. Good luck! Very impressive.

  3. Cracking report Alex, not alot of these out there.
    Looking at the other end of the exercise spectrum, 1-2hrs training, and to save on buying endless plastic bottles, I really like your Homemade drink. Is there any other minerals you’d add since writing this and could you make up and freeze in say ice cube bags to use as and when over time?

    • Hey Simon,

      Happy to help. What you could do is put all the ingredients in a jug the night before and stick it in the fridge overnight. Then strain it in the morning and freeze it ice cube trays. You can do this with a variety of berries as well if you want to mix it up. If you don’t mind the gel like consistency of chia seeds, I would add those as well for extra minerals. They have a rich history for being used for endurance by regulating hydration.

  4. Are any of these suitable for children? My daughter is 11 and a very keen tennis player. Lots of kids seem to have the likes of powerade at tournaments but I’ve tried to keep my daughter away from those evils (the drinks, not the other kids!!) however now that she’s playing in tournaments that are sometimes lasting 4hrs+ she needs something more than just water and bananas!! I recently bought a power/energy bar thingie but on the back it states not suitable for children :/ She gets stomach cramps if she eats too much so I was wondering if some sort of drink/shake might be the answer?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Clair,

      Great job on being aware of what to give your daughter! I would recommend the Hammer Nutrition Heed for kids, especially for tennis. I didn’t see anything on the label that would be unsuitable for children, and I called the company for you to double check and they said it was fine. Depending on her weight, it is 0.5/1 scoop per hour up to 90lbs, and 0.75/1 scoop per hour for 90-120lbs. If something like a bar or drink states it is unsuitable for children, it’s usually because it contains a stimulant like caffeine. Although they should have it for HFCS, artificial flavors and colors too right? If she is going for 4+ hours, she will most likely need a food source as well.

      • Thank you for your swift and informative response. I’ve read other good reviews on the Hammer Nutrition Heed so I think we’ll be giving it a go.
        Thanks again.

        • Just a quick update. We’ve bought a couple of sachets of Hammer HEED for my daughter to try and she’s getting on v well with it, it does just what it’s supposed to do without any added ‘evils’! Many thanks for your help and advice. Clair :)

  5. I’m 75 years old and I’m in fairly good shape for my age. I go to PlantFitness about 2 to 3 times a wk. so I would like to know what i should and should not be drinking.
    I have a heart condition called A-Fib. I’m taking meds for that and hi blood pressure and hi cholesterol.
    I know your no doctor but I still would like your thoughts.

    Thank you

    • Hi Jerry,

      I’d be happy to help. Are you referring to which electrolyte drinks you should or should not be drinking? Or general guidelines?

  6. I’m 15 years old and I was wondering if there is anything that I would be able to drink for energy, because when i play soccer of a weekend and sometimes during training I feel like I am completely out of energy, and this is with a banana smoothie before hand. So would there be anything that I could have instead that would give me more energy?

    Thanks in advance

    • Hey Ben,

      If you are not using an electrolyte drink yet, I would highly recommend using Hammer Nutrition Heed which will help with energy quite a bit. Drink 8 ounces 20-30 minutes prior, then continue to drink it throughout the duration. Your energy levels are also highly dependent on your meals leading up your game or practice. You may not be getting enough glycogen storage, and since you are 15, you are probably burning through fuel like an SUV. Increase your protein, carbs and fat for dinner the night before, breakfast and lunch 2 hours before a game or practice. Consider any of these bars prior if you still need more calories beforehand or if you want something convenient. http://paleoedge.com/best-and-worst-protein-bars-for-sports/

  7. I didn’t see GU Electrolyte Brew on your list. Where do you rate it. A doctor told me to drink it during gym work outs because I sweat so much and have back spasms occasionly. I am also diabetic so suger is a concern.

    • Hey Ash,

      GU Electrolyte Brews falls short on my list since it only contains sodium and potassium, and is lacking calcium, magnesium and chloride. Back spasms or any muscle spasms are usually from a lack of magnesium, as well as potassium and calcium. It terms of sugar and carbohydrates, this is going to depend on the activity since you also don’t want to get exercise induced hypoglycemia. I actually wrote a book on diabetes called The New Menu for Diabetes if you are looking for more ideas on meals, supplements and types of exercise for better blood sugar control.

