Electrolytes are chemicals that break down to electrically conductive particles when they are mixed with other solvents.
In simple terms, electrolytes help cells remove waste and continue to receive their essential nutrition.
What does this mean for triathletes, runners, cyclists and other endurance athletes?
When we exercise and sweat, we lose nearly all of our electrolytes. Other factors play into how much and how fast we lose electrolytes such as intensity level, humidity, elevation, weight, and even your gender.
Replenishing our electrolytes is crucial especially if we’re competing in an Olympic, half or full Ironman distance triathlon. These races can last hours and we’re putting our bodies through so much.
In this article, I’ll give you a buyer’s guide to finding the best electrolyte replacement for you and even provide a list of the top rated.
Take a look at what type of electrolyte replacements are available to you!
Top Rated Electrolyte Replacements in 2020
1. Nuun Active Hydration Variety Pack
This electrolyte replacement is a tablet and is put into at least 16 oz. of water in order to be activated.
The tablets make it easy to carry around your electrolyte replacement and aren’t anything new to your routine. All you do is add the tablet to your water instead of taking plain water with you onto the course.
If you’re worried about shaking up your hydration routine, then tablets might be the best way for you to replace your electrolytes.
What sets these tablets apart from others on the market are these following features:
- The variety pack comes in six different flavors, each one containing a different one
- The flavors offered: Citrus Fruit, Kona Cola, Lemon/Lime, and Tri-Berry
- There are no added sugars or carbohydrates in NUUN products like sports drinks
- The tablet tubes are small and are easy to carry around in a backpack or small bag for race days
For race day or training day, all you need to do is put one tablet in at 16 oz. water bottle, wait 2 minutes, and done! You’ll have all the hydration and electrolyte replacement you’ll need.
It’s really easy to use and it’s like you have flavored water with an extra boost.
I’d recommend this to any triathlete who highly values a vegan and gluten-free option. These might be one of the tastier options for you. If you’re someone who doesn’t want the extra sugars from sports drinks this is also a good option for you.
I also recommend these tablets since they are easy to use and work within minutes of dropping one in water.
2. GU Energy Roctane Ultra Endurance Energy Mix Drink
The energy mix drink tries to be at crossroads between energy and hydration with its blend of amino acids and electrolytes-all on top of being tasty.
This is a carbohydrate intense drink mix that is specifically designed for ultra-distance triathletes or if you’re doing an intense and long training session.
There is a mix of simple and complex carbohydrates in the electrolyte replacement that are prime for quick absorption and give you a boost of energy. All while giving your stomach very little disturbances.
The essential electrolytes such as sodium are replaced and help you maintain your hydration while you kick through those finishing miles on the bike or run.
GU also formulated their energy mix drink with special types of amino acids that work together to maintain heart rate, improve muscle fatigue, and help fuel your body overall.
For your best results, it is recommended to use the mix with 21 oz. of water and drink a bottle of water with this mixture per hour.
This energy mix drink is also made with all vegan ingredients, but they may not be the healthiest or most natural. Just check the label if this element is important to you.
I’d recommend this product to half Ironman distances and up because its formula mixes its amino acids and electrolytes well to keep you hydrated and fueled to the last mile. There is little “maintenance” to the energy mix, just put a scoop in your water bottle and you’re good to go!
3. Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Energy Drink Mix
Tailwind is one of the top-rated all-natural sports drink mix on the market now and might be a good option for you. On top of using all natural ingredients, the mix formula is gluten free, soy free, dairy free, and vegan.
Tailwind makes their energy drink mix easy to use. Simply put a serving in your water bottle, shake it, and you’re ready to go. The mix dissolves almost instantly once it lands in your water bottle. You might not even need additional nutrition such as gels, bars, chews, or pills with this secret weapon on course with you.
Since the Tailwind makes this product both vegan and soy free, it might be a safe bet if you have a sensitive stomach. If this product works for your body, you can rely on it for all your training and racing needs.
