The Best Electrolyte & Sports Drinks for Athletes in 2021

The 10 Best Electrolyte & Sports Drinks for Athletes

Electrolytes should be replenished both before and after workouts.

If you consider yourself a fitness enthusiast, then you probably already know the importance of proper hydration. Properly hydrating allows your body to maximize the effectiveness of workouts, while also boosting the recovery process afterwards.

And in 2022, 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. Finding the right hydration-support might provide the boost you need to take your exercise routines to the next level.

Continue reading to find our choices for the best electrolyte formulas and sports drinks on the market.

The Electrolyte & Sports Drinks We RAVE About

LMNT Electrolyte Drink Mix
Best Overall
LMNT Electrolyte Drink Mix
BODYARMOR SportWater
Best Electrolyte Sports Water
BODYARMOR SportWater
Daylyte Electrolyte Drops
Best Electrolyte Drops
Daylyte Electrolyte Drops

In this article, we will take your through the ends and outs of the science behind top-tier electrolyte and sport drink formulation. And which products offer the highest levels of value and quality. For those looking for a quick recommendation, consider the product we chose to fill the ‘number 1’ position of this ranking.

To get back in the game as quickly as possible, choose LMNT Electrolyte Drink Mix, RAVE Reviews’ pick for 2022’s best electrolyte and sports drink for athletes. This drink mix offers everything you need: high levels of potassium and all-natural flavors.

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.

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 chemicals and nutrients:

  • Potassium, 
  • Magnesium
  • Sodium
  • Calcium

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. 

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.

Muscle Cramps 

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
  • Milk

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.

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

We believe that all of this combined makes 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

1

LMNT Electrolyte Drink Mix

Whether you’re on a keto, low-carb, or paleo diet, or simply seeking an electrolyte recharge before or after your workout, look no further than LMNT for the best electrolyte and sports drinks for athletes.

LMNT variety packs include just what you need: 1000 mg sodium, 200 mg potassium, and 60 mg magnesium, without any of the stuff you don’t need–like sugars, fillers, or artificial flavors and ingredients. 

With all-natural flavors like orange salt, raspberry salt, and citrus salt, as well as stevia leaf extract, simply mix a packet into your drink of choice for best results, both before and after exercise, or to combat low-carb fatigue and keto fog.

One fan of the product reports using it after daily workouts, noticing fewer headaches, and another enjoyed mental improvement and better hydration after four hours of hard training.

Pros

  • Half-pack works well for some
  • Good flavors
  • Easy to mix

Cons

  • Too salty for some
2

Liquid IV

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. 

Pros

  • B and C vitamins a bonus
  • Using every other day adequate
  • Works quickly

Cons

  • Some flavors too sweet
  • Does contain sugar
  • Bit salty for some
3

Kaged Hydra Charge

This formula contains tree nuts, an allergen to many, which contributes to the powder landing third in our list. Kaged Hydra otherwise includes a solid formula of all-natural ingredients like taurine and coconut water powder. You’ll also notice the inclusion of unusual ingredient, onion extract.

What sets this formula apart is that it not only delivers electrolytes but also antioxidants through Spectra, a high-ORAC antioxidant blend providing a nutrient-rich combination of fruit, veggie and botanical extracts.

Flavors range from orange mango to pink lemonade, all without added sweeteners or masking agents. 

We were particularly encouraged by reports Kaged Hydra tastes great, with some adding it’s the best workout supplement they’ve ever tried. It is best to take before exercise, however, according to reports.

Pros

  • Mixes well, no clumps
  • Hydrates well
  • Full spectrum of antioxidants

Cons

  • Chemical aftertaste, some say
  • Too sweet for many
  • Bit spendy
4

BODYARMOR SportWater

With BODYARMOR, 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.

Pros

  • Great taste
  • Easy-open bottles
  • Great hydration

Cons

  • Bit pricey
  • Issue with broken bottle seals
  • Shipping damage reported
5

Daylyte Electrolyte Drops

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.

Pros

  • Dropper adds “just a little”
  • Good for pre-workouts
  • Rehydrates quickly

Cons

  • Makes water a bit salty
  • Some detect a flavor
  • Some don’t like lemon flavor
6

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.

