Best Hydration Supplements: Replenish for Peak Performance

Staying adequately hydrated is crucial for maintaining optimal performance, whether you’re an athlete, a fitness enthusiast, or simply someone who loves being outside in the summer. While drinking water is essential, sometimes you need to replenish electrolytes and enhance hydration levels, and that’s where hydration supplements come into play. This post will explore the saturated world of hydration supplements and electrolyte beverages and uncover the best options. So, grab your water bottle, and let’s dive in!

Benefits of Being Hydrated

Water makes up 50-70% of our body weight and is crucial to survival. Hydration lubricates and creates cushioning for joints and tissues, regulates body temperature, keeps eye moisture, and transports oxygen and nutrients through the body as plasma.

Electrolytes, conversely, are involved in muscle contractions, nerve impulse transmission, blood clotting, regulating enzyme reactions, and regulating acid-base balance. Electrolytes also assist with regulating water distribution in the body as water moves to an area of high electrolyte concentration, kind of like a game of following the leader. If you have more sodium in your cells, water will enter the cells to even out the distribution. By consuming electrolytes, you facilitate this process.

Benefits of Hydration Supplements

When it comes to maintaining hydration levels, sports drinks and electrolyte supplements offer several benefits over water. Here are some key advantages:

  1. Electrolyte Replenishment: Hydration supplements and beverages usually contain essential electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. These electrolytes help restore and maintain fluid balance in the body.
  2. Enhanced Performance: Proper hydration is directly linked to improved physical performance. Dehydration decreases aerobic exercise performance (like running). It also increases the perceived effort of activities. This means your body feels like it is working harder than it is. Have you ever been running and feeling like it is more difficult than usual and you are pushing yourself, but the output is slower than your typical run? That feeling is an increase in physiologic strain and perceived effort. Hydration supplements can provide the necessary fluids and electrolytes to minimize the effects of dehydration and optimize your body’s performance during workouts and competition.
  3. Rapid Rehydration: In situations where you need to rehydrate quickly, such as after intense workouts, exercise in extreme heat, or when competing in multiple events in one day, sports drinks and hydration supplements can offer a faster and more efficient solution than plain water alone. These supplements contain glucose, or sugar, facilitating even quicker water transport than electrolytes alone. 
  4. Convenience: Gone are the days when ready-to-drink options such as Gatorade and Powerade were the only options. Hydration supplements are now available in convenient to carry and consume on-the-go forms such as powders, tablets, gels, and chews. 
  5. Taste and Variety: Let’s face it, sometimes plain water can get monotonous. Hydration supplements come in a variety of flavors, making staying hydrated throughout the day more enjoyable.

Choosing the Best Hydration Supplements

The electrolyte supplement and beverage market is drenched in options (pun intended). Every year new hydration products come out as companies try to capitalize on athletes’ changing needs and tastes. Knowing what to look for when selecting the best option for your needs can be challenging. Consider the following factors:

Electrolyte Composition: Check the supplement’s electrolyte profile to ensure it contains a balanced mix of sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. These main electrolytes work together to support hydration and optimal bodily functions. The amount of these specific electrolytes will vary among products, and it might take some trial and error to see what works for you. For example, someone who is a very heavy sweater or who is susceptible to muscle cramps may need a higher sodium content.

Sugar Content: Some hydration supplements, and almost all sports/electrolyte beverages, contain some form of added sugar. Sugar can be helpful for rapid rehydration during exercise when an athlete needs to replenish the glucose used as energy. The amount required will depend on each athlete’s needs and sports requirements. The form of sugar used in supplements also varies and is up to personal preference and tolerance.

Additional Ingredients: Some hydration supplements include other ingredients like vitamins, essential minerals, antioxidants, or amino acids, which can provide added benefits depending on your specific goals and requirements.

Form and Convenience: Consider the form that suits your lifestyle best. Powders are mixed with water and usually require a water bottle. Tablets dissolve in liquid, making them a clean option and easy to pack. And ready-to-drink options offer instant hydration.

Flavors and Taste: Look for flavors you enjoy, encouraging you to drink more and consistently hydrate.

Third-Party Testing: I am, after all, a sports dietitian, and many athletes competing within sport governing bodies are subject to rules regarding dietary supplements, including electrolyte supplements. For these athletes, it is best to stick to third-party certified brands and products. If you choose to use a supplement that is not third-party tested, choosing products without added vitamins or minerals is safest.

The Best Hydration Supplements for Optimal Performance

Electrolyte Drinks

Sports drinks are popular for athletes who want to replenish their fluids and electrolytes during and after exercise. These drinks usually contain only sodium and potassium for electrolytes and sugar, which provides a quick energy source to fuel activity. Depending on your sport and activity needs, the sports drink you choose should match your needs. A sports drink is likely warranted for an activity that lasts more than 60 minutes, such as endurance running, playing a basketball game, or completing swim practice. Sports drinks also typically have extensive flavor profiles and can be purchased in numerous tasty flavors. Some options on the market include Gatorade, Powerade, Prime and BodyArmor.

