Best Electrolyte Powders of 2024

We tested the best electrolyte drinks and powders on the market, and like options from Gnarly, Tailwind, Skratch Labs, and others.

By on May 7, 2024 | Comments
Best Running Water Bottles - Hydrapak UltraFlask Speed 500ml on run

Alli Hartz of iRunFar uses the Hydrapak Ultraflask Speed 500ml during a road run. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

One of the most important pieces of the nutrition puzzle for runners is hydration, and for many of us, this includes using an electrolyte replacement for long runs and hot weather. Our bodies are constantly losing fluid, and the rate of loss increases during exercise due to an increase in metabolic activity and cooling through sweat. Anything that causes our body to lose fluids can cause dehydration and potentially alter electrolyte balance. While in mild cases, an electrolyte imbalance can affect performance and cause you to feel less-than-great, it can also lead to cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, and even death.

The myriad of options on the market today can make choosing the best electrolyte drink for your needs a little overwhelming. There are many questions associated with electrolytes: How much do I need, what flavor is best, powders or tablets, and how often should I drink it? Finding your perfect drink can take a lot of trial and error.

The science and physiology behind electrolyte balance and the need for and efficacy of electrolyte replacement are complicated discussions that are outside the scope of this guide. For our purposes, we tested available electrolyte drink mixes and evaluated them on taste, electrolyte concentration and type, caloric value, mixability, and other factors to help inform your decisions on the best electrolyte drink for your needs.

To find the best electrolyte drink mixes available, we researched over 100 different options and combined our prior electrolyte replacement experiences with testing 12 drink mixes over a few hundred hours and miles. In the end, our testing team settled on Gnarly Fuel2O as our favorite overall mix, with Skratch Labs Hydration Sport Drink Mix coming in as a close second.

Below, you’ll find our top picks for the best electrolyte replacements, buying advice, our testing methodology, and frequently asked questions. For more information on running hydration, check out other iRunFar articles on more detailed hydration topics.

Best Electrolyte Drinks for Runners

Best Overall Electrolyte Drink Mix: Gnarly Fuel2O

Best Electrolyte Mix - Gnarly Fuel2O - product photoPros: 

  • Light taste
  • NSF certified
  • Excellent fueling option


  • Higher price point
  • Serving size for single-serving sticks and bulk bags are different
  • Limited flavor offerings

The Gnarly Fuel2O drink mix was an overall crowd-pleaser amongst our group of testers. The recommended serving size is one scoop per 12 ounces of water, which provides 100 calories and 250 milligrams of sodium. We found this mix refreshing and easy to drink, even when increasing the number of scoops per bottle. This makes it easy to adjust the drink concentration for shorter efforts or long training days and races. While the Limeade was my personal favorite, the Cherry Cola was a close second for a soda-like treat with a caffeine boost — no need to wait for that beloved cup of aid-station Coke!

Calories come from a mix of sucrose and dextrose, giving each scoop 25 grams of easy-to-digest carbohydrates. In addition to sodium, the mix contains small amounts of calcium, chloride, magnesium, and potassium. A unique ingredient in this mix is HMB — an amino acid metabolite that helps reduce muscle protein breakdown and improve recovery when combined with vitamin D. I can’t say I had any kind of noticeable benefit from this, but it didn’t seem to cause any ill effects either.

Bulk bags of the mix are Certified for Sport by the NSF, which means the ingredients are tested for contaminants such as pesticides and heavy metals as well as substances banned by national and international doping oversight organizations. This helps eliminate the fear of ingesting something accidentally that could be banned in sports, which is important for all of us, especially for elite athletes. Interestingly, the individual packets are not certified. One drawback of Gnarly Fuel2O is the cost — the bulk bags contain 25 scoops at $1.50 per serving, and individual sticks, equal to 2 scoops, cost $3.30 each, making it one of the pricier options we tested.

