Electrolytes should be replenished before, during and after workouts or sports activity to boost both performance and improve recovery afterwards.
If you consider yourself a fitness enthusiast, then you probably already know the importance of proper hydration. But did you know that electrolytes play a crucial role in the body’s level of hydration and performance of muscle tissues?
The Electrolyte & Sports Drinks We RAVE About
And in 2023, companies offer a variety of top-notch electrolyte formulas meant to keep your body at peak hydration and peak performance–both during and after your exercise routine.
Because let’s face it: sticking to an exercise routine often presents a challenge in itself.
And with a whopping 75% of Americans being chronically dehydrated, finding the right hydration-support might provide the boost you need to take your exercise routines to the next level.
Due to rampant dehydration among most people, electrolyte supplementation is a safe and beneficial option for staying healthy and feeling your best on a day to day basis.
- Proper electrolyte balance is key to maintaining optimal hydration and performance of muscle tissue during workouts.
- The more strenuous the physical activity, the more necessary electrolyte supplementation becomes.
- The best electrolyte sports drinks on the market deliver optimal doses and combinations of electrolytes.
Ranking and Methodology
To get back in the game as quickly as possible, choose SHIFTED Hydration, RAVE Reviews’ pick for 2023’s best electrolyte and sports drink for athletes.
This drink mix offers everything you need: optimally dosed levels of 6 essential electrolytes along with Coconut Water, Pomegranate Juice, Vitmain C and Taurine. Plus it’s got 2-3x more hydration supporting ingredients than other products on our list.
But we have ranked many other top-tier electrolyte boosting products, too. Each of which is distinguished by a unique selling point and might offer more value to you.
To construct this ranking, we scoured the internet and spoke with fitness experts to find out the best method for evaluating sports drinks. We not only asked them which sports drinks they prefer and recommend, but also, how electrolytes fit into the picture and why they’re important.
If you already wield great knowledge concerning electrolytes and why they matter, then feel free to jump to the ranking section, oh mighty one.
- Defining Electrolytes and Their Functions
- Electrolyte Deficiency
- Replenishing Electrolytes
- Jump to the Ranking
What Are Electrolytes?
Ashlee Van Buskirk owns and operates the fitness and nutrition coaching business Whole Intent.
She received her degree in dietetics and clinical nutrition studies from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2017. She has extensive experience in the fitness industry, performing in body-building competitions and working as a fitness influencer and personal trainer.
Electrolytes, she says, are positively or negatively charged ions that become charged once dissolved in liquid.
“Those electrolytes serve an important purpose for many bodily functions,” she says, such as muscle contraction, heartbeat regulation, nerve impulse conduction, and balancing fluids within the body, among many others.
David McHugh, CEO and founder of My Mixify, a business and blog focused on health, wellness, exercise and fitness, agrees that electrolytes are essential nutrients in the body.
And keeping them balanced is an important part of the health and wellness puzzle, he says.
That’s especially true for athletes, but also for anyone who works out heavily, or even someone who just has a particularly strenuous job, he continues. Electrolytes are also particularly important for anyone on a keto or paleo diet.
And if electrolyte levels in the body become too high or too low, McHugh says, various health problems can occur. “Without electrolytes,” McHugh continues, “we humans could not survive.”
Examples of electrolytes include the following nutrients:
Electrolyte imbalance can include the following symptoms:
- Muscle weakness
- Mental confusion
- Fluctuation in blood pressure
- Muscle spasms
And in some worst-case scenarios, seizures.
“Since our kidneys will filter out excess electrolyte levels if they get too high,” McHugh explains, “low electrolyte levels are far more common, and often the byproduct of exercise” he says.
A Deeper Look at Electrolytes and What They Really Do
For a deeper understanding of electrolytes, consider checking out this short but helpful video. In the video, Dr. Eric Berg explores common electrolytes and what they do.
What are the Symptoms of Low Electrolytes?
While other symptoms may occur, these symptoms represent the major concerns when the body’s electrolytes become depleted.
Since electrolytes manage water balance and nerve health, frequent muscle cramping means it may be time to try an electrolyte-reinforced sports drink, according to registered dietitian Trista Best from Balance One Supplements.
When electrolyte levels drop too low, she says, “muscles will begin to cramp as they experience water imbalance and poor nerve function.”
