Electrolyte Powders 101

Updated on January 14th, 2022

Electrolyte Powders help keep our body nourished with essential minerals needed for muscular performance. Water is only half of the battle against dehydration, we need electrolytes too. Electrolyte Replacements are typically added to water and come in tons of different forms, flavors, minerals, packaging, and ingredients.

We tested the electrolyte powders that are available on the market today along with some other forms of electrolyte replacements and compiled a list of the best electrolyte powders which also includes the best electrolyte tablet and the best electrolyte capsule. Lets jump in.

ultima replenisher scooped

Calories per serving Sugar per serving Electrolytes Type Price per serving
Nuun Tabs 15kcal 1g Ca, Na, K, Mag, and Cl. Tablet $0.60
Skratch Labs Hydration Mix 80kcal 19g Ca, Na, K, and Mag. Powder $1.00
Ultima Replenisher Mix 0kcal 0g Ca, Na, K, Pi, Mag, and Cl Powder $1.05
LMNT Electrolyte Drink Mix 5kcal 0g Ca, Na, K, and Mag. Powder $1.50
Salt Stick Caps 0kcal 0g Ca, Na, K, and Mag. Pill $0.22
GU Hydration Drink Mix 250kcal  16g Na and K Powder $1.88
Tailwind Endurance Fuel 200kcal 25g Ca, Na, K, and Mag. Powder $2.5
Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier Electrolyte Powder 45kcal 11g Na, K, and Pi. Powder $2.5
Hydrant Hydrate Electrolyte Drink Mix 20-25kcal 3-4g Na, K, and Mag. Powder $1.43
Hi-Lyte Electrolyte Powder 0kcal 0g Ca, Na, K, and Cl. Powder $0.50
Dr Price Electrolyte Mix 5kcal  0g Ca, Na, K, and Mag. Powder $1.21

10 Best electrolyte replacements

*Note we intentionally excluded Vega, Gatorade, Powerade, Propel for various reasons.

best electrolyte replacement drink, powders, supplements and tablets

NUUN - TABLETS

Type: Tablet

Calories: 15kcal per tablet

Sugar: 1g

Electrolytes: Calcium (Ca), Sodium (Na), Potassium (K), Magnesium (Mag), and Chloride (Cl).

Price: $35.88 (60 tabs)

Why we like it: Easy to use to use on-the-go.

Drop a tablet in your bottle and watch it fizz away. 10 Nuun tablets come in each convenient pop-top bottle. Only 1 g of sugar per tablet. They champion simple ingredients and include fruit powders and leaf extracts. There are several variations ranging from 10-60 calories, optional caffeine, flavors, and electrolyte combinations.

See Nuun


best electrolyte replacement drink, powders, supplements and tablets

SKRATCH LABS - MIX

Type: Powder

Calories: 80kcal per serving

Sugar: 19g

Electrolytes: Calcium (Ca), Sodium (Na), Potassium (K), and Magnesium (Mag).

Price: $19.81 (20 servings)

Why we like it: Best full spectrum electrolyte replacement

Dubbed the "all natural sports drink" - Skratch Labs is a tasty option to mix or shake into a sports drink. Each serving contains 80 calories and 20 grams of sugar. Depending on your needs, these high levels could be a deal breaker or music to your ears. Naturally flavored by real fruit.

See Skratch


best electrolyte replacement drink, powders, supplements and tablets

ULTIMA REPLENISHER - MIX

Type: Powder

Calories: 0kcal

Sugar: 0g

Electrolytes: Calcium (Ca), Sodium (Na), Potassium (K), Phosphate (Pi), Magnesium (Mag), and Chloride (Cl).

Price: $20.99 (20 servings)

Why we like it: Best Value - has the most electrolytes (6). Best sugar-free full spectrum electrolyte replacement. 

Another great all-natural energy mix in easy packets. The best thing about Ultima Replenisher is the long list of electrolytes, vitamins and minerals that are provided. They prioritized Magnesium over Sodium even more than LyteShow. Therefore, note this is a low Sodium mix. Also there are 0 calories and 0 g of sugar.

See Ultima Replenisher


best electrolyte replacement drink, powders, supplements and tablets

LMNT

Type: Powder

Calories: 5kcal per serving

Sugar: 0g

Electrolytes: Calcium (Ca), Sodium (Na), Potassium (K), and Magnesium (Mag).

Price: $45 (30 servings)

Why we like it: Best for hot environments thanks to high sodium content.

