Best Sports Drinks For Hydration Tested & Compared

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When it comes to best drinks, there are so many options out there. Discover our list of top 10 hydration drinks for runners!

As runners and athletes, are you constantly replenishing your body with the right nutrients? You might drink enough water, but is water enough? How about all the other nutrients that your body needs? Staying hydrated keeps you away from muscle cramps, keeps your body replenished to avoid dehydration, and maximizes your efficiency as a runner or as an athlete, especially when you’re training for long periods of time or doing high intensity workouts.

When running in warm climates, hydration becomes even more essential. Your hydration method should cover pre-run, in-run and post-run phases of your workout.

Water is (obviously) a great choice, but for runners you often need more than just water. Especially for long distance runners, staying hydrated is a combination of hydrating the body and also energizing the body with sugars and electrolytes. For that reason, there are products on the market today called hydration drinks that combine both of those elements. As you do your research you will see that there are tons of drinks out there, and it can be hard to decide which is best. To make your decision easier, we put together this guide of the ten best drinks.

Last Updated: November 15, 2017
By Miri Lenoff:

We have updated this guide with new products that came out recently and have been recommended by athletes and runners. We’ve also updated the introduction and the FAQs.

Skratch Labs Hydration Mix
  • Skratch Labs Hydration Mix
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • All natural
  • Price: See Here
SOS Rehydrate Drink
  • SOS Rehydrate Drink
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Designed by doctor and former athletes
  • Price: See Here
Nunn Hydration
  • Nunn Hydration
  • 4.8 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Helps avoids muscle cramps
  • Price: See Here

Here are our picks for the best hydration drinks out there today. These drinks will keep your body hydrated, energized, and free from muscle cramps.

10 Best Sports Drinks For Hydration

 

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix

This hydration product from Skratch Labs comes as a powder that you mix with water. This delicious fruit flavored product not only tastes great but is all natural and contains no artificial colors or flavors.
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This product not only keeps you hydrated, but provides you with electrolytes and calories you need to keep you energized while you run. Stay hydrated and energized with the perfect balance of all-natural ingredients that will fuel you no matter how intense your workout is.

Not incredibly expensive, but not the cheapest thing either. 1 pound bag is said to produce about 40 servings, which may not last active people as long as other individuals who don’t need to use it as frequently.
Pros
  • All natural
  • Great tasting, and comes in 6 different flavors
  • Contains calories, carbs, sodium, potassium, sugars, and magnesium you need to stay energized
  • Comes in a 1 pound bag that will last you a while
Cons
  • Relatively low in calories, making you have to either take more or supplement with other products, especially on long distance runs

SOS Rehydration Drink

This is one of the best drinks for keeping everyone (including non-athletes) hydrated and energized throughout the day. Formulated by doctors and former athletes, this product is a must for individuals who struggle with dehydration.
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This powdered formula’s main focus is hydration, something that is important to both athletes and non-athletes. The addition of electrolytes also helps with energy production. This product has a much broader audience, including being helpful for those who find themselves suffering from a hangover.

Relatively expensive, especially considering that there are only 20 servings in one box. However, if you are using this as more of a “lifestyle” product (as in for fighting dehydration or fatigue not caused from exercising) this may last you longer, as most people would not use this on a daily basis. Also, if you use it as a hangover treatment, this will likely last you for a while.
Pros
  • No artificial additives
  • Comes in 4 flavors and 3 different varieties that each have a slightly different purpose (targeted at athletes, non-athletes, or hangovers)
  • Designed by a doctor and former pro athletes
Cons
  • One box only contains 20 servings
  • May not be suitable for high-endurance athletes, as there are only 10 calories per serving

Nuun Hydration Electrolyte Drink Tablets

Even though Nuun has different types of tablets for different kinds of lifestyle, we've decided to include the product that contains electrolytes and without caffeine to our listing. A great option that replenishes the electrolytes that you lose through sweating.
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With many flavors to chose from, Nuun provides a solution for pre, during and post-workout runners. Relatively competitive in pricing compared to other hydration drinks, it's easy to bring your tube with you when you're on your run.

Be warned - the taste might not be what you're looking for. Some people don't mind the taste, while others completely hate it. You might want to try it out and see for yourself if you like the taste.
Pros
  • Easy tubes for easy transporting.
  • Different flavors available.
  • Packed with electrolytes and other vitamin content
  • Great to avoid muscle cramps
Cons
  • Bad after taste

Sqwincher ZERO Qwik Stik

Sqwincher ZERO Qwik Stik
This product from Sqwincher provides easy and on the go hydration and electrolyte replacement that will keep you hydrated and cramp free, even during exercises in hot weather.
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Provide necessary fluids and minerals that are lost during exercise and sweating. This product contains less sodium and more potassium than most drinks on the market, which is good for those individuals who wish to reduce their sodium intake.