If you’re worried about your water bottle having the mix’s after taste, no worries in that department! The mix cleans so easily that it will seem as if you never used the mix to begin with. The mix also won’t leave a film in your water bottle so mold won’t grow in it.
I’d recommend this product to triathletes who have sensitive stomachs or who cramp up easily during the tail end of the race. The formula doesn’t contain any soy or dairy so it can be a good option if you’re in need of it. Be sure to test out how much of the product you need in your water bottle.
4. Skratch Labs Sports Hydration Drink Mix
The people behind the formula created the mix so that it has even more electrolytes than its original product. It’s designed to replace the electrolytes you lose through sweating with real fruit flavoring.
Skratch Labs created their product to be easy on sensitive bellies so they only use natural and non-GMO ingredients. This makes it attractive if you’re vegan, sensitive to gluten or soy, or keep kosher.
Skratch’s product offers these features:
- The best ratio of sugar and electrolyte for fast absorption and keeps up with your hard-working body during a race or training session
- Natural ingredients such as cane sugar, dextrose, sodium citrate, citric acid, magnesium lactate, calcium citrate, lemon oil that won’t upset your sensitive stomach
- A low sugar content energy sports drink
- A mix that will keep you fueled and give you more energy
I’d recommend it whether you’re on the course or doing a long-distance swim, bike, or run. It keeps your body moving and might even prevent your muscles from cramping during and after! I’d also highly suggest this product if you keep kosher or are looking for a company that puts an emphasis on only using all-natural ingredients.
5. Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Hydration Powder
The team at Ultima created this formula so that it not only replaces your electrolytes and keeps you hydrated, but also prevents muscles cramps and headaches from the sun.
What sets this mix apart from others is its ingredients. It has all six electrolytes that you need (phosphorus, calcium, potassium, chloride, sodium, and magnesium), which help hydrate your body on the toughest days on the course or training.
The Ultima team took those electrolytes and sweetened them with real fruit flavors and organic stevia leaf extract, a good option for diabetics.
This drink mix can be used off and on the course, especially if you’re a triathlete who frequently travels for competition. The mix can help you stay hydrated and prevent muscle cramps and headaches from a long plane or car rides. Or, even if you’re just tired from traveling, this mix might be your new travel buddy.
If you’re worried about caffeine affects or don’t like it, no fear! This electrolyte replacement is caffeine free. You can strategically plan your race without worry about a caffeine rush and crash in the middle.
I’d recommend this electrolyte replacement if you strictly follow a Keto diet and are looking for a low sugar and sodium and natural ingredient option. Keep in mind that because it’s low in those ingredients some other parts are compromised such as the taste. Some find it good and some don’t. Experiment with what tastes good to you.
I also recommend this product since it can help you if you travel long distances, either by plane or car, to a triathlon. We sometimes forget how tiring it is to travel. Ultima can help you recover from travel and be ready for race day!
6. Osmo Nutrition Active Hydration
The Osmo teamed up with Dr. Stacy Sim and two-time World Cycling Champion Peter Sagan to develop an electrolyte replacement for triathletes and cyclists alike.
The formula is designed to rehydrate you as quickly as possible especially when you become thirsty during practice or a race. To rehydrate yourself quickly, the Osmo team put the optimal ratio of sucrose, glucose, and electrolytes with organic fruit for flavor.
The powdered drink mix was also designed to fight cardiac drift. As you lose water and electrolytes your blood becomes more “dense”. This causes your body to hold your heart rate, but your power will start to falter, which is a “cardiac drift”. The powder combats cardiac drift so you can keep pushing from one leg of the triathlon to the other and then across the finish line.
Osmo, unlike other brands, actually helps you determine the correct amount of mix to add to your water. And even adjusts that amount even a “lighter” or “petite” athlete. Be sure to read the label and listen to your body as begin to use the mix.
I’d recommend this product since its main objective is to keep you hydrated or rehydrate you very quickly. When you’re pushing through the ending miles of an Ironman, you’ll need all the help you can get. This drink mix also helps prevent muscle, head, and stomach pains if you’re concerned about it.