High Blood Pressure
Best goes on to say that high blood pressure is another common symptom of dangerously low electrolyte levels in the body.
“Electrolytes are particularly responsible for arterial pressure,” Best continues. “Loss of these nutrients can cause poor blood flow due to restriction, which can also lead to high blood pressure,” she says.
GERD (Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease)
GERD can also be caused by low electrolytes, Best continues.
GERD is a condition where stomach acid makes its way up through the esophagus, Best explains. “It is painful and can be quite life-altering,” she says, and those suffering with this condition benefit from drinking low acidic drinks, or any drink that will make the pH of the stomach more basic or alkaline, like a sports drink.
“Some electrolytes can help bring the stomach’s pH back into balance as well, especially potassium,” Best continues. “Coconut milk, unsweetened in particular, is rich in this electrolyte and also soothing to existing burning that may be present,” she says.
Clearly, it’s important to keep your electrolytes balanced. Accomplished by drinking an electrolyte-reinforced sports drink. But should you drink your formula before or after a workout? We’ll answer that question, next.
The Best Way to Replenish Electrolytes
Lisa Richards is a nutritionist and author of The Candida Diet. When replenishing electrolytes, she says to seek out plant waters, of which coconut water or juice is perhaps the most common.
“Plant waters carry with them the benefit of increased electrolytes and some beneficial plant compounds,” Richard explains, with wide-ranging benefits.
“For instance, watermelon water contains potassium as well as beta-carotene, and citrulline,” she says. “Citrulline is needed to make the amino acid, arginine, which is good for blood vessel health.”
In addition to plant waters, here are just some of the many healthy and effective ways to replenish your electrolytes:
- Electrolyte-infused waters
- Electrolyte tablets
But perhaps the most interesting (and flavorful!) means of replenishing electrolytes is through a sports drink.
“Traditional water can become boring over time,” Richards admits, “and other hydrating beverages can be considered,” she says.
How Did We Rank Electrolyte Sports Drinks?
Before presenting our list of the 10 best electrolyte and sport drinks for athletes, we first consulted health and wellness experts.
We wanted to know what makes an electrolyte formula or sports drink work the best in general. Additionally, we wanted to know the signs of inferior products that should be passed on. We arrived at the following methodology to create this ranking:
- We evaluated each product in our list on the following criteria:
- All-natural ingredients
- Electrolyte, nutrient and vitamin blend included
- Available flavors
- Low sugar and caffeine
- Consumer feedback and price
Our methodologies combine to make a thorough and comprehensive ranking of electrolyte sports drinks, that we can’t wait for you to read.
The Best Electrolyte and Sports Drinks for Athletes
In our search for the best hydration supplement, we expected to land on big name brands like LMNT and Liquid IV.
What we did not expect to find was that a new kid on the block had blown these out of the water. SHIFTED Hydration won us over immediately as soon as we read the supplement facts pannel. We were shocked by just how many high quality hydration supporting ingredients they have packed into each serving.
We were concerned that with such a high dose of ingredients and zero sugar the taste might be off as a result.
But we found both the Strawberry Kiwi and Lime Margarita flavors to be thoroughly enjoyable. What stands out most about these flavors is how SHIFTED nailed the ‘refreshing’ aspect of each drink mix. Each flavor tastes like an actual fruity beverage without the chemical aftertastes you’ll encounter in other hydration beverages.
Additionally, we tend to mix our supplement powders with more water than recommended. Even when mixing with 16 ounces of water, we found both flavors to come through amazingly well.
What do you get when you buy SHIFTED Hydration?
- 6 major electrolytes
- Over 3 grams of hydration supporting ingredients per serving
- 1,000 mg of taurine (supports hydration at the cellular level)
- 500 mg coconut water
- 500 mg pomegranate juice
Why did we rank SHIFTED Hydration at the #1 spot?
When we compared SHIFTED Hydration to other big-name hydration supplement brands, we found SHIFTED to be the obvious winner. And we’re not being pedantic here.