It is one of the most affordable products on this list, with one box containing 50 individual packets.
Pros
  • Comes in 9 different flavors
  • Completely sugar and calorie free
  • Contains necessary potassium and sodium to provide energy and reduce cramping
Cons
  • Does not have any calories or carbohydrates

Vitalyte Natural Electrolyte Powder Sports Drink Mix

Vitalyte Natural Electrolyte Powder Sports Drink Mix
This product is one of the best hydration drinks on the market for providing electrolytes and other beneficial supplements (such as magnesium, calcium, and beta carotene) to help you feel your best at every stage of your workout.
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This drink has fast absorption rates to keep you hydrated and cramp free at all times. Sodium and potassium keep you energized, along with just the right amount of calories and carbohydrates.

While this might look like a more expensive formula at first, it contains 80 servings, meaning it will last a lot longer than many of the other products on this list.
Pros
  • Gluten free
  • Comes in 5 different flavors
  • All natural, no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives
  • Can mix a smaller amount in a small amount of water, making it easier and quicker to achieve results
Cons
  • Powder formula has to be mixed ahead of time

Xendurance | Extreme HYDRO-X – Energy

Xendurance | Extreme HYDRO-X – Energy
Another powdered hydration product, this time from the brand Xendurance. This product features patented technology, Sustamine, which helps to increase water absorption in the kidneys, ensuring you will stay hydrated and avoid getting cramps while you exercise.
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This product is targeted at energy production, accomplished via both electrolytes and lactate, which is a source found naturally in the body that provides you with fuel. This product doesn’t stop there, but also focuses on protecting the muscles and aiding in recovery thanks to patented Sustamine which increases water absorption and aids in the repair of muscle tissue.

It is fairly expensive, especially considering that one bag only contains around 25 servings. If you are very active, you will go through this product quickly, but at least for the price you are getting a great product that has patented technology that really works to keep you hydrated and fueled.
Pros
  • Gluten free
  • Patented Sustamine technology is unique to this product, helping with water absorption and muscle recovery
  • Contains lactate, a natural fuel source which also helps reduce amount of lactic acid in the muscles, which reduces their overall soreness
  • Doesn’t just help you during your workout, but aids in recovery after the fact
Cons
  • Only comes in one flavor (lemon-citrus)

Hoist Premium Hydration

Hoist Premium Hydration
This drink from Hoist Premium Hydration is a great tasting, all natural product that will keep you hydrated, even during the most intense of workouts.
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This product is primarily focused on hydration, as its isotonic formula ensures it passes through the stomach quickly that will keep you going and prevent muscle cramping.

Fairly expensive, with one pack containing 12 bottles. Each bottle is one serving size, so this product is sure to go fast, especially during hot weather.
Pros
  • Liquid formula, no measuring or mixing required
  • Comes in various flavors, all that are all natural and have no artificial colors, sweeteners, or high fructose corn syrup.
  • Especially useful during summer months.
Cons
  • Does not focus on energy renewal or muscle recovery.

GU Hydration Drink Mix

GU Hydration Drink Mix
This powdered formula is a great tasting product from GU Energy Labs. This product will keep you hydrated and energized without the use of caffeine and is perfect for even the most intense of athletes.
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This drink mix provides the perfect combination of electrolytes, carbohydrates, and calories to keep you energized and hydrated at the same time. Drink this product each hour to stay in top condition during your entire workout.

Not the most expensive product on this list, but also not the cheapest. With only 24 servings in one container, this will not last serious athletes a very long time, especially if you workout multiple hours each day.
Pros
  • Comes in 6 great flavors
  • Has a lower amount of sugar than other hydration drinks, giving it a less sugary taste that is not appealing to many people
  • Contains all the ingredients you need during intense workouts (sodium, potassium, carbohydrates)
Cons
  • One container only contains 24 servings

BodyArmor SuperDrink

BodyArmor SuperDrink
This sports drink from Body Armor is a premixed sports drink that contains electrolytes and helpful vitamins to keep you hydrated and feeling your best.
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This drink provides one of the largest amounts of electrolytes of products on this list, making it a great product that will keep you hydrated and performing at your top level even during the most intense of workouts. This drink also provides necessary vitamins and antioxidants making this a healthy and useful drink in multiple ways.