  8. Hello. My husband (69) is a truck driver who loads his own trailer. After a hard day his hands and legs start cramping even though he is drinking lots of water during the day and ice tea at a restaurant in the evening. What can he take in his truck besides water?
    Thank you,
    Dianne

    • Hi Dianne,

      Water often is not hydrating enough because it is lacking electrolytes. I have found the Pure Encapsulations Electrolyte Energy Formula to be the best choice for long drives because the carbohydrate content is lower, but the concentration still requires a steady supply of glucose. If he is diabetic or prediabetic, Ultima will be a better choice. He could keep a bottle of water and the electrolyte drink in the truck along with electrolyte fruits like oranges, tangerines, apples and watermelon. He needs to also be eating a balance of protein, fat and carbs every 3-4 hours. This will help him recover faster. Protein bars can be a convenient way to do this.

  9. Hey Alex – I have found your article and responses to questions very informative. I have been using Cytomax powder for years and have recently started doing research on other options. I do have to admit I was surprised to see it under your worst list (ouch!).

    I am a runner (training for another marathon) and run a slower pace (10 min/mile) so it is not uncommon to be out running on a Saturday for 2-4 hours. It is so hot & humid this time of year that I am soaked from head to toe! I do eat GU while I run, but am curious what you recommend for a electrolyte drink. The Heed seems to be low on Sodium & Potassium…and I am not sure I need the extra carbs since I Gu. Thanks in advance!

    • Hey Melissa,

      You definitely want to have your bases covered since you are pushing your body to an extreme in hot weather for a long period of time. Typically for this type and duration of training in hot weather, Hammer Perpetuem is recommended if you do not mind using non-GMO soy, which helps with muscle recovery. It has 220mg of sodium and 120mg of potassium. It also has 54 grams of carbohydates, which means you could cut down on the GU. Another option is to combine the Hammer Heed with Endurolytes powder to customize the amounts of electrolytes, and continue to use the GU. Cytomax and Heed only have a 3 carb difference, so I wouldn’t worry about having too many carbs. Experiment and see what works best for your body.

      • Interesting feedback Alex. I don’t have an opinion on GMO one way or another and maybe I should?? In regards to the Perpetuem, it seems almost identical in carbs, sodium, and potassium to cytomax scoop to scoop. What am I missing?

        • Perpetuem actually uses a protein to carbohydrate ratio that Cytomax does not have. This is where I was referencing the non-GMO soy protein. The product most like Perpetuem is actually Accelerade (uses GMO soy protein). Protein helps carbohydrates work better and longer, while helping muscle recovery in long distance races. But, yes you definitely should have an opinion on GMO’s! The short version is that there are many documented health risks assoicated with GMO’s, and it’s the reason most of Europe is banning them. Anything hard on your body effects performance.

          I called the makers of Cytomax to find out what the artificial flavor was that isn’t labeled, and it turns out that they recently took it out and only use natural flavors now. That’s good, however I’m still not confident in their product because of the quality control problems they have had with Muscle Milk.

          • Sorry for the delayed response! Thank you for the details – very helpful. I will definitely try the Perpetuem and let you know! Thanks again!

  10. I have a condition called autonomic dysfunction, which is where the autonomic nervous system has a problem regulating everything from sweating to blood pressure (entirely too low) to breathing properly to heart rate to, well, you get the picture. Bodily functions that you don’t think about are controlled by the autonomic nervous system. One of my biggest problems is that I pass out regularly or become pre-syncopal. Generally, I’m always dizzy when I get up, even if I manage not to pass out.
    I am supposed to drink half my weight in ounces of electrolyte water, but have never found anything that has the right kind of plain water (usually just trace minerals). Or, as you have pointed out, things like Gatorade, Propel, etc. are just plain disgusting. Never liked them before I was diagnosed, either.
    Thank you for your recipe. I have purchased a mammoth glass container with a spigot on it along with pink Himalayan salt and distilled water. Had the citrus. It’s steeping like tea in the fridge right now. I’m hopeful that it’s the right mix for me. I’ve never been a fan of pulpy orange juice, though, so we’ll see how this goes. Do you strain it prior to drinking it or just go ahead and drink it this way?
    Thank you!

  11. Hi Delaney,

    That sounds very challenging for you to work with, and I’d like to help fine tune it for you. I’m a little unclear what  you mean by the “right kind of plain water?”Do you mean the type of water that is used in the pre-made drinks? Have you tried any of the electrolyte powders mentioned added to your own water? While the homemade drink is hydrating, you may require very precise amounts of different minerals as outlined by your doctor. Were you given target amounts of sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium each day?

