The 13 Best Hydration Drinks and Drink Mixes

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You’ve probably received the message by now: hydration is important. And although the eight glasses per day rule of thumb doesn’t hold water, dehydration can impact your health and hold back your physical performance—regardless of whether you’re a serious athlete or everyday gym-goer.

As great as plain old water is, we’ve known for decades that exercise strips the body of electrolytes in addition to H2O. So, if you’re working out hard, your body also needs to replace salt, potassium, and sometimes calories. While most beverages other than water count toward your overall fluid intake, exercise demands the type of replenishment that beer, chocolate milk, and coffee aren’t always well-suited for.

Hydration-focused drinks like Gatorade have been on sidelines for decades, but today there are dozens of powders, liquid concentrates, and ready-to-drink bottles available to meet your hydration needs. Knowing which one is right for you and your lifestyle isn’t easy. Luckily, we tested dozens of hydration drinks; analyzed their nutritional contents, flavor, ease-of-use, and cost; and chose our favorites across a range of formats, prices, and applications. Our favorite? Skratch Labs Hydration Mix.

What to Look For When Shopping for Hydration Drinks

Electrolyte Content

Uri Carlson of Inner Wild Nutrition, registered dietician nutritionist (RDN) based in Breckenridge, CO, has a trick for knowing when to use hydration drinks instead of water: “Anytime you’re sweating, drink electrolytes. It doesn’t matter if you’re mowing the lawn or going for a run,” she told Men’s Journal.

When you perspire, you lose electrolytes, Carlson says. You mainly sweat out sodium, otherwise known as salt. To a lesser extent, you also want to replace potassium—but in a ratio of about 10-to-one salt to potassium. She points to the electrolyte content of our top overall pick, Skratch Labs Hydration Mix, as a good benchmark for totals of each in the right ratio: about 400mg of sodium and 100mg or less of potassium.

Many hydration drinks pad their ingredients lists with other electrolytes and add-ons like BCAAs, B vitamins, and other healthy-sounding buzzwords. Therefore, Carlson cautions athletes to keep it simple, as more ingredients create more opportunities for stomach issues. Sodium and potassium are the only essentials that need to be replaced during exercise, while most other micronutrients and electrolytes are addressed by a healthy diet.

Sugars and Non-Caloric Sweeteners

Hydration drinks traditionally include carbohydrates in some form of sugar. Not only does this improve taste, but it also provides some nutrition and actually increases how quickly and how much water you can absorb. Original Gatorade has 14 grams of sugar per 8-ounce serving, while Skratch, for example, has closer to 10 grams per 8 ounces.

Zero sugar drinks can be a great option for hydrating without taking in calories when you’re not as active or if you’re following a carb-restrictive diet such as keto, though you’ll forgo the hydrating impact of actual sugar. Most of these drinks use some kind of non-caloric sweetener to improve the taste. Stevia and monkfruit are common naturally derived options, but artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame are also popular. Just keep tabs on how your body tolerates any sweetener, as real sugar as well as the various non-caloric sweeteners can cause stomach problems. And be aware that in extreme amounts, these artificial options may present some health concerns.

Related: The Best Hydration Packs for Running, Mountain Biking, and More

Types of Hydration Drinks

Bottled hydration drinks are popular for quick shopping at the supermarket or corner store. But we don’t recommend ordering bottles directly to your home. When you order a case of Gatorade online, not only do you create unnecessary waste by piling up plastic, but you also pay more per fluid ounce compared to powder or liquid concentrates. Although drink mixes aren’t as convenient as grab-and-go bottles, they’re an efficient choice for online shoppers.

Powders also allow you to adjust the strength of your mix. If you want more electrolytes for a harder workout, add more mix. Or, if you want light flavoring and less electrolytes for everyday hydration, add less mix.

There are many more powdered hydration mix options than bottled drinks, which often don’t have ideal electrolyte ratios. The wealth of powdered options means you can try different formulas and flavors until you find the mix that suits your workouts and taste buds.

I tested more than a dozen hydration drinks for this round-up.