Cost: $38 per 25-serving bulk bag, $33 for a box of 10 individual sticks (two servings per stick) | Sodium per serving: 250 milligrams | Calories per serving: 100 | Carbohydrates per serving: 25 grams | Flavors: Limeade, Cherry Cola (caffeinated), Tropical 

Shop the Gnarly Fuel2O electrolyte mix

Best Overall Electrolyte Drink Mix — Runner-Up: Skratch Labs Hydration Sport Drink Mix

Best Electrolyte Mix - Skratch Labs Hydration Sport Drink Mix - product photoPros: 

  • Multiple flavor options
  • Bulk bags good value


  • Only one caffeinated option
  • Single packets are pricey

Skratch Labs Hydration Sport Drink Mix is a popular choice among athletes of many disciplines, and our testers appreciated having multiple flavors of mix to choose from. The mix uses two types of sugars — glucose and fructose — and each scoop contains 80 calories and 380 milligrams of sodium. It also has small amounts of calcium, potassium, and magnesium to mirror the electrolytes we lose in sweat.

This mix comes in six fruit-flavored options, and the Raspberry Limeade contains caffeine. As with any powdered mix, you can tailor your bottle to meet your caloric and sodium needs by increasing the number of scoops of powder used. The stronger and sweeter taste of this mix made anything more than one scoop in a 20-ounce flask a little too much for me, and I found I got tired of it for runs over a few hours duration, but taste is a very personal variable.

You can buy Skratch Labs Hydration Sport Drink Mix in a variety of different volumes and packaging options to suit your individual needs. If you like to mix your drink at home and use it frequently, the most cost-effective option is buying a three-pound bulk bag with 60 servings, which ends up being under $1.00 per serving. You can also get a 20-serving bulk bag, individual packets, or a box of 20 individual packets. The Colorado-based company frequently donates hydration mix to support local clubs and races, so you may see it at an aid station near you.

Cost: $1.95 per single packet, $36 for box of 20 single packets, $22 for 20 serving bag, $55 for 60 serving bag | Sodium per serving: 380 milligrams | Calories per serving: 80 | Carbohydrates per serving: 20 grams | Flavors: Lemon Lime, Strawberry Lemonade, Fruit Punch, Orange, Pineapple, Raspberry Limeade (caffeinated)

Shop the Skratch Labs Hydration Sport Drink Mix

Best High-Calorie Electrolyte Drink Mix: Tailwind Endurance Fuel

Best Electrolyte Mix - Tailwind Endurance Fuel - product photoPros: 

  • Electrolytes and fuel in one
  • Multiple flavors and multiple caffeinated options


  • Serving sizes for single-serving sticks and bulk bags are different

Tailwind Endurance Fuel has long been a popular choice among runners who prefer to take in their fuel and electrolytes together in liquid form rather than having to worry about eating additional food or gels for calories. At 200 calories per individual stick, Tailwind combines glucose and sucrose with natural flavors and electrolytes to provide energy and hydration in a simple, great-tasting package. There aren’t any dyes or preservatives in the mix.

There are several flavor options, including multiple caffeinated versions, which is great for those who like to vary their flavors and keep the caffeine boost. For those who find flavored mixes unpalatable, there is also an unflavored mix called Naked, which has a slightly sweet but mild taste.

Our testers’ stomaches could tolerate this mix for long events with no episodes of distress. At full strength, which is 200 calories per bottle, some testers found it to have an almost slippery texture that caused some flavor fatigue after hours of use, but this boils down to personal tastes and preferences. It’s worth noting that this mix has a much higher sodium content than many other options. This works well for some people but can cause issues for others.

Single packets are a bit on the pricey side at $2.50 per stick, but the bulk bags offer better value. One thing to keep in mind — the bulk bag serving size is only one scoop, so if you are planning to mix your bottles with 200 calories, the 30- and 50-serving bulk bags will only give you the equivalent of 15 or 25 individual sticks.