    Also, the drink will taste like lightly flavored water, so don’t worry about it tasting like pulpy orange juice! You don’t need to strain it, just drink it straight.

  12. Sorry; the clarification on “plain” waters: I meant the brand “Smart Water” or the waters labeled “electrolyte” water by the Whole Foods chain or the Trader Joe’s stores. My electrophysiologist initially pointed out these waters, but I am learning that these are not enough trace minerals. He did not indicate that I needed to supplement with any one of the trace minerals specifically, other than increasing my salt intake.
    I have tried SEVERAL of those powders, and discovered that some are either entirely too salty to my taste or made with stevia, which is entirely too sweet. Apparently, I have Goldilocks syndrome. Nothing is just right.
    One of the challenges I face is that without medication, my blood pressure is generally in the low 80s/low 50s. With medication, I can bring it up to 96/64. That’s actually the highest consistent number for me, but it fluctuates at a ridiculous rate with that being the highest I can depend on having. Electrolyte water is the one thing that the doctor insists on me drinking. Increasing my salt intake is encouraged. I actually detest salt, and have never owned a salt shaker.
    I know I can order salt tabs from the internet, but we found this and it seemed like a great idea to make this to supplement as well.
    I didn’t use the cucumber as I happen to be allergic (that, and watermelon. Crazy foods to have allergies to, yet I am).
    Thanks so much for your response, Alex.

  13. Got it. In that case, this will be an improvement over the electrolyte waters on the market. Consider doubling the fruit if the taste is still agreeable for you. If you don’t mind the texture, chia seeds and limes can also be used. Chia seeds are a rich source of minerals and keep the body hydrated. They have been highlighted with runners for their ability to enable going longer without water.

    For example:
    32 oz. water
    2 limes sliced
    2 lemons slices
    1 Tbsp. chia seeds
    1/4 tsp. Himalayan sea salt
    *If you are not opposed to using raw sugar cane, a little bit can be added to balance the sourness. Sugar cane, chia seeds and lime juice is actually the drink highlighted in the book Born to Run from the Tarahumara runners.

    Keep me updated with how you feel and if you need anything improved without compromising the taste.

  14. Hi Alex, I hope you can help with this issue … My husband gets horrific leg cramps. Quite often his calf muscles are so tight they feel like extra bones when I massage them. It was suggested that he drink more electrolytes, such as Gatorade. Your article indicates this is not the best choice and I’m wondering which or the products you recommend would be better.
    I should mention that he’s 65 and recovering (nicely) from a bone marrow transplant. He has always been very active and is working hard to get back into shape, but the leg pain is slowing him down. I look forward to your reply. Thank you.

    • Hi Eileen,

      Leg cramps – especially in the calf – are almost always magnesium deficiencies. I usually recommend 400mg daily. It can also be a CoQ10 deficiency as well. This usually occurs if someone has taken a statin drug for an extended period of time, however in your husbands case he may be low depending on his condition. I would discuss both with your doctor. Magnesium Citramate and Q-Best 100mg by Thorne Research are both excellent products. For an electrolyte base for training I would recommend HEED for him. Please let me know if you have any other questions, and happy to hear your husband is recovering well!

  15. Thanks for the article and especially the responses in the commentary.  Its given me a lot to think about.  I never had to worry too much about hydration before moving to Houston and since I am an active runner/triathlete the humidity saps me very quickly.  I haven’t tried Heed (I will now though) and your article on Protein power also gave me some great info on the variations of those products.

    Thanks!

  16. Hi Mara,

    Yes the overall mineral content is too low (although it does have a good amount of potassium), and incomplete. It is missing chloride and calcium and magnesium should be higher.

    • Hi Ed,

      Glad it was helpful. I think the Emergen-C electrolyte mix works fine if just want to increase your potassium and magnesium intake, and give filtered water a boost. As an electrolyte drink for working out and sweating, a similar but more complete version would be from Vega. If you need a fuel source as well for longer and more intense durations, then Heed or Performance will be best.

  17. I am in the middle of training in order to become a firefighter. In the coming weeks I will be wearing my full protective gear and sweating constantly while either standing there in the sun or doing drills.  What do you suggest I take to keep me operating optimally.  Thanks!!!