Tasty, sugarless, and made from all-natural ingredients, a single-serving LMNT packet has 1000mg sodium, 200mg potassium, and 60mg magnesium which over doubles the amounts found in average electrolyte drinks. The mix creates a “recharge” drink that replenishes the body, keeping energy levels high and brain fog away. LMNT is recommended for athletes or any following a low-carb, keto, or paleo lifestyle where sodium and electrolytes are easier excreted.

See LMNT


best electrolyte replacement drink, powders, supplements and tablets

SALT STICK - CAPSULES

Type: Pill

Calories: 0kcal

Sugar: 0g

Electrolytes: Calcium (Ca), Sodium (Na), Potassium (K), and Magnesium (Mag).

Price: $21.95 (100 caps)

Why we like it: Best option for scheduled dosages. Significantly cheaper than electrolyte powders ($0.22 per serving).

Not as fun or tasty to consume as other replacements on the list. Depending on your activity, the pill form could be the easiest option. These tablets provide dense levels of four main electrolytes - Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium. Don't count on much else though.

See Salt Stick


best electrolyte replacement drink, powders, supplements and tablets

GU ENERGY - MIX

Type: Powder

Calories: 250kcal per serving

Sugar: 16g

Electrolytes: Sodium (Na) and Potassium (K)

Price: $45 (24 servings)

Why we like it: It's the highest in calories and isn't too sweet.

GU mainly focuses on gels, but also offers some seriously tasty energy drink mixes for endurance athletes. Most servings provide around 70 calories and 9 grams of sugar. Others (like Roctane) get up to a whopping 250 calories and 16 grams of sugar. Also available with caffeine and in packets.

See GU


Tailwind Nutrition - best electrolyte replacement drink, powders, supplements and tablets

TAILWIND NUTRITION - ENDURANCE FUEL

Type: Powder

Calories: 100kcal per serving

Sugar: 25g

Electrolytes: Calcium (Ca), Sodium (Na), Potassium (K), and Magnesium (Mag).

Price: $20 (8 servings)

Why we like it: Best for a fast-acting energy boost and it's easy on the stomach.

Mix this with water, shake, and now you have a relatively high-calorie drink complete with electrolytes for hydration. No artificial ingredients added. Enjoy its variety of light, refreshing flavors minus the "gut bomb". There is also a caffeinated option available.

See Tailwind Nutrition


best electrolyte replacement drink, powders, supplements and tablets

LIQUID IV

Type: Powder

Calories: 45kcal per serving

Sugar: 11g

Electrolytes:  Sodium (Na), Potassium (K), and Phosphate (Pi).

Price: $24.47 (16 servings)

Why we like it: Best caffeine alternative thanks to B-Vitamins.

Each single-serving stick of this natural rink mix is equal to drinking 2-3 bottles of water and triple the electrolytes of a sports drink. The drink is designed using “CTT” (Cellular Transport Technology), which is a rationed amount of nutrients, non-GMO sugar, and mined salt for speedy energy and rehydration. Some users have claimed dehydration relief in under 30 minutes! Liquid IV has no fake ingredients and they match each purchase by donating a serving to someone in need.

See Liquid IV


Hydrant Hydrate Electrolyte Drink Mix

Hydrant Hydrate Electrolyte Drink Mix

Type: Powder

Calories: 20-25kcal per serving

Sugar: 3-4g

Electrolytes: Sodium (Na), Potassium (K), and Magnesium (Mag).

Price: $42.95 (30 servings)

Why we like it: These are available in more flavors than other electrolyte powders.

Hydrant Hydrate Electrolyte Mix really focused on their flavors. With 14 flavors, and 3 without any added sugar there are plenty of opportunities to switch it up. They only use 3g or 4g of sugar and the sugar-free options use all-natural monk fruit extract and only contain 10 calories. With every flavor using real fruit juice, they also contain 260mg of sodium, 30mg of magnesium, 200mg of potassium and 2mg of zinc. They do tend to be on the more neutral flavor side so if you want more of a concentrated flavor, we suggest going with 12oz of water rather than 16oz.

See Hydrant Hydrate


Hi-Lyte Electrolyte Powder

Hi-Lyte Electrolyte Powder

Type: Powder

Calories: 0kcal

Sugar: 0g

Electrolytes: Calcium (Ca), Sodium (Na), Potassium (K), and Chloride (Cl).

Price: $44.99 (90 servings)

Why we like it: Most affordable electrolyte powder at only $0.50 per serving.