Cost: $2.49 per single packet (contains the equivalent of two scoops of bulk powder), $30 for 12 packet box, $29 for 30 serving bag, $40 for 50 serving bag | Sodium per serving: 630 milligrams per single packet, 310 milligrams per bulk bag scoop | Calories per serving: 200 per single packet, 100 per bulk bag scoop | Carbohydrates per serving: 50 grams per packet, 25 grams per scoop | Flavors: Mandarin, Lemon, Berry, Naked (unflavored), Matcha (caffeinated), Raspberry (caffeinated), Tropical (caffeinated), Cola (caffeinated)

Shop the Tailwind Endurance Fuel electrolyte mix

Best Low-Calorie/Low-Sugar Electrolyte Drink Mix: DripDrop Zero Sugar

Best Electrolyte Mix - DripDrop Zero Sugar - product photoPros: 

  • Convenient packets easy to store in a vest or for travel
  • Mixes easily


  • Only available in individual packets, no bulk option

Our testers found that DripDrop Zero Sugar electrolyte drink mix tasted great without the fake sweetener aftertaste that is common among many low-sugar offerings. At 10 calories per serving, this is a great choice for those with low-sugar dietary needs. It’s also a great option for enhanced daily hydration and providing electrolytes separate from calories during runs. The mix comes in conveniently slim and compact single-serving packets, making them easy to stash in a pack. They are particularly good for travel.

DripDrop packets contain the usual mix of sodium, potassium, and magnesium, as well as some added B vitamins, vitamin C, and zinc for energy, recovery, and immune support. As opposed to most of our top picks, which were developed specifically for sport, DripDrop was created as an oral rehydration therapy for humanitarian missions where IV fluids to treat dehydration are not readily available. At a little over $1.00 per serving, these packets aren’t exactly cheap, but they aren’t the most expensive either.

Cost: $36 for 32 packet box | Sodium per serving: 330 milligrams | Calories per serving: 10 | Carbohydrates per serving: 3 grams | Flavors: Lemon Lime, Watermelon, Passion Fruit, Peach

Shop the DripDrop Zero Sugar electrolyte mix

Best High-Sodium Electrolyte Drink Mix: LMNT

Best Electrolyte Mix - LMNT - product photoPros: 

  • High sodium in a single serving for heavy sweaters
  • Small and easy-to-carry packets


  • Pricey
  • No bulk option

The debate over salt and electrolyte requirements during exercise continues on as a hot topic, and LMNT has clearly made their position known: Salt is good! The mix offers a whopping 1000 milligrams of sodium per packet, two to three times as much as our other top picks. Their slogan is “Stay Salty” for a reason. We all sweat during exercise, but there are some of us who barely muster up a glisten while others come out crusted in white patches and look like they went for a swim rather than a run. If you fall into the latter category, your sodium replacement needs are likely much higher than what many other electrolyte mixes provide.

LMNT comes in convenient single-serving packets that are small and easy to carry in a running pack. In addition to sodium, they also contain some potassium and magnesium. They come in a have a wide variety of interesting flavors, including Mango Chili and Chocolate Caramel. Instead of using sugar, the mix is sweetened using stevia leaf extract. As a light sweater with sensitive taste buds, I found the flavor to be a bit overpowering and had to dilute the mix beyond what is recommended, but our salty testers are big fans. The stevia flavor is also pretty noticeable, something to be aware of if you aren’t a stevia fan.

Cost: $45 for 30 packets | Sodium per serving: 1000 milligrams | Calories per serving: 10 | Carbohydrates per serving: 2 grams | Flavors: Citrus Salt, Grapefruit Salt, Watermelon Salt, Orange Salt, Raspberry Salt, Unflavored, Mango Chili, Chocolate Salt, Chocolate Caramel

Shop the LMNT electrolyte mix

Best Budget Electrolyte Drink Mix: Gnarly Hydrate

Best Electrolyte Mix - Gnarly Fuel2O - product photoPros: 

  • Good value
  • Mixes easily


  • Limited flavors
  • The Stevia taste is noticeable to some

Gnarly Hydrate is the company’s exercise hydration mix that is lower in sugar and calories than its other offerings. Its focus is solely on electrolyte repletion. The 40-serving bag costs $30, which means it’s about $0.75 per serving. Each serving contains 250 milligrams of sodium and 30 calories. While there are certainly cheaper ways to supplement your electrolytes using homemade mixes or electrolyte pills, we found this to be the best value among the drink mixes.