    • Hi James,

      Here is the program I have firefighters follow: (check with your doctor first)

      1. Heed or Performance for hydration during training and on the job.
      2. Grass-fed whey for post-workouts/training.
      3. Cordyceps to help withstand stress and increase oxygen transportation for better endurance.
      4. Magnesium Citramate: for muscle recovery, injury prevention, detoxication and heart health.
      5. Vitamin C: (100 percent l-ascorbate, avoid cheap vitamin C that is 50% d-ascorbate) to protect against the high toxic load, strengthen lung tissue and the blood vessel walls.

  18. Hai alex…i’m a swimmer…and i training 2 hours /day..now i’m using accelerade  for my energy drink….if you may,there is have another option for my energy drink?or that accelerade its enough for me?

    Thx alex

    • Hi Ignas,

      It depends on your individual needs and digestion. If you feel like you are dragging or taking longer to recover, you need more and better fuel. I have had swimmers do great on Heed or Performance, and others do better on Perpetuem. For some athletes, protein during swimming can lead to stomach cramps, while others who have a faster burning rate, require a protein/higher carbohydrate drink. I recommend Perpetuem by Hammer Nutrition over Accelerade since Perpetuem uses non-GMO soy protein and has a higher carbohydrate content (21g vs 54g), typically better for that 2-3 hour range.

  19. Hi Alex,

    I’m a Birth and Postpartum Doula and I’m doing a bit of research for my clients. As a Birth Doula, I assist parents in a non-medical manner during the childbirth process. Many of them choose to opt out of IV fluids and just orally hydrate themselves, the common recommendation being with coconut water or gatorade however I’d like to recommend something more nutritious and effective. Some clients will snack throughout labor but many can’t keep any food down which is difficult since childbirth can last many many hours (the longest I’ve attended was 46 hours). Which electrolyte drink would you recommend for a long but consistent level of activity? Instead of drinking large amounts, I encourage them to take small sips every few minutes. Something that’ll give them the energy to keep going while helping prevent muscle fatigue (we move a lot through labor and the uterus is a big ole muscle too!) My clients tend to prefer non-GMO products that are as natural as possible too.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Tatiana,

      Yes you definitely treat it like a marathon! We have actually had clients during the childbirth process use electrolyte drinks in the form of ice chips. It is very effective. Heed will probably best meet the criteria of your clients.

  20. Alex…great info, thanks…I’m a 66 year old golfer in Phoenix…every summer we play golf in Palm Springs, which is generally hotter than Phoenix…last year I drank water all day long, thinking I was hydrating myself…on the second night, I almost made my buddy take me to an emergency room because of leg cramps, both legs, feet, and toes…very painful…my question is, being out of town and not having a convenient way to carry and mix a powdered electrolyte drink, what options are available?…I normally try to drink Gatorade because it’s readily available (on the beverage cart and in golf shop) but after reading your report I don’t think that’s an option anymore…and, what about eating bananas during the round, will that help much?…thanks Alex

    • Hi Dave,

      You can usually find coconut water just about anywhere now, so I would pick that up near the course (they may even have it at the course). Bananas help, along with watery fruit like oranges and watermelon. If it is going to be brutally hot, it is worth the extra effort of making a jug of the electrolyte drink with ice in the morning and keeping it in the cart. My dad is an avid golfer and he swears by doing this now.

      • Thanks, Alex…very helpful info…I’ll mix up a jug of your electrolyte in phoenix and take it with me to dole out each morning into a thermos with ice…hopefully that will get me through the three rounds of golf we play each day.
        Dave

  21. Alex, found your articles very interesting and would like to have some advice. I’ve been working on crew ships for almost 15 years and I believe the food onboard does not have natural nutrition like when serving fresh food at home. I believe my body lacks nutritions and seeking advice on products to help improve living a healthy life. I hardly exercise as the muscle spasms avoid me from doing so, being slightly active the next day my body suffers from stiff muscles. Doing some research they recommend the following products:

    It is commonly thought that dehydration and depletion of electrolytes will lead to muscle spasm and cramping. Muscle cells require enough water, glucose, sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium to allow the proteins within them to interact and develop an organized contraction. Abnormal supply of these elements can cause the muscle to become irritable and go into spasm.

    Do you have any suggestions for me, I would like to get back into the gym without having the fear of spasms for hours.