If you are planning your next thru-hike or ultra-endurance activity Hi-Lyte Electrolyte Powder is your best option. At the best price per serving, it’s the clear winner for multi-month hikes and ensuring you meet your daily balance of electrolytes. With no sugar, 160mg of sodium, 310mg of potassium and 78mg of calcium it works great for those long days under the sun. With such a high sugar content in most energy bars it is a nice option to have a sugar free drink. And with each scoop only weighing 3.5g it keeps the weight down for the long stretches.

See Hi-Lyte


Dr Price Electrolyte Mix

Dr. Price Electrolyte Mix

Type: Powder

Calories: 5kcal per serving

Sugar: 0g

Electrolytes: Calcium (Ca), Sodium (Na), Potassium (K), and Magnesium (Mag).

Price: $36.33 (30 servings)

Why we like it: Fastest dissolving.

Dr. Price Electrolyte Mix focuses on replenishing the two main electrolytes by having 200mg of sodium and 330 mg of potassium. There are also over 70 other trace elements at lower levels to keep you from getting dehydrated and to keep your muscles healthy. The packets are quite small and only contain 2.7g each so they dissolve remarkably fast compared to some of the high-calorie options listed above. As it is a sugar free option there is some stevia extract for a bit of sweetness. If you are looking for a larger option, it is also available in a 90-serving container with a scoop.

See Dr. Price


Types of Electrolyte Replacements

POWDER: LIGHTWEIGHT AND EASY TO DISSOLVE

Electrolyte powder is easier to dissolve than tablets, however some powders dissolve better than others. Additionally, they don’t require fancy blending. They’re sold in bulk or boxes of single-serving packets that are often flavored, which is great in disguising the taste of “less-than-fresh” water. Powders also allow you to cater to your taste a bit more. If you are looking for more or less flavor you can adjust your ratio, something you can’t really do with tablets. On the downside, you’ll need at least 8 oz of clean water (usually more). Also, no matter how hard you shake or stir, there’s always some powdery stuff that gets left behind.


tailwind electrolytes in a bag


TABLET: EASY TO USE BUT GENERALLY MORE EXPENSIVE

Packed in durable cases, tablets are easy to use. Just drop, fizz, wait and drink. No stirring or shaking required. They’re also known to be easier to digest for sensitive stomachs. Tablets can run more expensive compared to purchasing bulk powders. You also have to wait for tablets to dissolve.


drinking electrolytes


SUPPLEMENT PILL: VERY EFFECTIVE BUT MAY CAUSE SIDE EFFECTS

Pills (i.e. salt tablets) are convenient, lightweight, and packable. You can take them anywhere and you can pop them on-the-go throughout a long-distance activity. Pills also relieve cramps, nausea, dizziness, and other early effects of dehydration super-fast. Note that some may experience stomach irritation, bloating, or other digestive issues as a side effect. Pills may also cause you to become thirstier, so you’ll need to up your water intake, which can end up diluting the pills.


ELECTROLYTE DRINK: BULKY, WASTEFUL AND MOSTLY UNHEALTHY

You can buy electrolyte drinks anywhere—gas stations, convenience shops, grocery stores. They’re inexpensive, pre-made, and ready-to-drink. However, they are bulky and inconvenient to carry long distances. They’re also single-use and typically loaded with unnecessary sugars and preservatives. Many have as much sugar as a can of soda.


different types of electrolyte replacements - powder, drink, pill and tab


Other Considerations

TRACE MINERALS: A NICE SIDE BENEFIT

If you’re unsure if you’re getting enough electrolytes, then you can request an Electrolyte Profile. These tests measure carbon dioxide, chloride, potassium, and sodium in your blood to see how your body's performing.

Along with adequate electrolytes, we also need plenty of minerals to keep us going.

Electrolytes qualify as “macro-minerals” which we need a larger amount of. But to keep our muscles, bones, and brains healthy, our bodies also require “micro-minerals” or “trace minerals”.

Trace Minerals include the following (Min. requirement listed):

  • Chromium: 25-35 mcg
  • Copper: 900 mcg
  • Iodine: 150 mcg
  • Iron: 8-18 mg
  • Manganese: 1.5-2.5 mg
  • Selenium: 55 mcg
  • Zinc: 8-11 mg

Salt stick's trace minerals


SUGAR VS SWEETENERS: 

Sugar, and particularly glucose, is the easiest and fastest way for our body to create energy. It also helps our bodies absorb liquids quicker into our bloodstream. The main issue with sugar is maintaining our blood sugar levels. If we are too low in blood sugar we will “bonk”, the feeling of hitting a wall, as our bodies are shutting down.