When considering the cost of competitors’ products and the amount of hydration supporting ingredients provided, the difference in value is staggering. Here’s what we mean:
- The 30 serving package of LMNT charges about $1.19 per gram of hydration supporting ingredients
- The 16 serving package of Liquid IV charges a whopping $1.79 per gram of hydration support
- SHIFTED charges just $.37 per gram of hydration support
It’s not often that we turn up such clear winners in our supplement reviews, but in this case we can safely say that SHIFTED Hydration is the best electrolyte product on the market. And the sheer strength and value of its formula makes it the stand out option for any athlete, fitness enthusiast, or really anyone who wants to maximize their daily hydration with shockingly clear cost-effectiveness.
- Insane value (2-3 X the amount of hydration support of leading brands at a fraction of the cost)
- Over 3 grams of hydration support per serving
- Amazing taste
- Strong flavors (fixed by mixing with more water)
Liquid I.V. electrolyte powder drink mix represents one of the most popular products of its kind and was a close contender for the number one spot as well.
Liquid IV includes just the right amounts of potassium, sodium, and glucose. And the formula delivers water and other key nutrients directly to the bloodstream, using Cellular Transport Technology (CTT), similar to an actual I.V.
Liquid IV also contains eleven essential minerals and vitamins, including Vitamin C, B3, B5, B6, and B12. The packets come in flavors like passion fruit, and are sold in quantities ranging from eight to 192 packets.
Some sugar is included, but otherwise, you can count on no artificial flavors, and perhaps best of all, for every purchase, Liquid IV donates a packet to someone in need, helping to fight dehydration globally.
- B and C vitamins a bonus
- Using every other day adequate
- Works quickly
- Very expensive in terms of cost per ingredient
- Does contain sugar
- Bit salty for some
LMNT Electrolyte Powder
While SHIFTED Hydration offers superior hydration support and value, LMNT leans more firmly into what may be the most important electrolyte of them all: sodium. So what does LMNT bring to the table?
While not as cost-effective or as robust in its formulation as SHIFTED, LMNT Electrolyte Powder does offer one of the higest doses of sodium on the market. With each serving you’ll get a whopping 1,000mg of sodium. For many fitness enthusiasts though, sodium is the least important electrolyte to seak through supplementation due to high sodium diets being so common in America.
But LMNT offers two other key electrolytes, magnesium (60mg) and potassium (200mg) as well, which certainly improves its appeal. And when compared to Liquid IV, it’s definitely more affordable.
You’ll pay only $1.19 per gram of hydration supporting ingredients, compared to paying $1.79 per gram with Liquid IV. Of course, with Liquid IV you’re paying more for the immune supporting ingredients. So ultimately which product is better for you will come down to your priorities.
If you want a cost effective and great way to supplement sodium, LMNT is your best option! And despite the high dose of sodium, each flavor manages to mask the saltiness with fruity and refreshing flavors that aren’t too sweet either.
- Great flavor options
- Available in many stores
- Huge dose of sodium
- Formula is based mostly on sodium doseage
- Lacks high doses of other hydration supporting ingredients
- Flavors may be overpowering to some
For those looking for a more simplistic electrolyte drink, Body Armor also offers a water-based product.
With BODYARMOR Sportwater, you won’t need to worry about any mixing. This sports drink provides a blend of reverse osmosis water, potassium bicarbonate, calcium chloride, and magnesium chloride in each bottle (available in packs of 12 and 24).
Also setting BODYARMOR apart is a 9+ PH balance and a proprietary electrolyte formula, and there are some nice deals to be had buying it in bulk online. It’s recommended for hot yoga, in particular, and we also like the easy-flip sports cap.
Those who drink the sports water regularly call it the cleanest, most refreshing bottled water they’ve ever tasted, without any aftertaste at all, and alkaline water is even beneficial for acid reflux, according to reports.
- Great taste
- Easy-open bottles
- Great hydration
- Bit pricey
- Issue with broken bottle seals
- Shipping damage reported
Daylyte Electrolyte Drops
DayLyte provides keto-approved electrolyte drops, sourced from trace seat minerals with no gluten, shellfish, sweeteners, yeast, starch, wheat, soy, milk, or eggs. For that reason, DayLyte could be the best electrolyte brand for anyone with allergies or food sensitivities.
With each drop you’ll get a dose of calcium, magnesium, zinc, chloride, sodium, potassium, and more – all essential trace minerals, and each bottle contains 39 servings. Though the lemon flavor is available, there is a flavorless option. Just add it to water, or any juice or nutritional shake of your choice without noticing a difference. Flavored or not, DayLyte Products are sugar-free.