    • Hi Louis,

      It can be hard enough to obtain the proper amount of nutrients needed from a regular diet, but it can be extremely challenging in your line of work. Without knowing more about you, I can’t comment on anything above the basics. You should definitely consider a multi-vitamin, extra magnesium citramate (500mg daily split into two doses), vitamin C and an electrolyte drink daily along with water (any of these mentioned in this article should be fine). I don’t know if you are taking a statin drug, but these can deplete CoQ10 levels and cause muscle spasms as well. Make sure after you workout that you consume protein.

      Avoid cheap versions of these vitamins because they will not do you any good. Here is an analysis on multivitamins and vitamin C.

      This should help get you back in the gym without any fear! I know how frustrating that can be.

  22. Alex, very informative site and thanks for sharing. I play lots of singles tennis in hot TX weather and will try your electrolyte recommendation as my current hydration drink, Gatorade (embarrassed to say) doesn’t seem to help in tougher matches and I find myself sluggish & on the verge of cramping in the later sets. I have a few questions if you don’t mind answering.

    1. Will I be taking in too much carbs if I use Heed for hydration along with a gel like Hammer?

    2. I didn’t see any recovery recommendation so I’ll ask it here. What would you recommend for recovery if I had to play multiple matches a day, usually three hours apart?

    Thanks,
    Nick

    • Hi Nick,

      I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to give a little longer answer because I think this could help other people as well.

      1. Tennis burns approximately 584 calories for a 160lb man per hour of play. This of course will range based on intensity, weight and weather conditions. That’s 146 calories per 15 minutes of intense play. Your body has a glycogen storage capacity of about 2000 calories, which makes your meals of protein, fat and carbohydrates the night before and morning of very important. This puts the typical glycogen range of 2-3 hours without proper recovery due to numerous variables. At this range and higher, protein becomes an important player for muscle recovery and extending carbohydrate life.

      When you sweat, you are losing sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, magnesium and other trace minerals. Since you are in intense heat and playing tennis, you are most likely at the top tier of electrolyte loss and Gatorade only addresses sodium and potassium.

      To answer your first question, that combination wouldn’t contain too many carbs however it isn’t addressing protein and extra electrolytes.

      2. I would recommend experimenting with Heed during your matches and Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem as a recovery in-between your matches. As you can see from the profile, this will take the place of the gel while providing more electrolytes and protein.

      Perpeteum was designed for all day endurance events in mind, but with a three hour break you could also include snacks like raw or sprouted trail mix, protein bars and fruit like oranges, watermelon, dates and bananas.

      Good luck!

  23. How much magnesium citramate and how much COQ 10 should I take for calf cramps. I take vytorin…Also, I am going to Machu Picchu and want to stay hydrated. What would you recommend? I tend to run a little dehydrated anyway. Thanks!

    • Hi Janet,

      You may find this article helpful regarding Vytorin and CoQ10 dosage. http://www.drwhitaker.com/new-labels-for-statin-medications-arent-news

      If you still experience muscle pain with CoQ10 supplementation, you will want to talk to your doctor regarding the possible side effects of Vytorin. Have you had your magnesium and potassium levels checked? Your doctor should recommend your dosage since he has access to your blood work.

      Regarding hydration, you may want to consider the Vega single serving packets or Hammer Endurolytes Fizz since they would be easy to pack and throw in bottled water. You may also have access to coconut water. Machu Picchu is definitely on my future travel list as well!

    • Hi Dennis,

      Sodium Phosphate appears to be safe as long as you are cognizant of your dietary sodium intake during the loading phase. If your diet is high in sodium and you are loading with sodium phosphate, you are going to have issues especially with hydration. I haven’t used it, nor have I spoken with anyone personally that has. I read the study they referenced and the reviews, and it sounds like it works. Let me know if you try it and what you think.

  24. Hi alex,

    Im an avid hiker and just recently got into backpacking about a year ago. Sometimes ill go out for 10 to 12 hr dayhikes, camp the night, then either do a turn around or extend my overnight trip. Water is my main source of hydration and after reading this article, i realize i need to do more on preventing some of my leg cramps. So i was wondering what would be best for me before, during, and after my backpacking trips in order to cut back on some painful wilderness nights.

    • Hi Erickson,

      Since every ounce counts for backpacking trips, I would go with the Hammer Endurolytes Fizz. You can bring enough tablets based on your water consumption, and it will help prevent anymore leg cramps. Keep magnesium and potassium rich snacks (nuts, seeds and dried fruits like apricots and shredded coconut) along with sufficient protein, and you should sleep much better.