Justin Park

Why You Should Trust Me

I stay active year-round, mostly in a rotation of mountain biking, gym workouts, and backcountry and resort skiing. Aside from the gym workouts, these activities are lengthy endurance sports—the sort which have me sweating enough to need electrolyte and calorie intake before, during, and after exercise. I make an effort to try as many different hydration products as possible throughout the year.

For this article, I tested more than a dozen unique products, in addition to the hydration drinks I was already familiar with through previous testing. I tested the drinks around bouts of exercise but also performed “taste tests” to compare the products side-by-side, focusing on flavor and observing how the powders dissolve.

Best Overall Hydration Drink: Skratch Labs Hydration Powder

Skratch Labs Hydration Powder

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Skratch Labs Hydration Powder was initially developed by a sports scientist and cycling coach who diluted sugary sports drinks and beefed up the electrolyte content to better fuel his athletes without upsetting their stomachs. Skratch is now one of the most popular hydration mixes for athletes thanks to a time-tested ratio of electrolytes and just enough sugar for fuel and to increase water uptake. There aren’t a lot of bonus ingredients here. Just 4g of sugar to help absorption of water and the exact ratio of electrolytes most people lose in their sweat. There are 6 flavors and I enjoy all of them, though Strawberry Lemonade and Pineapple are favorites. The cost per serving for their bulk bags is much cheaper than bottled drinks and most other individual drink powder packets, making it a staple choice for any athlete’s cupboard.

  • TYPE: Powder
  • CARBS PER SERVING: 20g
  • FLAVORS: Strawberry Lemonade, Lemon + Lime, Raspberry Limeade (caffeinated), Fruit Punch, Orange, Pineapple
$22 at Amazon
$22 at Skratch Labs

Best Hydration Drink for Athletes: Gnarly Fuel2O Endurance Nutrition

Gnarly Fuel2O Endurance Nutrition

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Getting a significant amount of calories in your hydration drinks becomes more important after about 60 minutes of exercise, so many drink powders aimed at endurance athletes pack in extra sugar as fuel. Gnarly Fuel2O delivers 100 calories in each serving, mostly in the form of 25 grams of sugar in the form of dextrose and sucrose—more than 5 times what’s in a serving of Gnarly’s standard hydration mix. In longer bouts of exercise and races, performance becomes as much about efficient fueling as anything else, and Fuel2O provides a baseline of calories while still replacing lost electrolytes.

  • TYPE: Powder
  • CARBS PER SERVING: 25g
  • FLAVORS: Cherry Cola (caffeine), Limeade, Tropical
$38 at Amazon
$33 at Gnarly

Best Value Hydration Drink: Zeal Naturals Enhanced Electrolytes

Zeal Naturals Enhanced Electrolytes

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Zeal Naturals Enhanced Electrolytes is on a subscription order for my household and we use it as a low-cost flavor enhancer to our water that just happens to have B vitamins, BCAAs, as well as a range of electrolytes. The cost per ounce is a bit higher than products such as Skratch, but because there is no added sugar, you’re essentially just paying for the electrolytes and micronutrients. (I’ve added small amounts of sugar when adding water to make the Zeal product more of an exercise fuel, but it’s stevia-sweetened already, so the flavor can be strong). The ratio of sodium to potassium is close to 1:1 so it’s not a perfect blend. But for the cost, it’s close. And I personally tend to fuel with a lot of salty snacks, such as salted nuts and pickles, which crank up my sodium intake throughout the day without needing any from drink powders. There are electrolyte powders out there with better ratios, but for the price, it’s hard to beat this sugar-free mix.

  • TYPE: Powder
  • CARBS PER SERVING: 0g
  • FLAVORS: Strawberry Lemonade, Black Cherry, Lemon + Lime, Raspberry Limeade (caffeinated), Fruit Punch, Orange, Pineapple
$34 at Amazon

Best Bottled Hydration Drink: Gatorade Fit Real Healthy Hydration

Gatorade Fit Real Healthy Hydration

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Original Gatorade gets a bad rap for being high in sugar and containing artificial colorings, so the company introduced a wide range of new products in recent years, including Gatorade Fit. The product provides a modest 3 grams of carbs from watermelon juice concentrate. It’s electrolyte profile is also much closer to what is lost in sweat than the original, so this is a great option when you’re looking for the convenience of a bottled liquid hydration drink. Because Gatorade is ubiquitous, you’re much likely to find it in a convenience or grocery store in a pinch and if you grab a case to keep in your fridge, you’ll always have an easy grab-and-go hydration drink close at-hand.