Fairly expensive, and each pack only contains 12 bottles. For intense athletes, you will go through this product very quickly.
Pros
  • Comes in 7 delicious flavors
  • Contains  10% coconut water
  • Has your daily value of vitamins A, C, E, and 200% daily value of vitamin B
  • Gluten free
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or added preservatives
Cons
  • Contains 18 grams of sugars, has a fairly sweet taste

Zipfizz Electrolyte Healthy Energy Drink Mix

Zipfizz Electrolyte Healthy Energy Drink Mix
These packets come in different flavors and they're very easy to take with you on your run. They're packed with energy that you need included vitamins like B12.
Many people tend to take them for sports or on the go because they provide the energy you need.
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This product is great for people who are looking to add a packet to their water right after a workout. It tastes great and it replenishes the energy that you've just used up.

There is no added sugar, but it does have an added artificial sweetener. Though, people love the taste as an alternative to energy drinks.
Pros
  • Amazing taste
  • Comes in different delicious flavors
Cons
  • It has an artificial sweetener

Many of the products on this list are recommended for different needs and different situations. You might want to take a packet with the powder mix-in and prepare it right after your workout, or you might enjoy an already prepared drink. Whatever the case may be, make sure you are prepared and hydrated, that’s the most important.

 


 

The Criteria We Used for Our Evaluation of the Best Hydration Drinks

When it comes to hydration, we can’t just list a bunch of random drinks. Runners know how important it is to stay hydrated, and so do we; which is why we’ve compiled a list of strict parameters for our research and review of the best hydration drinks. These parameters were carefully selected in order to provide our audience with the highest quality.

In the section below we’ll go through each of our research parameters, explaining why we’ve chose such parameters as well as informing you on the importance of it. These are the features we looked for during our investigation:

 

Components

During our research for the best drinks, we made sure to select those products which feature a larger list of  supplements as well as other important compounds that should be part of every drink. These supplements play a major role in hydration drinks.  Not only do they provide proper hydration, put they also compensate for the loss of other salts and compounds that are expelled from the body through sweat. We also looked for those hydration drinks that restore the greater amount of electrolytes and vitamins.

The electrolyte restoration is very important for athletes. Losses of electrolytes or electrolyte imbalances are often caused as a response from the body after strenuous athletic activity, such as running. Within the targeted supplements, we made sure to look for those drinks that are rich enough in electrolytes, some of the most common being Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Chloride, Hydrogen Phosphate and Hydrogen Carbonate.

Digestion & Absorption

A common mistake amongst hydrating supplements made by consumers is overlooking the products’ properties for digestion and absorption, and they’re committing a huge mistake. The speed with which the body absorbs the electrolytes and nutrients contained in drinks plays a decisive role in the quality of the product. We selected the facility (or difficulty) of the body to digest the supplements as an important criteria during our investigation because it can determine the effectiveness of the product.

We also verified that the products do not provoke any digestive side effects (based on existing customer reviews). Consuming a product that is complex to the digest will put you off the activity you’re practicing, and can even involve a variety of side effects. In order to list the best drinks, we looked for products composed by easy-digestion compounds as well as those products that are quickly absorbed by the body. The absorption speed is also an important factor, seeing as some athletes rely on these drinks for instant energy and hydration during a workout session.

Dissolving Properties

For powdered products, we took in consideration the dissolving properties as a secondary parameter during our research. While some audiences might be new to this term, some other audiences will know what we’re talking about. The dissolving properties of a powdered supplements comes down to the facility (or difficulty) of the powder to dissolve in water, milk, or any other liquid of the consumer’s choice.

One would normally think that no matter how bad the product is, it will dissolve if you put enough effort into it. Well, it won’t.

For those consumers who take powdered supplements as an on-the-go solution have no access to a blender, and the dissolving properties are often proportional to the quality of the product. A high-quality powder should easily dissolve in water or milk; while a low-quality powder product will be hard to dissolve and will usually gather up in lumps that won’t go away. This not only makes the drink difficult to dissolve and consume, but like we previously said, it also determines the quality of the product.

Other Important Factors To Consider When Selecting The Best Hydration Drinks

 

Price

When it comes to hydration drinks and supplements, wallets tend to get lighter. In order to find the best quality, at the best price, we looked through different price ranges and reviewed each product to make sure the price meets the quality. While a higher price tag certainly doesn’t assure you higher quality, we looked for those products that cover enough features for the marked price. In order for an expensive product to be listed, it must meet high standards of quality. This way we make sure that the price is proportional to quality.