  25. Hi, I would like to know your thoughts on the following product as an electrolyte replacement. Its called Recovery e21. Please visit http://www.e21.com.au/what-is-e21/

    I look for natural solutions to recommend to my clients and have not found many that are sugar free, fat free and organic. This looks to fit the bill but I would like an expert opinion and if you have any other natural products you could recommend that would be great.

    Thanks

    Dave

    • Dunaliella salina is definitely interesting due to its carotenoid content (it is used in high quality multi-vitamins for natural beta-carotene, unlike synthetic beta-carotene in others) and detoxification properties. The 9-cis isomer found in natural beta-carotene is considered to be one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants. I’ve seen studies that it also is photo-protective against the sun; a bonus for athletes and anyone who is also trying to raise their vitamin D level.

      It took me a while to find an actual ingredient list with the amounts for this product, but it appears to have a unique profile beyond the electrolytes. While this isn’t an electrolyte drink, I haven’t read anything that we make me hesitant about trying it as a supplement.

  26. Hi there my husband has an illeostomy. He already has had a surgery for dehydration (bladder stones build up) he feels dizzy from dehydration allot from this condition. What do you recommend since he is constantly losing water from his bag. He lost his colon due to cancer. Please help as his mom says smart water, doctors say gatorade and I just want the best for him and to feel better again

    • Hi Kristy,

      I am really sorry to hear he is struggling. I’m sure that is very hard for both of you. Smart Water does not contain enough electrolytes to make a difference, and you read about Gatorade. He should also be avoiding BPA from plastic bottles, which has been linked to DNA damage and cancer among many other things. Stick with glass. I would recommend using HEED. I would also recommend making a batch, and filling ice cube trays half full. That way he can slowly hydrate himself with the ice cubes without losing too much liquid at once.

  27. I’m almost 40. Lately I’ve been having leg cramps in my thighs on both sides and in all muscle groups. I’m on a simvisation for high cholesterol. I’m not a runner in fact I’m afraid to us my legs at all for fear of them cramping. My doc told me to us a electrolyte powder thinking that I might not have enough. I’ve been taking 50 MG of magnesium for about 2 weeks now and 500 MG potassium along with calcium but I’ve not noticedoing a difference. If you have any suggestions I would be very interested in them.

    • Hi Mike,

      What you are experiencing is most likely a CoQ10 deficiency caused by the statin drug. People on statins are generally recommended to supplement with CoQ10 (use a high quality one like Q-Best by Thorne Research) to prevent muscle pain and strengthen the heart. If this doesn’t work, you may want to discuss other strategies with your doctor for a healthy cholesterol panel.

  28. I’m almost 40. Lately I’ve been having leg cramps in my thighs and calves on both sides and in all muscle groups. I’very been on simvisation for high cholesterol for about 3 years I think. I’m not a runner in fact I’m afraid to us my legs at all for fear of them cramping. My doc told me to us a electrolyte powder thinking that I might not have enough. I’ve been taking 500 MG of magnesium for about 2 weeks now and 500 MG potassium along with calcium but I’ve not noticed a difference. If you have any suggestions I would be very interested in them.

  29. Hi Alex – Thanks for the research – I do bikram yoga and I found that either coconut water or an energy drink takes away the yoga ‘coma’ after – I’m giving up Vitamin Water (too much sugar) but have found an electrolyte by TraceMinerals called Power Pak- they also have ‘green’ and ‘red’ veggie packs – Have you heard of this brand? And, is it legit?

    My yoga studio used to carry these, and I got really into them. But, now they are switching to Ultima Replenisher, which has a very strong after-taste that stays with me for hours, so, I find it hard to believe it’s really that good for you.

    Any feedback on TraceMinerals would be great – thanks!

    • Hi Nikki,

      That strong taste is from combining lo han guo and stevia together, both of which are really sweet. I’m with you, I think it is too strong and just one of them would have been plenty. But some people like it and it is one of the best ones I’ve seen for diabetics in particular.

      Could you send me a link to the one you are looking at?

      • Hi Nikki,

        I know the company Trace Minerals Research, and they have always given me prompt, thorough replies to my questions about their products. This formula looks like they tried to take Emergen-C to the next level.

        What would stop me from recommending this product is the use of crystalline fructose, even in a small amount. It is 98% fructose, and is basically a crystalized version of high fructose corn syrup with a higher fructose level. The production of both yields heavy metal contamination. Vitaminwater use to have crystalline fructose on their label, but now says cane sugar. I’ll have to look into that change. Isolated fructose is linked with fatty liver and obesity, and all disorders that follow. If they take this out and just use stevia, I’m on board.