Pros

  • Nice flavor variety
  • Slow building energy
  • Not super sweet

Cons

  • Flavors not for everyone
  • Includes stevia
  • Some shipping issues, reported
7

Essentia Water

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.

Pros

  • Easy to drink bottles
  • Counterbalance to acidic diet
  • Great for gym or dog walks

Cons

  • Frequently bootlegged
  • Bit pricey
  • Caps not for everyone
8

HOIST Premium Hydration Electrolyte Drink

When the U.S. military supports a sports drink, it must be something special. As is the case with HOIST, the next electrolyte sports drink in our ranking. 

HOIST tastes a bit sugary to some, so that’s something to be aware of. Otherwise, it contains all-natural flavors, as well as calcium lactate gluconate, potassium phosphate, and dextrose. The drink gets its flavor from stevia and salt.

The sodium and potassium effectively combat dehydration. It also tastes great, with flavors like strawberry lemonade. 

Those who recommend HOIST call it a fantastic beverage, with no unnecessary ingredients — a great source of electrolytes that tastes great too. Some call the strawberry lemonade flavor too acidic, however.

Pros

  • Treats low sodium levels
  • Good deals on Amazon
  • Orange flavor recommended

Cons

  • Contains salt and sugar
  • Bit expensive
  • Taste not for everyone
9

Bolt24

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.

Pros

  • Tastes better than Gatorade
  • Pretty affordable
  • Good source of potassium

Cons

  • Flavors not for everyone
  • Not good room temp
  • Upset an empty stomach
10

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.

Pros

  • Relieves chemo symptoms
  • Helps with leg cramps
  • Great in hot weather

Cons

  • 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 section.

Should I Drink Electrolytes Before or After Workout?

Anyone who sweats heavily, works out vigorously, or urinates a lot should consider replenishing their electrolytes before, after, and even sometimes during a workout. 

Personal trainer Ashlee Van Buskirk says failing to have the proper balance of electrolytes in your system prior to a workout can impede, or even negatively impact both your exercise and your health.

“You’ll also have greater difficulty achieving peak performance because you are not properly hydrated and you lack the right amounts of electrolytes,” she says. 

It’s also equally important to replenish your electrolytes after working out, she continues.

“Your body likely lost a decent amount of electrolytes during exercise,” she says, and you’ll need to replace those lost ions. 

“The body is one big connected system, so your electrolyte levels can have big ripple effects across your entire body,” she adds. “It’s better to re-hydrate and replenish those electrolytes quickly after your workout to aid in your recovery.”

Do You Really Need Sports Drinks?

As we’ve established, electrolytes are important, and these crucial nutrients are easily depleted through exercise or just even particularly strenuous work. 

There are natural ways to replenish your electrolytes without buying energy or sports drinks though. 

This may leave you wondering, do you really even need a sports drink to keep your electrolytes in balance? 

Many sports and energy drinks, after all, are pretty high in sugar and calories, so read the labels carefully before choosing yours. 

Otherwise, here’s how to decide if a sports or energy drink could be the perfect addition to your workout routine:

If you work out for more than an hour, consider rehydrating with a low-sugar, low-calorie sports or energy drink. 

A good rule of thumb, in fact, is to consume a 20-oz. drink for every hour of exercise, starting after your first hour of exercise. If you’re working out any less than that, chances are you can get by on water alone, or water supplemented only with some additional plant material, like coconut water.

“Plant waters carry with them the benefit of increased electrolytes and some beneficial plant compounds,” nutritionist Lise Richards explained. “Electrolytes aid in proper hydration which may be necessary for those with physically demanding jobs, high-intensity exercisers, or simply for a day at the beach.”

Otherwise, here are some ingredients to stay away from when selecting a sports drink:

  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Sucrose
  • High-fructose corn syrup

And speaking of sugar, “energy drinks” should be avoided or consumed only in moderation. Drinks of this sort are often so high in sugar and caffeine, they’re detrimental to your health, even when consumed in limited quantities.