The drops do contain trace amounts of iodine, however, but otherwise, some consumers found these drops effective for treating chronic leg cramps, and we were also encouraged by reports that in the opinion of consumers, they’re the best electrolyte supplement on the market.
- Dropper adds “just a little”
- Good for pre-workouts
- Rehydrates quickly
- Makes water a bit salty
- Some detect a flavor
- Some don’t like lemon flavor
NOOMA Organic Sport Energy Drink
Though the next product in our ranking, Nooma organic sports energy drink, contains some caffeine, it’s otherwise made from organic, keto and paleo-friendly, non-GMO, gluten-free, and vegan ingredients.
The 120 mg of caffeine included comes from organic green tea, and the electrolytes from watermelon water, and Himalayan pink salt, with an adaptogen blend of cordyceps, ashwagandha, maca, and ginseng — all known to boost endurance, cognition, focus, and help reduce stress. In other words, Nooma offers an electrolyte-energy drink hybrid.
With 15 calories per can, and available in flavors like dragon fruit, lemon-lime, and tangerine, among others, fans of this pre-workout drink say NOOMA improved their morning workouts, with no jitters or upset stomach.
Best of all, it tastes great, with no aftertaste, according to reports. It’s also a good choice for morning runs, hikes, and bike rides, and gentle on stomachs normally sensitive to caffeine, some say. The drink does make some people too jittery, however.
- Nice flavor variety
- Slow building energy
- Not super sweet
- Flavors not for everyone
- Includes stevia
- Some shipping issues, reported
For a clean burst of electrolytes with the kind of hydration that can only come from clean water, choose Essentia, the next product in our ranking.
Purified by reverse osmosis, this super-charged ionized water includes sodium bicarbonate, dipotassium phosphate, magnesium sulfate, calcium chloride, and other electrolytes. It’s sold in 20-ounce bottles and created in a three-step proprietary process.
We also like that Essentia offers a 9.5 Ph balance — a great option for anyone suffering GERD, and all the water is sourced in the U.S. Those who’ve tried Essentia call it clean and refreshing, and effective when reducing lactic acid in muscles.
Also worth mentioning, the flip top and mouthpiece on the bottles make active rehydration easy and convenient.
- Easy to drink bottles
- Counterbalance to acidic diet
- Great for gym or dog walks
- Frequently bootlegged
- Bit pricey
- Caps not for everyone
Made by Gatorade, Bolt24 takes the next spot on our ranking. Full of antioxidants, as well as 100% of our recommended daily intake of vitamins A and C, Bolt24’s formula excludes all artificial sweeteners or flavors. Electrolytes come from watermelon and sea salt.
Bolt24 also works as a great source for crucial vitamins like B3, B5, and B6. Try the energize blend with an additional 75 mg of caffeine if you want to double down on the energizing effects.
Those who love say they stayed away from Gatorade products due to high sugar content, but when Bolt24 was released — sweetened with stevia and cane sugar — they were pleased with the outcome.
- Tastes better than Gatorade
- Pretty affordable
- Good source of potassium
- Flavors not for everyone
- Not good room temp
- Upset an empty stomach
BIOLYTE Electrolyte Drink
The last electrolyte and sports drink on our ranking comes from BIOLYTE. This keto-friendly blend rehydrates using two different salts, just like an IV. The formula also delivers a great source for natural amino acids like L-Carnitine, as well as vitamins B3, B5, B6, and B12.
With only about 11 grams net sugar in each 16 fl oz bottle, sugar isn’t much of a concern with BIOLYTE and the sugars that are included come from dextrose and erythritol, known for facilitating electrolyte consumption and boosting mood and energy without spiking blood sugar levels.
Physician formulated, reports say that BIOLYTE provides a great source of hydration and even relieves some flu symptoms like nausea, making us confident this drink should be included in any list of the best sports drinks. It also comes in delicious berry and citrus flavors.
- Relieves chemo symptoms
- Helps with leg cramps
- Great in hot weather
- Too salty for some
- Better cold than room temp
- Best results, drink whole bottle
After surveying 10 of the best electrolyte and sports drinks for athletes in 2022, you may have some lingering questions, a few of which we hope to answer in our next FAQ section.
Just click the question in blue for a drop-down answer!