The Best Electrolyte Powder
The Best Electrolyte Drink Mix of 2019
For optimal outdoor performance, it’s important to consume both water and electrolytes: electrically charged minerals that help balance fluid pressure and maintain blood pH in the body. In our search for the best electrolyte mix, we analyzed and compared reviews of 26 products to narrow it to the top three winners. Our team purchased the winners and tested them on some of the most infamous hot, desert hikes including Cedar Creek Falls and Three Sister Falls in San Diego, CA, where people are recused almost daily due to dehydration.
We think an electrolyte powder should taste good, cost $0.35-0.60 per serving, be convenient to use, be free of common allergens, and (most importantly) include all five electrolytes essential to the human body.
Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Mix wins our pick for Best Overall Electrolyte Mix as well as Best Budget Electrolyte Mix. It received these distinctions for its complete electrolyte blend, good taste, clean ingredients, and affordable price.
Lyteline Lyteshow was our Upgrade Electrolyte Mix because it contains the most extensive and diverse blend of minerals and vitamins and amino acids. It also contains zero allergens, zero sugar, and is available in capsule or liquid form to allow for quick absorption and the option to avoid issues with taste or dissolvability.
Best Overall Electrolyte Mix & Best Budget Electrolyte Mix
It doesn’t happen often, but Our Best Overall pick here was also our Budget Pick: the Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Mix met all of our criteria and was the least expensive electrolyte we considered. We think this makes it a clear winner. Reviewers found Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Mix to be a good value, to mix easily into drinks, and to contain all the necessary electrolytes. It has a good taste and comes in convenient single serving packets.
Several Amazon reviewers like the taste of the updated formula and the ability of the product to eliminate “leg cramps.” Proper muscle function depends on adequate amounts of electrolytes and balanced fluid pressure, so inadequate electrolytes can be a cause of leg cramps. The Health Beat liked this product because “it has a wide range of vitamins and minerals, resembling a multivitamin on the label.” Similarly, Greenbelly noted that “best thing about Ultima Replenisher is the long list of electrolytes, vitamins and minerals that are provided.”
Notably, Ultima Replenisher delivers a high-quality product for a reasonable price. VeryWellFit described this product as “a cost-effective solution that delivers big results.” Labdoor gave this product high ratings in (>90/100) in label accuracy, product purity, nutritional value, and ingredient safety. This was among the highest ratings of electrolytes we considered. The top complaint about this electrolyte powder is that some reviewers did not like the recent flavor change or disliked the packaging.
Best Upgrade Electrolyte Mix
We chose Lyteline Lyteshow as the Best Upgrade Electrolyte Mix. At $0.57 per serving, it’s on the higher end of the price spectrum, but in this instance you get what you pay for. It’s available in capsules or liquid drops, so you can choose the form you are most likely to use.
The Health Beat states, “Lyteshow use concentrated ionic sea salt minerals from the Great Salt Lake and do not contain any sugar or carbohydrates. Liquid mineral drops that you can add to any bottle of water makes these an extremely convenient option.” Both Runnerclick and Greenbelly note the clean components of Lyteshow, with Greenbelly stating “ It does not have any artificial sweeteners or flavoring - just water and electrolytes. Unlike most replacements, Lyteshow prioritizes Magnesium over Sodium.”
Many Amazon reviewers noted the benefits of Lyteshow for athletes and non-athletes, alike. One reviewer said she feels more “energized, alert, focused and balanced no matter what I'm doing thanks to LyteShow.”
Runner up Electrolyte Mix
For best electrolyte mix, our runner up was Nuun Hydration Tabs. Nuun comes in tablets in a tube and in the biggest variety of flavors. It’s popular among several Amazon reviewers because of its convenience and effervescence (yup, it’s bubbly like an Alka Seltzer). This product may have made it into one of our Top picks, but the D rating on Fakespot and the inclusion of dextrose and ‘natural flavors’ in the ingredients bumped it down to Runner Up.
Still, Nuun is popular among reviewers. Greenbelly liked Nuun for the fruit powders and leaf extracts in it’s list of ‘simple ingredients.’ Very Well Fit summarizes: “Reviewers say these tablets are better than traditional sports drinks, as they’re light and refreshing.”
Another drawback of the Nuun is that some people do note that though it may be available in many flavors, they aren’t always the best. Very Well Fit says, “the flavors aren’t overly impressive, but these tablets do provide a good amount of electrolytes for a reasonable price.” Among Amazon reviewers who disliked the product, the most commonly cited reason was taste.
Despite some of its flaws, we still think Nuun is worth considering as an electrolyte because of its convenience and packaging, which makes it well suited for people on the go.