The brand is also helpful when it’s time to determine how much of the mix to put into your drink, especially if you’re unsure or have never used an electrolyte supplement before.
7. UCAN Performance Energy Powder
If you need a gluten-free electrolyte replacement option, this might work for you. The UCAN team also made this energy powder without added sugars.
UCAN designed their energy powder so you won’t have to worry about getting a “high” or “crash” from electrolyte replacements.
The powder is enriched with UCAN’s SuperStarch, which helps slowly release carbohydrates into your body before, during, and after your race or training session. What this does is help sustain or “evenly distribute” your energy levels throughout the entire race.
If you’re trying to burn fat during a workout, the SuperStarch has a low insulin response, which helps burn fat.
I recommend this product if you’re concerned about “crashing” from an electrolyte replacement boost during a race. Users have said they can feel that their energy is sustained throughout the whole race or workout.
If you’re looking for an all-natural replacement, you might have better luck with a different brand. The marketing claims all natural, but if you look at the ingredients, it contains cornstarch and sugar additives.
8. EFS Pro Drink-Professional Strength Sport Drink
EFS Pro Drink is designed to give you the most nutrients, electrolytes, and other vital nutrients that will be easy on your stomach. The powder is also formulated so that it is easily consumable and absorbable in your bloodstream.
The primary carbohydrate in the formula is a low dose of osmolality amylopectin multi-branched cyclic dextrin easily dissolves in water.
What does this mean for you?
It means you can put add more of the drink mix in your water and it will still dissolve just as easily as a smaller dose. Of course, this won’t affect how your body will absorb the powder as well.
Have stomach problems?
This powder might solve your stomach woes. EFS uses “Optimal Absorption Technology” to move more nutrients through your digestive system without compromising comfort. This also means you’ll experience fewer cramps during a race. And you might even become dehydrated less often.
There aren’t many negative things to say about this electrolyte replacement. It was designed to treat every level of triathlete like a professional.
The brand stands by its guarantee and many users have said their stomach problems nearly disappear when they use this powder in their water. They say that it even tastes good.
9. SaltStick Caps, Electrolyte Replacement Capsules
SaltStick designed their capsule to replace the most important electrolytes you lose during a triathlon such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
Using capsules, compared to powders, gives you more flexibility for how you take them. You can put them in your water bottle or take it in conjunction with your water or sports drink. You must take the capsule with some type of liquid otherwise you’ll become dehydrated fast.
The key is to learn your balance between capsules and hydrating yourself between water and your choice of a sports drink.
Be aware that if you decide to take the capsule like a pill, you might experience stomach discomfort for a short amount of time. Plan how you take the capsule and how many minutes in advance you need to take it before a race or workout.
I don’t recommend this product since it’s not as easy to use as other products such as powders and drink mixes. Even though you can take it in different ways, it must be accompanied by liquids. It doesn’t simplify things when you’re on the course since you still have to take both your water and sports drink with you.
Additionally, it can cause stomach aches which can last up to five minutes so timing is everything when you use it.
10. Science in Sport Go Electrolyte Energy Drink Powder
Science in Sport (SiS) Go Electrolyte Energy Drink Powder created an easily digestible powder that gives you the essential carbohydrates and electrolytes that helps you stay hydrated throughout your entire race or training session.
The powder’s ingredients (carbohydrates and sodium) help your body absorb water, sustain your endurance, and even prevents cramping.
The powder delivers the perfect amount of sodium so you can have the best hydration on the course especially during those hot race days when your sweat rates are higher than normal.
The carbohydrates in the powder help you from depleting any carbs you might have stored from a meal in the day or days leading up to your triathlon.
I would recommend this powder if you’re one of those people who have troubling fueling for a triathlon. It can be hard to decide whether to eat a big meal the night before a triathlon. This electrolyte replacement may help you. You can eat a regular-sized meal and take this powder in your drink on the course to help you power through the last miles of the race.