Gatorade and Powerade

Sports drinks are the most widely available electrolyte supplements and are found in most grocery stores. Gatorade and Powerade are similar and typically have the highest carbohydrate and sugar of any sports drink. Their blends focus on high-sodium and high-sugar content to fuel tough, lengthy workouts. Gatorade has started to expand its line of original Thirst Quencher drinks to include a low-sugar option (G2), an organic sugar option (aptly named Organic Thirst Quencher), and a high-sodium version (Gatorlyte).


BodyArmor is popular among those who want to avoid artificial sweeteners or colors. They use coconut water for flavor, vegetable juice for color, and pure cane sugar as a sweetener in their original drink. In contrast, their BodyArmor Lyte uses erythritol and stevia, both of which I would argue are artificial sweeteners.


There are hundreds of sports drinks on the market, but the one I keep seeing is Logan Paul’s Prime. Prime is touted as refresh, replenish, and refuel. It claims to go beyond hydration by adding B vitamins and BCAA’s like the muscle-building leucine. Its’ electrolyte profile is similar to BodyArmor but is very low in carbohydrates. And because it is so low in sodium, it isn’t a good option for a salty sweater. Because the amount of BCAAs isn’t listed, we don’t know if enough leucine is added to aid muscle recovery. I view this as more of a lifestyle beverage than a hydration drink, but it could benefit those who struggle to drink water and need some flavor.

Pedialyte Sport

Alright, let’s talk grown-up Pedialyte. After being used by hungover college kids for years, Pedialyte finally created drinks marketed to adults. Pedialyte Sport is like a drinkable IV; high in sodium and potassium with a moderate amount of carbohydrates. Its carbohydrate is available in the dextrose form, which is quickly digested. It is an easy option that can be purchased conveniently at most stores. However, being so high in sodium, you should drink only the recommended serving size and save it for exercise in hot environments.

DIY Sports Drink

Of course, homemade sports drinks can be a cost-effective option for athletes who wish to avoid the artificial ingredients in some store-bought sports drinks or customize their hydration supplement to their individual needs and tastes. You can easily create a homemade sports drink by combining water, electrolytes (such as salt), and a natural sweetener like honey.

table comparing nutrition information, cost, and flavor profiles of various hydration beverages

Electrolyte Powders

Electrolyte powders usually come in individual pouches that are poured into a water bottle and dissolved, much like a powder supplement er drink mix, to make fruit punch or lemonade. They are single-serving hydration packs and offer the convenience of not having to lug around bottles or cases of a beverage, making them a great choice for hikers, runners, and athletes traveling by air or internationally. Pay attention to the optimal amount of water the powder needs to be mixed with to ensure you get the proper ratio. Typically these are combined in about 16 oz of water, a standard single-serving plastic bottle size. Unlike sports drinks, we see additional key electrolytes, such as magnesium, added to the electrolyte powders. Liquid IV Hydration Multiplier, Drip Drop Hydration, and LMNT are just some of the hydration powders currently on the market.


LMNT is salt-heavy, making it an excellent option for salty or heavy sweaters. It has no carbohydrates to replenish energy stores, so endurance athletes will need a second product for carb replacement. It has no sugar added, so it shouldn’t cause gastrointestinal distress during a long run or bike ride. But, because it has no carbohydrates to replenish energy stores, endurance athletes must pair LMNT with a second product for carb replacement. Because very little sugar is added, LMNT tastes like salt water. However, people love it, so it definitely depends on your taste profile. I found the Citrus Salt to be the most palatable, kind of like an extremely salty lemonade flavor.

Liquid IV

Ahh, Liquid IV. The sponsor of your favorite podcast. This cult-favorite product exploded in popularity during the pandemic. It has a moderate amount of carbohydrates in the form of dextrose (the sugar used in a hospital IV), less than a sports drink but more than LMNT, and utilizes the sodium-glucose cotransport system to facilitate rapid rehydration. Liquid IV also has a high amount of sodium (500mg), a small amount of potassium, and some added B vitamins to “support healthy cellular function.” Liquid IV has two off-shoot products: an Immune Multiplier with added Zinc, Vitamin C, and algae, and the Energy Multiplier with coffeeberry, coffee fruit, and L-Theanine for energy and focus. Again, athletes should be mindful of these two newer products with added ingredients that may not be permissible for sport.

DripDrop Hydration

DripDrop Hydration is like a powdered sports drink; it has a moderate amount of carbohydrates and a moderate electrolyte balance of potassium, sodium, and magnesium. It utilizes the sodium-glucose cotransport system, the same one as Liquid IV. Uniquely DripDrop uses two types of sugars – fructose and dextrose- making absorption optimal for athletes while limiting gastrointestinal distress that can come from consuming a large amount of one type of sugar. DripDrop comes in various delicious flavors and, in my opinion, is the best-tasting powder on this list

It also comes in hot water flavors, making it ideal for the skier, cold-weather runner, or football player in a chilly bowl game. DripDrop comes in two sizes: one for mixing with 8 ounces of water and one for mixing with 16.9 ounces. It also comes in a zero-sugar option with just 3 grams of carbs and no dextrose or fructose added. DripDrop is the only product on our list that is NSF Certified for Sport when purchased through a sales rep.