What you should look for in electrolyte mixes
At minimum, all electrolyte powders should have the following electrolytes: Sodium (Na+), Chloride (Cl-), Potassium (K+), Calcium (Ca++), and Magnesium (Mg+). According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), “all electrolytes work together to maintain fluid balance in the body at rest and during physical activity, so be sure [to focus] on all electrolytes, rather than focusing on only one or two.” This is important because some outdoors people talk about taking supplements of one element (often potassium or magnesium), when the body really requires all 5 of the electrolytes.
The components of an electrolyte mix are important in terms of both what’s contained (or missing), in what quantities, and in what form. A good mix will have everything that it should and nothing that it doesn’t. Some of the mixes we considered didn’t contain all the necessary minerals or they were not included in high enough quantities to be effective in the body.
Ideally, an electrolyte mix contains the most bioavailable form of a mineral. Bioavailability refers to the amount of ingested material which is absorbed and available to the body. For example, the magnesium in the aspartate, citrate, lactate, and chloride forms is more bioavailable than magnesium oxide or sulfate.
Additionally, to reduce adverse reactions, we think an electrolyte mix should be absent of common allergens, such as soy, gluten, dairy, nuts, and artificial colors.
A reasonable price for an electrolyte mix is $0.35-0.60 per serving. Our research shows that you do not need to spend more than $0.60 per serving to get a high quality, clean product that will meet your body’s electrolyte needs. However, spending below $0.35 may result in a low quality product which contains unnecessary fillers, such as maltodextrin and sugar, and lacks nutrients and minerals in sufficient amounts to actually support the body’s needs.
Powders which are easy to dissolve in water are useful for people in the backcountry who lack access to blenders or who are using a shake-bottle for electrolytes during or after a workout. We relied on consumer reviews and our own tests to measure how well electrolytes dissolved.
Good taste is important to ensure that the electrolyte mix will be consumed regularly. Taste is one of the biggest complaints among electrolyte users, so powders must have a pleasant taste or come in capsules which circumnavigate that issue. Bland, sour, or foul-tasting powder is more likely to end up unused on a kitchen shelf than in your body. Taste was one of the top characteristics commented on by the Amazon reviews we analyzed.
Powders which come in single servings packets, small containers, or capsules are useful for people in the backcountry who don’t want to carry a whole tub or who are using a shake-bottle for electrolytes during or after a workout.
Label accuracy, product purity, and ingredient safety: Using scientific studies reported on Labdoor, we looked at rankings for label accuracy, product purity, nutritional value, ingredient safety, and projected efficacy for several different electrolyte powders. This is important to be sure the products being considered are effective and safe.
How We Researched electrolyte mixes
In the process of researching, I also drew from my own training and experience. I am a nutritionist, a certified health coach, and adventurer with a B.S. in Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology. I also hold a botanical medicine certificate and have taken courses in functional nutrition and culinary genomics. I have a passion for wellness backed in scientific research.
My clients are adventurers and athletes who are pushing their limits in extreme climates where hydration and electrolyte replacement is essential to optimal performance, and even to survival. During my thru-hikes, including my most recent 800-mile walk on the Oregon Desert Trail, I’ve learned first-hand the importance of proper electrolyte replacement from high-quality sources.
In our search for the best electrolyte mix, we analyzed reviews from The Health Beat, Greenbelly, Very Well Fit, Runnerclick, and Labdoor. In total, we compared 26 products and narrowed it down to three winners: Best Overall Electrolyte Mix, Best Budget Electrolyte Mix, and Upgrade Electrolyte Mix.
We focused solely on electrolyte replacement, and therefore weeded out popular drink mixes which contain electrolytes, but which are also designed to replace carbohydrates during longer bouts of exercise. We disqualified products such as salt tablets, which are great accessory products to add to electrolyte mixes, but which are not intended to be complete electrolyte replacement drinks.
We cross-referenced our top picks with studies reported on Labdoor, which buys products off retail shelves and online sites and sends samples to an FDA-registered laboratory for chemical analysis. While Labdoor is an independent for-profit company that tests supplements, they do not accept contributions or donations of any kind from manufacturers. We are confident in their findings because they are science-based and transparent about their business model and funding.
Lastly, we purchased our top picks to determine harder-to-research aspects of electrolyte powders like texture, mix-ability, and taste.
To test how the top picks helped us perform better in the desert (or California) heat, we took the winners on hikes and backpacking trips to the following areas:
Three Sisters Falls and Cedar Creek Falls in Cleveland National Forest, both of which are so hot that there are almost daily search and rescue efforts to save folks who get sick from dehydration
Cuyamaca State Park near the California-Mexico border
Tahquitz Canyon near Palm Springs, CA
Murray Canyon near Palm Springs, CA
Big Sur on the California Coast