Electrolyte Replacement – Buyer’s Guide
Why Do Triathletes Need an Electrolyte Replacement?
If you’re one of those triathletes who brag that you don’t sweat that much.
Take a pause and consider what advice I will tell you.
Even the best and well-seasoned triathletes lose electrolytes and sweat out their hydration. They sometimes feel dizzy, nauseous, and even tired.
This becomes especially apparent during really hot and long training sessions or a long race such as an Ironman.
Bottom line: triathletes, especially long-distance ones, need to replace their fluids, carbohydrates, and sodium levels that are lowered during training or racing day.
The simplest solution to the problem is to replace the lost nutrition. See all FDA recommended daily values.
But what is the best way to supplement your lost electrolytes?
You might see other triathletes on the course alternate between sports drinks and water and take gels and other solid food with them on the bike or stick it in their shorts’ pocket.
The sports drink might be a good option if you need a break from the taste of water, but they can contain high amounts of sugar.
Losing Electrolytes, Sweating, and Drinking Water
Drinking sports drinks and water is a good option and it works for many people.
However, over long distances, you can become both dehydrated and develop hyponatremia. This means that your body has very low water levels and diluted sodium in your blood causes your cells to swell.
In that scenario, you sweat out not only water but also your essential electrolytes!
When you’re both dehydrated and in hyponatremia, water only helps you so much. All water will do is dilute your electrolytes even more and won’t help retain any water.
Why Electrolyte Replacements Work
While water and sports drinks are a viable option and will get you through the race, this is where electrolyte replacements come into play.
The right type of electrolytes replacements replenishes your levels instead of “filling up your gas tank”. Having a sports drink-in conjunction with the electrolyte replacement- will help give you the carbohydrates you need to finish your race.
Why It’s Important to Choose the Right Electrolyte Replacement
If you’ve read this far into the article, you might be convinced that you need an electrolyte replacement for your Ironman this season.
Before you jump into your car or order an electrolyte replacement from a website, you need to figure out which one is best for you.
You need to know your body well to understand what type of electrolyte replacement is best for you whether that be in powder, tablet, mix, or other supplemental forms.
Ideally, you’ll figure out how much you sweat during a race, what sports drink you like and how you can finish that drink during the race, and then find a complementary supplement to go along with it.
You need an electrolyte replacement to supplement your sports drink and not inhibit your nutrition. Look at the labels and do your research about what can go together and what doesn’t.
After you narrow down results, practice using your sports drink and electrolyte replacement. If something doesn’t work, it’s better to find out during practice rather than on the course.
If you’re unsure about how to calculate your sweat rate and how to drink your sports drink strategically, check out an example on Triathlete.
Still not sure?
No worries, pop into your nearest nutrition, sport, or bicycle store and ask your questions! If you’re on a club team, a sports nutrition coach might be a sponsor and someone you can reach out to. You can also use your teammates as resources and ask them what they’ve done in the past.
What Type of Triathlete Needs an Electrolyte Replacement
While any level and distance triathlete can use an electrolyte replacement, they are really for long-distance triathletes.
Sprint triathlons are just as intense and exciting as olympic half and full Ironman but do not need nearly as much nutrition during the race compared to the other distances.
Maybe if you’re really new to triathlons, you might buy energy gels for your first couple of sprint and olympic triathlons.
Olympic distance and above are long races and can take over an hour and a half to complete. Ironmans sometimes take at least half a day if not longer by a few hours.
Remember, your goal is to finish the race and not just finish it, but complete every part of the race with fire and purpose.
You’ll need the proper nutrition for such a goal on a long-distance triathlon. Without it, you could risk becoming dizzy or nauseous, lose consciousness, and not be able to complete the course.
Let’s stay healthy this triathlon season!
I hope this article was helpful in your decision making! Don’t worry if you don’t get the “right” electrolyte replacement the first time. It takes some trial and error and I’m sure you’ll figure it out well before your season starts!