Gnarly Hydrate is also backed by an NSF certification, though the Orange Pineapple flavor is the only one that is Sport Certified. The lower sugar content and better price point make this a great option for those who want to separate their electrolytes and calories. This mix contains cane sugar but is also sweetened with stevia leaf extract, which some of our testers found to be very noticeable despite it not being the main sweetener.

Cost: $15 for 10 stick pack, $30 for a 40-serving bag | Sodium per serving: 250 milligrams | Calories per serving: 30 | Carbohydrates per serving: 7 grams | Flavors: Orange Pineapple, Raspberry, Ruby Red Grapefruit

Shop the Gnarly Hydrate electrolyte mix

Comparing the Best Electrolyte Drinks

Gnarly Fuel2O $38/25 servings 250 milligrams 100 25 grams
Skratch Labs Hydration Sport Drink Mix $55/60 servings 380 milligrams 80 20 grams
Tailwind Endurance Fuel $40/50 servings 310 milligrams 100 25 grams
DripDrop Zero Sugar $36/32 servings 330 milligrams 10 3 grams
LMNT $45/30 servings 1,000 milligrams 10 2 grams
Gnarly Hydrate $30/40 servings 250 milligrams 30 7 grams

How to Choose the Best Electrolyte Drink


When it comes to electrolyte powder ingredients, the core formula is fairly simple: sodium, flavoring, sweetener, and sometimes smaller amounts of potassium, calcium, or magnesium. Electrolyte mixes come in a wide assortment of options, from high-calorie powders that can fuel your running needs all day to low-calorie and no-sugar mixes. There is something to suit just about every taste bud and dietary need out there.

The electrolyte replacement powders we tested contained a variety of sweeteners, such as cane sugar, otherwise known as sucrose, dextrose, stevia, and fructose. As far as flavoring goes, most use natural flavor to give a mix a hint of citrus, berry, watermelon, cola, or even chocolate flavor, if you’re into that sort of thing. The sodium in electrolyte drinks typically comes from either sodium chloride, otherwise known as sea salt or sodium citrate.

There are a variety of low- or no-sugar options, and some with very few ingredients and a more natural makeup, making it easy for those with dietary restrictions or allergies to find a product that works. Many of these mixes are vegan as well. Caffeine is another frequently added ingredient, so if you need a little energy boost late in a race, you can hydrate and caffeinate all at once! Mixes clearly note when caffeine is added, so it is easy to avoid if you don’t want it.

Best Electrolyte Powders - Gnarly Fuel2O

The Gnarly Fuel2O was our favorite overall electrolyte powder. Photo by iRunFar/Nathan Allen

Intended Use

Electrolyte drink mixes can be used to pre-hydrate in the days and hours prior to big training runs and races, to replace fluid and salt lost during exercise, as a combination of electrolyte and calorie replacement during longer runs, and as a recovery tool after an effort.

We know that fluid and electrolyte losses during exercise can lead to dehydration, and starting an event poorly hydrated can hasten the onset of performance decline. Drinking to thirst on a day-to-day basis will help you start out your training and races well-hydrated, and you will feel and perform better. Mixing some electrolytes into your daily hydration will make your drinks taste better and help replace fluid losses if you work in a hot environment or during illness.

The most common use of electrolyte drinks is during exercise. Low-calorie electrolyte powders such as DripDrop Zero Sugar, LMNT, or Gnarly Hydrate are best for runners who prefer to take their calories in through food, gels, and other sources. Don’t want to chew or are tired of trying to choke down yet another gel? Mixes like Tailwind Endurance Fuel and Gnarly Fuel2O have higher calories and carbohydrates per serving, so you can combine your calories, electrolytes, and hydration in one bottle.

Feeling wiped out or having muscle cramps after a hard workout or race? Adding some electrolytes to your post-exercise nutrition may help alleviate some of this. At the very least, it will make your water tasty, so you will be more apt to drink it — which is definitely a win.


Taste may be the most important factor in choosing an electrolyte drink mix, as the best product in the world won’t do you any good if it is totally unpalatable. Flavors are very subjective and can be difficult to rate or recommend, so it may require a bit of trial and error to find the best electrolyte mix for you. Most companies offer sample packs of their flavors so you can try them out without committing to a flavor you may not like.