  • TYPE: Bottled drink
  • CARBS PER SERVING: 3g
  • FLAVOR: Watermelon Strawberry, Blackberry Raspberry, Cherry Lime, Citrus Berry, Tropical Mango
$19 at Amazon

Best Hydration Drink for Hangovers: Hydrant Electrolyte Hydration Powder

Hydrant Electrolyte Hydration Powder

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While scientists don’t fully understand what causes hangovers or how to get rid of them, dehydration is a common symptom. While Sunday morning zombies have traditionally reached for Gatorade or Pedialyte, Hydrant Hydration Powder has much less sugar, no artificial colors, and a lot more of the electrolytes your body needs. It also packs in caffeine from green tea plus L-Theanine to give you a boost of energy when you’re running on limited, alcohol-compromised sleep. The sodium-to-potassium ratio isn’t as ideal for athletes sweating heavily, but provides a solid boost for weekend warriors trying to get back on their feet.

  • TYPE: Powder
  • CARBS PER SERVING: 0g
  • FLAVORS: Watermelonade, Fruit Punch, Blood Orange, Lemon Lime
$38 at Amazon
$40 at Hydrant

More Hydration Drinks We Love

Best Tasting Hydration Drink: DripDrop Electrolyte Powder

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This hydration mix was developed by a doctor after he witnessed the deadly effects of dehydration while on a humanitarian mission. DripDrop Electrolyte Powder delivers three times the sodium content of traditional sports drinks, so it’s targeted hydration, not a sweet drink to enjoy because you went for a jog. Still, the just slightly salty mouthfeel is welcome in your water bottle if you’re sweating and craving salt—it’s not pickle juice. Obviously taste is very subjective, especially for athletes, as anyone who’s hung out in a marathon aid station can attest. But I love the simple options in their Classics variety pack, and the 9 grams of sugar is low enough to enjoy it simply as a flavor enhancer without feeling like you’re drinking a classic Coke. The powder comes in serving size packets meant to be mixed with 8 ounces of water and are easy to toss in your car or gym bag so you always have some on-hand when you need it.

  • TYPE: Powder
  • CARBS PER SERVING: 9g
  • FLAVORS: Grape, Cherry, Fruit Punch, Strawberry Lemonade
$36 at Amazon
$36 at DripDrop

Best Zero Sugar Hydration Drink: DripDrop Zero Sugar Electrolyte Powder

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The DripDrop Zero Sugar zero-sugar formulation is great for keto dieters and anyone watching their carbohydrate intake that still wants to replenish electrolytes lost to sweating. The problem with unsweetened hydration drinks is that most aren’t as effective, since sugar helps the body absorb water. Thankfully, DripDrop attempts to address this shortcoming through a proprietary blend of allulose and amino acids that they say helps the mix hydrate better than plain water. In my opinion, allulose is closest a sweetener comes to real sugar, so you aren’t left with the aftertaste from stevia or other artificial sweeteners.

  • TYPE: Powder
  • CARBS PER SERVING: 0g
  • FLAVORS: White Peach, Lemon Lime, Green Grape
$27 at Amazon
$36 at Drip Drop

Best Electrolyte Tablets: GU Energy Hydration Drink Tabs

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As a soda water addict, sometimes I just want carbonation.  I’ve gone so far as to cart La Croix cans to the top of 14,000-foot peaks. For that same feeling with an added electrolyte punch, I use GU Energy Hydration Drink Tabs. They’re like those old alkaseltzer fizzing tablets, making plain water just that little bit more interesting. Plus, they deliver the right amount of key electrolytes and BCAAs. If you’re worried about drinking carbonation during a hard workout, I should note the slight fizziness comes nowhere near a belch-inducing canned drink, and GU says the subtle fizz can actually help athletes who struggle with stomach upset from other products.