We also took in consideration the amount of servings/the net content each product offers, and the relation between the price and the amount of product. For powdered products, we looked for products that offered the greater amount of services at the best price (for products within the same quality range, and while following all the other parameters).

Flavor

There are multiple perspectives regarding the flavors of drinks and other similar products and supplements. While some users find flavor as a very important factor, some other consumers find it to be irrelevant as long as it meets certain quality standards, and other groups of consumers prefer to buy unflavored products and flavor it themselves in order to save money and obtain the flavor of their own choice.

During our research, we included flavor as a secondary factor. However, we didn’t blindly grab products with amazing flavor reviews; we looked for products that meet high standards of quality while still delivering an acceptable flavor. Another reason why we decided to select flavoring as a research factor is the compounds used to obtain such flavors. Naturally-flavored or bland products had the upper hand on artificially flavored drinks that contain large amounts of sugars and other unhealthy ingredients. Lastly, we made sure that artificially-flavored products don’t include harmful ingredients that might cause indigestion or other unwanted side effects.

Convenience

Like we’ve previously mentioned, many athletes use specialty drinks while exercising; not only after finishing. For those athletes, we took in consideration the convenience of a product for consumption. Basically, it comes down to the facility of a consumer to access their  product in a simple and quick way. For this, we looked for products which can be carried anywhere, anytime; pouches, bottles, envelops, etc.

For powdered products, we made sure to look for those drinks that can be quickly served and mixed without much struggle. Those products that require strict instructions in order to serve properly are inconvenient, such as powders that require the mandatory use of a blender or a special shaking glass, as well as  powders that can only be mixed with milk.

In this parameter, we gave the upper hand to those products that can be mixed with water and other easily accessible liquids instead of specific drinks, as well as the facility of the powder to dissolve without the use of a blender or a shaking cup.

Popularity & Availability

For this parameter, we took in consideration the popularity, distribution and availability of the products. We chose this parameter due to the fact that major brands are more likely to be found in any nearby store, while new products are more likely to have limited distribution; hence it’s more difficult to access them.

For some exclusive products, athletes will often have to buy them online from a different location. This represents additional shipping or transportation expenses that add up to the considerable cost of the product itself. Additionally, as a product enhances its distribution network, gains popularity and increases availability, it becomes easier to obtain by consumers–especially those looking for a convenient  drink while on the go.

For instance, a product that features great hydrating properties and components might not come in as handy when the consumer has limited options to obtain it. On the other hand, some consumers might find a good drink available at any close grocery store to be handier than the previously mentioned ones.

 

FAQ

We compiled a list of the most Frequently Asked Questions in hopes of guiding you in finding the best hydration drinks out there. Refer to this FAQ for additional information:

Q: Do powdered products require a blender or shaking glass?

A: While it does deliver a more intensive blend, such things are not a must. The quality products we’ve chosen for this list will can be easily stirred with a spoon or fork.

Q: At which point of my training should I consume hydration drinks?

A: It’s important to keep hydrated at all times. When under circumstances which contribute to dehydration, such as strong sun, make sure to drink even if you don’t feel thirsty. Posterior to your training is a great moment as well.

Q: What’s the difference between these product and water?

A: While water makes up for great natural hydration, these drinks provide other essential compounds that contribute to restoration of electrolytes and the overall process of recuperation.

Q: What should I be looking for in a hydration drink?

A: You should be looking for compounds such as Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium and similar to restore electrolytes. Following our parameters will help you in finding the adequate drink.

Q: What should I try to avoid?

A: Try to avoid products that contain large amounts of sugar. Feel free to avoid drinks that are artificially flavored, or check the substances used to flavor them.

Q: Why isn’t the famous Gatorade or Powerade on the list?

A: Even though they might be the most famous sports drinks on the market, they have an enormous amount of sugar. They are not necessarily the best hydration drinks. For that reason, we’ve included drinks that will help replenish the fluids that you lose when you exercise as well as vitamins and minerals that fill your body with nutrients.


 Here are some sources we used while conducting our research

In order to provide you with the most accurate information about the best sports drink, we made sure to include multiple reputable sources for our reserach. These sites are rich in additional information, feel free to visit them through the links below to learn more about hydration drinks.

 

Sources

  1. Runner's World, Sports Drinks, Online running publication,
  2. Active.com, Hydration: Sports Drinks vs Water, Running & sports publication,
  3. WebMD, Sports and Hydration, Clinical information website,
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