There are two main factors that impact taste: the type of sweetener used and the flavoring added. As far as sweeteners go, mixes that use sugar will taste a bit sweeter and more natural than low-calorie options. Some of the low-calorie and low-carbohydrate mixes, such as Gnarly Hydrate and LMNT, use stevia as the sweetener. If you know you are sensitive to stevia, check the ingredient list and steer clear of those options.

The electrolyte drinks we tested come in a variety of fruit flavor combinations as well as cola, chocolate, maple, ginger, and even unflavored. There are taste options to please just about anyone. Many use natural flavor extracts from plants or animal products, in this case usually fruit, to create a specific taste.

The concentration of the mix will also impact taste. Most recommend mixing a single serving in 12 to 20 ounces of liquid, but you can always dilute or increase the concentration to create a more personalized concoction. It is important to remember that this will impact the amount of electrolytes in your bottle, so be sure to check those numbers to ensure you are getting the right amount.

Best Electrolyte Powders - LMNT

The LMNT electrolyte powder was the most expensive we tested. Photo by iRunFar/Nathan Allen


Cost is a very important variable to consider when choosing your electrolyte replacement. The cost of the electrolyte replacements we looked at during our initial research, including powders, dissolving tabs, and pills, varied greatly from less than 50 cents per serving to almost seven dollars!

Your intended use and frequency of consumption will factor into determining the best choice of electrolytes for you. Outside of creating your own drink mix, which has been a choice for many budget-conscious runners, the cheapest electrolyte replacement options we found are in pill or capsule form. For those who prefer the ease of a ready-made drink mix, the average cost of our winning picks was around one to two dollars per serving.

Buying bulk bags is a great way to save money on electrolyte powders. Many options, including Skratch Labs Hydration Sport Drink Mix, Tailwind Endurance Fuel, and Gnarly Fuel2O, offer single-serving packets as well as bulk bags. While single-serving packets are convenient and a great way to try out multiple flavors, the cost per serving of the bulk bags is often substantially lower. Bulk bags also produce far less waste. Once you settle on a flavor you like, you can save some serious dough by buying bulk and portioning out servings.

Certifications and Third-Party Research

Pick up a bag or packet of any sports nutrition or hydration packet, and you will see several different graphics and dietary claims, such as non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan, or NSF-certified, just to name a few.

Athletes, especially those at high levels of competition who are subject to regular anti-doping testing, need to use NSF Certified for Sport supplements. The NSF, or National Sanitation Foundation, is a globally recognized organization that conducts testing, auditing, and certification of products to ensure they are safe for human consumption. Supplements, like electrolytes, can be Certified for Sport by the organization, which means they were independently verified to be free of unsafe levels of contaminants, prohibited substances, or masking agents. The testing ensures that what is on the label matches what is in the product. The NSF certification is recognized by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), as well as a multitude of professional sports organizations. If you want to be extra cautious about what you are taking from a drug-testing standpoint, you can choose nutrition and supplements that have been NSF-certified, such as Gnarly Hydrate and Gnarly Fuel2O. Not having this certification certainly doesn’t mean other options are unsafe or contain banned substances. There are a large number of companies that don’t go through the NSF certification process but create products free of banned substances.

Why You Should Trust Us

For this guide, the iRunFar testing team compiled a list of over 100 electrolyte replacement options geared toward runners and athletes. We narrowed this list and tested a dozen options to determine the winning choices you see here.

Many of these products have been in our testers’ rotation for years and used over countless miles of running and racing. For options that were new to us, we tested the drink mixes over a period of several weeks in a variety of conditions, including on warm days,  during long hikes, in strength sessions, and on 20-degree Fahrenheit trail races. After taking 12 drink mix options on several hundred miles and hours of trail and road running, hiking, cycling, and strength training, we chose the winning picks based on their taste, composition, cost, and mixability.

Best Electrolyte Powders - Gnarly Sports Hydration

The Gnarly Sports Hydrate powder was our top budget electrolyte powder. Photo by iRunFar/Nathan Allen

Frequently Asked Questions about Electrolyte Drinks

What are electrolytes?