        • Wow, thanks for checking that out Alex and for the information – I wonder why they decided on the fructose? Too bad as I’m liking their product – the fast and the way I feel energized. Anyway, thanks again. Your fast response and depth of knowledge is appreciated- cheers.

  30. Hello! Thank you so much for the thoughtful and helpful research you do. I was hoping you would look into Clif Shot’s Electrolyte Hydration drink mix. I had no idea that I needed Magnesium (embarrassing)…but I was drawn to research after I tried this as my electrolyte replenishment. I was using Cytomax and I was feeling my stomach clench up on me. Oh, and I am a cyclist…usually out for 2 to 3 hours at a time on road and mountain bike.

    • Hi Yovonne,

      The Clif Shot Electrolyte Hydration Mix uses calcium citrate and magnesium citrate, which gives it a thumbs up because they are easier to absorb, oxides are the hardest. 250mg is a pretty hefty dose of sodium, which means they designed it with very heavy sweat in mind. For that amount sodium, the ratio of potassium should be higher. It is missing chloride and really lacking in magnesium, which is what it sounds like you may need the most at only 4%, about 15mg. If your stomach is sensitive, you may do better keeping your carbs and electrolyte drinks separate, making the Hammer Endurolytes Fizz a good fit.

  31. Hi — How about SaltStick caps and Elete Etectrolyte water.

    I’ve heard these products from my friends who are doing endurance-cycling.

    I will be training for half-marathon (Dec) hence looking for electrolyte-supplement for my long-run-training.. Thanks!

    • I have heard of SaltStick, and it is solid for heavy sweat loss during long endurance races. The citrate forms of the minerals are easy to absorb, and I like that the formula uses the less talked about mineral chloride. In fact, I have been considering adding it to this article, so thank you for reminding me.

      Elete is very similar to Endure, and I think is fine as a general activity electrolyte replacement. Both however are missing calcium, so if I’m using something like this it is in combination with other ingredients for endurance events.

  32. Hi I am having issues with hamstring and quad cramps with any triathlon from half IM to a full IM. Do you have any suggestions for fueling to alleviate cramping??

      • I have been using EFS for my drink and endurolytes for extra electrolytes. I also use Hammer and GU gels for my carbs. I try to take in 400 calories an hour with drink and gels or other carbohydrates such as hammer bars. I use plain water when I am eating gels or bars etc. I have tried Hammer Perpetuem but have had a hard time keeping it from souring in my bottles in IM races. I just recently completed IM Chattanooga and felt great on swim and bike but started cramping at about 6 miles on the run. I am wondering after reading some of your post if I could have CQ10 or Magnesium deficiency ? Oh and I am a very heavy sweater!

        • Based on that program, it doesn’t sound like you are deficient in any minerals. CoQ10 deficiency usually occurs from taking a statin drug, but would be more chronic throughout the day. What is your height and weight, and how much protein are you getting per day?

          • I am 6’3″ tall and 190 lbs. I am only taking in the protein that is in the Hammer Peanut Butter gels at IM Chattanooga because I couldn’t use the Perpetuem. I tried to use 2 gels an hour along with water and the EFS for calories. I did use one small Chia Warrior bar also. Oh one other thing I was thinking. I did take in extra water because i was afraid I would get dehydrated and cramp. Could I possibly over used the H2O?

          • Without doing a full analysis, yes my best inclination would be that you are drinking too much water, which is diluting your electrolytes (along with electrolyte loss during heavy sweating). Use water as needed, but concentrate more on your electrolyte drinks throughout the race. Make sure you are also getting enough protein, B-vitamins and vitamin C on a daily basis.

  33. I have continued issues of partial small intestine blockage due to adhesions (already had one surgery due to complete blockage six months ago). I am on a liquid only diet and my specialist says I also have dehydration issues and need electrolytes. I do not know what to use other then I need this now and it needs to be something I can find at local stores. Can you give me suggestions?

    • Hi Corinne,

      You should be able to find Vega and Ultima at most health food stores like Whole Foods. If you don’t have any of these stores nearby, let me know which stores are near you and I can figure out your best option. I hope you feel better.

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The entire contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Alex Swanson M.S., unless otherwise noted. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Any recommendations made on this website should be first reviewed by your doctor.