  • TYPE: Powder
  • CARBS PER SERVING: 3g
  • FLAVORS: Raspberry Lemon Lime, Orange, Tri Berry, Strawberry Lemonade
$29 at Amazon

Best Pre-Exercise Hydration Drink: Osmo Preload Hydration Powder

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While most hydration drinks attempt to address dehydration as it happens, Osmo Preload Hydration Powder helps you beat dehydration before you start an intense workout. A serving of the powder delivers more than half of the recommended daily allowance of sodium which helps saturate your sodium stores and retain as much water as possible ahead of an intense workout. For serious athletes preparing for a max-effort workout or race, it can get you a leg up in the battle against dehydration.

  • TYPE: Powder
  • CARBS PER SERVING: 9g
  • FLAVOR: Pineapple Margarita, Blackberry, Lemon Lime
$20 at Amazon
$25 at Osmo Nutrition

Best Liquid Concentrate: Protekt Electrolyte Hydration Packets

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Some powders struggle to fully dissolve in water, so you can be left with an intense shot of grainy sludge if you haven’t taken the time to properly shake or stir your mix in your water bottle. Protekt Hydration electrolyte delivery system comes in the familiar stick tube packaging but it’s a hyper-concentrated electrolyte liquid that simply needs to disperse in your water instead of dissolve. The electrolyte profile is excellent as well, focusing on salt with lesser amounts of magnesium and potassium. It’s a zero-sugar option sweetened with stevia, and I enjoy it both as an easy water enhancer for daily hydration and as a workout hydration drink.

  • TYPE: Liquid concentrate
  • CARBS PER SERVING: 0g
  • FLAVORS: Raspberry, Lemonade, Watermelon
$50 at Protekt

Best No-Mix Powder: Mtn Ops STM Electrolyte Stick Packs

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For times when you want to replenish electrolytes but don’t want to take in a lot of fluids, there’s Mtn Ops STM (Straight to Mouth) Electrolyte Stick Packs. These small packets tear open and you pour the intense Sweet Tart-like powder onto your tongue for a blast of flavor, electrolytes, vitamins, and trace minerals. There’s not a lot of sodium here, so it’s less of a during-exercise hydration powder than an electrolyte and mineral supplement to your regular hydration. Because it tastes like candy thanks to non-caloric sweeteners erythritol, malic acid, and sucralose, I treat it as a guilt-free late night treat with benefits when I know my body needs extra help with hydration and recovery.

  • TYPE: Direct-feed powder
  • CARBS PER SERVING: 0g
  • FLAVORS: Fruity Pink Burst, Blue Raspberry, Fresh Lemon Lime
$30 at Mtn Ops

Best Post-Workout: Skratch Labs Recovery Mix

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Most lifters and athletes know protein is key to muscle-building and recovery. But even everyday people struggle to get enough in their diet. If you’re a bodybuilder used to eating three chicken breasts for dinner, you’re doing fine. But carb-loading endurance athletes often come up short of the recommended 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Skratch makes it easy to add some baseline protein with their Recovery Mix, which blends hydration via electrolytes and recovery via protein, sugar, and fat calories. The eight grams of protein is less than most protein bars, but keep in mind this isn’t supposed to supplant dietary protein and supplemental protein powders. The Recovery blend is designed to push some nutrition and electrolytes back into your body quickly after a hard workout when you’re thirsty and may not have much appetite.

  • TYPE: Powder
  • CARBS PER SERVING: 35g
  • FLAVORS: Strawberries & Cream, Chocolate, Vegan Chocolate, Coffee, Horchata
$34 at Amazon
$34 at Skratch Labs

Best Personalized Hydration Powder: Gainful Hydration Mix

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Gainful is an interesting option for athletes that want to personalize their hydration drink powder. On the Gainful website, you can tweak a custom hydration powder blend to have medium or high electrolyte content based on your workout intensity. You can also add or omit caffeine, adjust the quantity, and select your flavor. Gainful has a subscription option that includes unlimited access to nutritionists and the ability to customize a whole suite of supplements from protein powders to creatine and collagen supplements. Take their quiz to get recommendations for a complete subscription package. 

  • TYPE: Powder
  • CARBS PER SERVING: 2g
  • FLAVORS: Tropical Mango, Strawberry Lemonade, Lemon Lime
$30 at Gainful



Source
Las Vegas News Magazine

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