Electrolytes are minerals found in our bodies. Common ones include sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. These elements are vital to many bodily functions, including muscle contractions, fluid balance, nerve signals and brain function, and heart rhythm, just to name a few. A complicated cascade of brain signals and electrical channels within our organs and tissues moves these electrolytes in and out of our bloodstream so that we can move our legs, see the trail ahead, eat our snacks, and do all of the things necessary to run and survive. In order to function normally, our body keeps electrolyte levels within a tight range. Too much or too little can have dire consequences. In normal conditions, our bodies do a great job of regulating these levels to keep all of our systems healthy and functioning, but sometimes they need us to help. Using a low-calorie electrolyte mix like DripDrop Zero Sugar can allow you to replace electrolytes without adding extra calories to your diet.

Why do we need electrolytes before, during, and after endurance training?

On a day-to-day basis, we get our electrolytes from the food we eat and the fluids we drink. In everyday conditions, a balanced diet is all we need to maintain normal levels, but problems arise when we start losing electrolytes at a faster rate than our body can compensate for. This happens most often during periods of rapid fluid loss, such as when sweating heavily, vomiting, or experiencing diarrhea.

When we sweat, we lose sodium and chloride in much higher amounts than other electrolytes. In activities less than an hour long or in colder weather, most of us can get by without any additional hydration or with water alone. Longer runs, higher temperatures, and higher altitudes all increase fluid loss, which can lead to dehydration. Higher sweat rates caused by heat or higher exertion levels mean we are probably losing sodium faster than our body can regulate. When this happens, it is important to replace sodium as well as fluids, and the easiest way to do that is by drinking an electrolyte replacement. If you’ve lost a lot of salt during a long run in hot temperatures, drinking a high-sodium drink like LMNT is an easy way to replace it.

Losing too much sodium quickly and drinking plain water alone to rehydrate can lead to hyponatremia, a serious condition that occurs when sodium levels are too low. It has symptoms such as confusion, loss of coordination, headache, seizures, and even death in severe cases due to swelling of the brain from the rapid sodium loss. Maintaining hydration leading up to and during your event is key to preventing electrolyte imbalances, and choosing an electrolyte powder to mix into your fluids can help with this. For a more in-depth review of hydration and hyponatremia, check out this previous iRunFar article.

Refueling and rehydrating after a race or long run is important, especially in hot weather. Runners can lose one to two liters of fluid per hour when sweating, and while we may be drinking during the run, much of this lost fluid needs to be replaced after the activity to help our bodies adequately recover. You may notice some runners have white streaks on their hats and clothing after a hot run — this is salt residue! Using an electrolyte replacement with sodium can make it easier to replete losses if you are a salty sweater. Salty foods can help, too — who else loves a bag of chips after a summer run?

How many electrolytes should you consume?

There is no hard and fast rule on how much electrolyte replacement you should take. The biggest factor is sweat rate — the more you sweat, the more electrolytes you lose. Sweat rates have a huge range, with some studies reporting losses of anywhere from 200 milliliters to over two liters of fluid per hour. The data lovers out there can estimate their sweat rate using this calculator. You’ll need your weight pre- and post-activity, as well as a record of the activity duration and fluids consumed. Studies of athletes have shown that the sodium content of sweat can vary from 200 milligrams to two grams per liter, depending on the person and circumstances. The average sodium content in sweat is around 800 milligrams per liter. For those who want to really dig into the numbers and data, there are wearable devices on the market to analyze the sodium content of your sweat.

Don’t worry if you aren’t into taking a deep dive into biomarkers and just want to hit the trails. You can tell a lot just by the way you look and feel after you’re done with a run. If you finish your runs dry and fresh as a daisy, your sweat and sodium losses are probably pretty low. If you look like you just went swimming and your hat and pack are crusted in salt, you are probably losing a fair bit of sodium.