Our bodies all have a unique balance of burning available sugar through our diet and burning fat stores in our body. Many people forgo sugar to avoid the immediate, short-lasting boost we get from it and instead want to focus on longer term endurance energy levels.


drinking electrolytes


Natural sweeteners allow us to have that sweet taste without the physiological effects of sugar intake. There are a variety of natural sweeteners now available, with the most popular being Stevia and monk fruit extract.
Artificial sweeteners can be a bit harder to digest and can cause headaches, heartburn, and GI issues. Avoid artificial sweeteners in your electrolyte replacements or you may run into some side-effects out in the field. Some of the most popular being Sucralose and Aspartame.


CAFFEINE: 

Several electrolyte replacements will have caffeinated options. There have been numerous studies that have shown caffeine intake improving aerobic endurance performance. However, large doses of caffeine can increase your risk of dehydration so make sure you keep the caffeine levels low and are staying hydrated. Caffeinated options are usually only used for activities lasting 3+ hours.

Some caffeine alternatives for energy boosts are taurine, guarana and vitamin B-12.


electrolyte-replacement-ingredient-labels


CLEAN LABEL: KEEP IT NATURAL

A LOT of replacements for sale are chemically fortified, contain heavily refined sugars, artificial sweeteners (like harmful aspartame) and artificial coloring. 

Re-fuel with natural, clean products without colorants, fillers, nitrates, high fructose syrup, glucose, artificial flavors, and sweeteners. Or really anything that sounds like a chemical.

Also, try to avoid drinks with too much sugar. A small amount of sugar isn’t a bad thing though. Our bodies and bloodstreams absorb liquids quicker when a small level of sugar is present.

Sugar-free options are okay as long as they’re clean. If they’re not, they’re often stocked with artificial sweeteners and preservatives that cause headaches, heartburn, and GI issues.


gu electrolytes in a bag


CALORIES: YOU'LL NEED THEM WHEN HIKING

Electrolyte replacements range from 0 to 100’s of calories.

The higher calorie options are a solid choice when your energy levels need an extra boost—like during long active stretches, where your body could use a pick-me-up. High-calorie electrolyte drinks can give your body calories that it can convert to energy, all while you keep moving.


DISSOLVABILITY: HOW EASY IT IS TO DISSOLVE

There is a huge range of dissolvability in electrolyte replacements. Tablets tend to take the longest as it is one solid pill, decreasing the surface area with the water. Powders dissolve the fastest, meaning you can start drinking only a few seconds after adding the powder. Typically, the more calories or larger the scoop, the longer it takes to dissolve.


FLAVOR: CONSIDERATIONS AND OPTIONS

There are tons of different flavors, and you can be sure to find your favorite. Some of the high-sugar and high-calorie options will have a lot of flavor, others focus on just adding a hint of flavor to make it easier to drink. With powders and tablets you can adjust your water ratio to find the perfect balance to fit your taste. A few companies have recently started making flavorless options, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have taste. Flavorless electrolyte replacements typically just taste slightly salty and have a bit of a mineral taste which can sometimes be easier if you are immediately downing the whole thing.


hiker-pouring-electrolyte-powder-packet-into-water


PACKAGING: CONVENIENCE AND COST

Of the three options available: tablets, powders and pills, packaging should be a consideration for powders. You can toss tablets right into your water and pills can quickly be swallowed. Powders can either be individual packets or in a container with a scoop. Containers with scoops are usually cheaper per serving but aren’t very convenient in the field. For constant use on endurance activities powder packets, tablets and pills are ideal.


PRICE: PRICE PER SERVING

It is important to think about the intended purpose and activity when assessing the cost of electrolyte replacements. Price per serving can cost anywhere from $.50 to upwards of $3.00, understanding the difference in cost is essential. The higher calorie options will rival that of an energy bar while also offering hydration specific electrolytes. Considering the cost of most energy bars are over $2.00 this can be a cost-effective way of hitting your caloric and electrolyte intake in one shot. For shorter activities or simply focusing on hydrating there are excellent options at less than $1.00 per serving.


hiker-drinking-electrolyte-powder


Why Electrolyte Replacements

We lose electrolytes when we lose bodily fluids—dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting, etc. During exercise and intense physical activity, we lose large amounts of electrolytes through sweating.

ALL of our common electrolytes are depleted when we sweat. Sweat is mostly water which makes hydration essential. However, sweat also contains large amounts of sodium and chloride as well as small amounts of potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphate and bicarbonate. Go for a long run on a hot day or hike up a big mountain and you can sweat out a huge amount of these electrolytes.