Skratch Labs

Skratch Labs makes a bunch of sports nutrition products. Their hydration mixes boost no artificial ingredients. Their powder contains 380 mg of Sodium and small amounts of calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Like DripDrop, Skratch has two types of sugars to facilitate faster absorption. With a large amount of carbs and sugar, skratch hydration mix is best suited for physical activity lasting more than an hour.

Table comparing nutrition information, cost, and flavor profiles of various hydration supplement single serve powders

Electrolyte Tablets

Electrolyte tablets are another popular choice for athletes who want to stay hydrated and like the convenience of a product that can be tossed in a backpack or gym bag. Tablets can be added to a glass or bottle of water and are easy to take on the go, making tablets a convenient way to stay hydrated. They’re also a good option for athletes who need a hydration boost and the electrolytes of traditional sports drinks but don’t want the extra sugar, calories, or artificial colors found in sports drinks. Some of the electrolyte tablets and capsules on the market are Nuun Sport and GU.

Nuun Sport

Nuun has a whole portfolio of products, but we will focus on Nuun Sport. It carries the Informed Choice for Sport-certification. Nuun uses dextrose for sugar and stevia as a sweetener. The tablets have beet juice for color instead of artificial coloring. It has 300 mg of Sodium, similar to DripDrop, and has calcium included in its’ electrolyte mix. Because of its modest electrolyte profile, Nuun is best for a lighter workout or a casual exerciser. For those wanting a higher sodium product, Nuun Instant is a powder with 520mg.


Like Nuun, GU’s hydration tablets are third-party certified by Informed Choice for Sport. They have a similar hydration formula to the other powders and tablets, with 320 mg of sodium and 55 mg of potassium. GU products are widely popular with cyclists and runners who utilize their gels during races. The GU gels have a modest 50mg of sodium, caffeine, and carbohydrates.

O.R.S. Hydration Tablets

More companies are selling hydration tablets in the UK and Australia than in the States. O.R.S. is a popular brand of hydration tablets in the UK. I haven’t tried these, but they have a modest electrolyte profile, making them more of a flavor water enhancer than a hydration booster. They have added B vitamins and vitamin D, but the amounts are nearly negligible.


SaltSticks are a chew, not a tablet, and don’t require water to dissolve. A serving size of two chews provides the least amount of sodium of any product on this list at just 100mg. However, because these are so low in electrolytes, athletes can customize them to their needs. A cyclist might take two chews every half hour, depending on their sweat rate. The downsides to the SaltStick are that they are more challenging to carry during a workout as they come in a pill-type bottle. If kept in a baggie in a pocket, they will likely disintegrate with humidity. Additionally, they provide electrolytes but not fluids. Athletes need to be conscious of drinking water in addition to the chews.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Are hydration supplements better than plain water?
Answer: It depends! Plain water is just fine if you work a sedentary, indoor job, and most of us get the electrolytes we need from our foods. But higher temps, longer workouts, and other factors may make a hydration supplement worth the money.

Question: Are hydration supplements only for athletes?
Answer: Not at all! While athletes can benefit from hydration supplements, anyone leading an active lifestyle can benefit from them.

Question: How do I know if I am a salty sweater?
Answer: Sports medicine professionals, including dietitians, have methods for testing sweat composition. But there are some ways you can determine if you have salty sweat. Having a gritty feeling on your skin after sweating can indicate that you sweat a lot of salt, and it has crystalized as you cool. Or if you wear a hat and notice white residue from the salt crystals, you are likely a heavy salt sweater.

Question: Do hydration supplements have any side effects?
Answer: Generally, hydration supplements are safe to consume. As noted above, the most common side effect of hydration supplements is gastrointestinal distress in people that are sensitive to certain sugars. However, it is always a good idea to read the label and follow the recommended dosage. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or concerns, you should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

Question: How often should I consume hydration supplements?
Answer: The consumption frequency depends on your activity level, sweat rate, and individual hydration needs. As a general guideline, drinking hydration supplements before, during, or after physical activity or as the product instructions recommend is best.

Question: Can hydration supplements help with hangovers?
Answer: Hydration supplements can help replenish fluids and electrolytes, but they won’t magically cure a hangover. However, they can assist in rehydrating your body and alleviate some of the symptoms associated with the dehydration that comes with alcohol consumption. Remember, the best way to prevent a hangover is to drink responsibly, mixing in a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you drink.


Hydration supplements help maintain optimal hydration levels and allow you to perform at your peak. They replenish electrolytes, provide carbohydrates from quick energy, and encourage greater fluid intake. When choosing a hydration supplement, consider your needs (activity duration, type of activity, climate, sweat rate), explore available options, and try different supplements to determine which best fits your taste preferences and lifestyle. Still not sure? A sports dietitian can help!

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