Most of the electrolyte powders we tested contain 200 to 500 milligrams of sodium per serving, which should be adequate for most people. For the extremely salty folks out there, there are some high-sodium options like LMNT that have 1000 milligrams of sodium per packet. You can also double up on servings of other mixes to adjust the calorie and sodium content in your bottle, so nearly any of the electrolyte replacement mixes can be customized to meet your needs.

What is the best electrolyte powder?

The best electrolyte powder is the one that works best for you! We recommend our favorite picks based on the iRunFar team’s testing, but there are many more options out there, including some homemade recipes.

The duration of your run, weather, temperature, altitude, sweat rate, taste preferences, underlying medical conditions, whether you prefer solid or liquid calories, and budget will all factor into choosing the best electrolyte drink powder for your needs. Runners who prefer to take in their calories and electrolytes in the same bottle will benefit from a powder like Tailwind Endurance Fuel, Gnarly Fuel2O, or Skratch Labs Hydration Sport Drink Mix. Those who want to be able to control their calorie and electrolyte intake separately will want to turn to an option like DripDrop Zero Sugar. Heavy or salty sweaters may like LMNT, which has a higher sodium content than other mixes in this list.

Portability and easy mixability are important for long races or adventures with minimal support, so it may be best to choose an electrolyte replacement that comes in individual packets.

Are electrolyte drinks good for you?

Electrolyte drinks help keep you hydrated, so from this perspective, the answer is a resounding yes. However, the data is mostly inconclusive on whether electrolyte drinks offer a measured or substantial performance boost in endurance sports. This doesn’t necessarily make them bad for us; rather, it just means that studies haven’t proven that they are essential or make us perform better.

For a healthy person, taking in electrolytes and a little extra sugar with water shouldn’t cause any harm and has the potential to improve hydration and help reduce muscle cramping and other side effects of electrolyte loss. Many people have anecdotally seen an improvement in their performance and how they feel during their run when taking in an electrolyte replacement drink, so it is worth trying to see what works best for you.

For those with underlying health issues — high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney problems — taking in too much sodium or sugar could have detrimental effects. If you are unsure whether taking an electrolyte replacement is safe with your condition or medications, check with your medical provider before consuming.

How often should you consume electrolyte drinks?

For runs longer than an hour or in hot conditions, you will want to take in fluids and may want to consider an electrolyte replacement. Some runners aim for a particular amount of fluids per hour, while many others follow the drink-to-thirst method, where they drink when they’re thirsty and stop when they’re not. Simply put, there is no hard and fast rule as to how often you should take in hydration and electrolytes.

If you are a heavy or salty sweater, you will want to start mixing in your electrolyte replacement within the first hour or two of exercise. The easiest way to do this is to mix electrolyte powder into a bottle or flask and consume it as you would your water. Many runners use 500-milliliter soft flasks for their electrolyte mix, and either aims to drink one bottle per hour or sip as they get thirsty. The salt and sugar content of electrolyte mixes can increase thirst, so an electrolyte mix may help with hydration simply by making you drink more fluids in addition to replacing lost electrolytes.

If you combine calories and electrolytes in one bottle, you should consume enough to get your desired calories per hour. Tailwind Endurance Fuel, for instance, has 200 calories, 50 grams of carbohydrates, and 630 milligrams of sodium in a single serving packet, which is equivalent to two scoops out of a bulk bag. Drinking one of these per hour is a good goal for many runners if they are using liquid calories as their sole source of fuel.

Electrolyte powders aren’t really necessary on a day-to-day basis, and plain water combined with a balanced diet is adequate to maintain proper hydration and electrolyte levels. However, if you are gearing up for or rehydrating after a run in the heat, getting over a stomach bug, or working in a hot environment, using an electrolyte replacement regularly could be a good idea.

Best Electrolyte Powders - Main Product Image

Our top picks for the best electrolyte powders. Photo by iRunFar/Nathan Allen

Call for Comments

  • Do you regularly use electrolyte drinks?
  • What’s your favorite electrolyte option?
Carly Eisley
Carly Eisley is a trail runner, hiker, mountain biker, and traveler. Her home base is in Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and two rescue dogs. When not writing or adventuring, she works as an emergency department nurse practitioner. Follow her on Instagram.