Losing too many electrolytes will lead to an imbalance. An improper balance can cause headaches, muscle cramps, fatigue, dehydration and even seizures. Going for an extended period of time with an imbalance can lead to some seriously nasty problems like this long list of deadly diseases.


salt-stick-electrolyte-replacement


5 Main Electrolytes

There are a lot of electrolytes—mainly salts, acids and bases. However, there are only a handful that naturally occur in body fluid. These are:



CALCIUM (Ca):
 Critical to maintaining general bone health, an important consideration with the constant stress backpacking, cycling, running, etc places on your bones. Calcium also ensures your blood properly clots - very important when cut. Calcium is naturally present in cheese, yogurt and milk.



POTASSIUM (K):
 This mineral is essential for a lot of organs to function properly, including regulating your heartbeat and kidneys. It also helps with maintain fluid levels, ph balance, and prevent muscle cramps. Potassium is naturally present in bananas, coconut water, dates, sweet potatoes, and avocados.


SODIUM (Na): Sodium is vital in regulating body fluid volumes. Specifically, regulating water levels, blood pressure and blood volume. The major positively charged ion - called "cation". Sodium is naturally present in salt (particularly sea salt), chicken, beets, and pickles.


best electrolyte replacement label instructions and ingredients


CHLORIDE (Cl): Works hand in hand with Sodium in regulating your body fluid as well as cell balance. The major negative charged ion - called "anion". Chloride is naturally present in salt (particular sea salt), seaweed, celery, and tomatoes.



MAGNESIUM (Mg):
 Acts a vehicle in transporting other electrolytes like potassium and calcium through cell membranes. Makes it crucial for the nervous and muscular systems as well as well heart rhythm. Magnesium is naturally present in spinach and leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and dark chocolate.


Other important electrolytes are Bicarbonate (HCO3) and Phospate (HPO4). See all FDA recommended daily values.


ultima-electrolyte-powder-label


NATURAL DRINK OPTIONS

bottle of natural electrolyte replacement - coconut water

1. COCONUT WATER: Coconut water is often called "nature's Gatorade" and contains an array of essential electrolyte minerals like potassium, sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Coconut Water also naturally has more potassium than a banana. 

2. FRUIT JUICES: Fruit Juices (Orange, Watermelon) have high sources of magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium along with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

3. SMOOTHIES: Lastly, smoothies are a healthy pre- or post-workout meal/snack that provides a great dose of electrolytes from fruits and veggies. You can add a dash of salt (you won’t even taste it) for an additional 150 mg of sodium.


How to Use

Dosage

The rate at which an individual loses electrolytes varies drastically. Activity, intensity, humidity, elevation, gender and weight all play a role in depletion rates which makes estimations so difficult and relatively, inaccurate. We also sweat with varying concentration levels of electrolytes. That being said, for sodium, a general rule of thumb is to replace 80-240 mg per hour. See another depletion study.

For endurance activities like long-distance backpacking, running, and cycling, most athletes consume electrolytes before, during, AND after activity. Note you may not need to proactively replace electrolytes if you are doing moderate physical or are active for less than an hour.


best electrolyte replacement powder in nalgene


Potential Side Effects

Too much of anything is bad news, and this rule applies to hydrating and consuming electrolytes, too. Overdo it and you’ll flush your system of valuable nutrients and be in a whole world of problems.

Take sodium, for example. Salt is already in many everyday foods, so it's easy to get too much which can cause bloating, kidney stones and even increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Overconsumption of other electrolytes like calcium, magnesium, and potassium can result in laxative effects and nausea, lethargy, headaches, confusion, and even affect heart and muscle functions.

To stay within the proper levels of hydration, it’s recommended to drink two cups of fluid a few hours before exercise, 4-6 oz every half-hour throughout an activity, and at least 12 oz of water following exercise.


📷 Some of the photos in this post were taken by Jonathan Davis (@meowhikes)

Katie Licavoli photo

About Katie Licavoli

By Katie Licavoli: Katie Licavoli is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast who specializes in articles, blog posts, gear reviews, and site content about living the Good Life spent exploring The Great Outdoors. Her favorite days are ones in nature, and her favorite views are any with mountains.

About Greenbelly

After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

Affiliate disclosure: We aim to provide honest information to our readers. We do not do sponsored or paid posts. In exchange for referring sales, we may receive a small commission through affiliate links. This post may contain affiliate links. This comes at no extra cost to you.
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