Whether you need to perk up for intervals or fuel high mileage, these drink mixes help you go harder, feel stronger, and recover faster.
By now, you know that hydration is essential to performance. It’s of the utmost importance to stay on top of your liquid and fueling needs to put out your best effort, especially when training and racing in the summer heat. Physical and mental performance can plunge with as little as a 2 to 3 percent drop in body weight caused by dehydration. (And dehydration can lead to some pretty serious issues like heat exhaustion.)
While sipping plain water is always a good choice for general fluid needs, there are many cases when it’s best to spike your bottle with some extra juice. Whether you need to fuel high mileage, perk up for an interval effort, or combat high heat and humidity, these hydration powders and sports drink mixes can help you go faster for longer or recover quicker.
We took a look at the nutritional mark of each hydration option to figure out which formula works best for the various types of workouts you find yourself doing. Here are the top six hydration powders that made the cut in terms of nutritional value and flavor.
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It’s never a good idea to start a workout with your fluid levels running low. And research shows even mild dehydration can zap your brain power. But often it’s hard to get excited about drinking boring, plain water to stay hydrated and quench thirst between workouts. The Benefits of Antioxidants for Runners added sugar, drop one of these portable, low-calorie tablets into your H2O for a winning mix of immune-boosting vitamins and minerals, ginger, and turmeric. They’re available in two quick-dissolving flavors that won’t overpower: Blueberry Tangerine and Orange Citrus.
Flavoring your water makes it more appealing to take bigger sips, which encourages better hydration practices when on the move so there’s less risk of smashing into the wall. Available in two fruity flavors—Lemon-Lime and Wolfberry (a.k.a. Goji Berry) with Pomegranate—this hydration powder blends easily in water and provides just enough carbs (8 grams in each single-serving packet) and electrolytes to power typical workouts lasting less than 90 minutes. Ingredient purists will appreciate that the carbs hail from organic sources (evaporated cane juice and glucose), and there’s an absence of lab-created flavors and neon colors.
Perfect for athletes out for the long-haul (hello, marathons and long runs), this endurance-minded sports drink has generous amounts of electrolytes to better replace sweat losses and enough carbs (21 grams in each scoop) to give you an energy boost if you can’t stomach solids during a hard workout or the long stretches between aid stations.
The bonk-proof use of multiple sugars—cane sugar and dextrose—translates into faster, more efficient fluid and calorie absorption rates (different sugars are absorbed by different pathways) giving your muscles more fuel to work with and your stomach less reason to cry foul. Bonus: The flavors come from real fruit, not chemicals, and taste light yet delicious.
It can be a struggle to stay on top of hydration and electrolyte needs when you’re working hard—especially when steamy conditions leave you treading in a pool of sweat. If you’re exercising in hot, humid conditions or you’re genetically a heavy sweater, consider upgrading your water with this hydration helper that ranks high on the electrolyte-scale—there are 500 milligrams of sodium and 370 milligrams of potassium in each packet of crystals.Losses in perspiration add up, so the longer you plan on working hard under the sun, the more electrolytes are vital for maintaining fluid balance in your body. The company says its Cellular Transport Technology (CTT), which uses a specific ratio of glucose and electrolytes based on World Health Organization science, allows for faster fluid absorption from stomach to blood, meaning better hydration and recovery. It’s on the low side for carbs—12 grams mixed into 2 cups water—so you may need a separate source of calories, like a gel, for any workouts lasting 90 minutes or longer.
We know that carbohydrates are essential for endurance performance, but some athletes find themselves rushing the port-o-potty when trying to take in enough during workouts. If that sounds like the PR-killing world you live in, there might now be a hydration powder that won’t make you want to hurl.
Formulated by a Swedish Ironman triathlete, Maurten employs a hydrogel technology that transforms the liquid into a jelly-like substance in the acidic environment of our stomachs. This is believed to facilitate smoother carbohydrate absorption, allowing the lofty levels of carbs in the drink—up to three times as much as standard sports drinks—to be consumed during exercise without causing stomach issues. More research is needed to determine if the pricey drink mix is indeed the ultimate rocket fuel and answer to GI distress, but the Sub2 Project, a collaboration of researchers and athletes working towards a sub-two-hour marathon, has already bought in, and our testers have reported positive results.
[Related: Want to start running? The Big Book of Running for Beginners will take you through everything you need to know to get started, step by step.]
A spirited workout can leave your muscles hungry for nutrition. Available in vanilla or chocolate flavor, gulping down this drink postworkout can help you recover like a champ by delivering a trifecta of carbs to replace spent energy (glycogen) reserves, amino acids (protein) to spur muscle repair, and sodium to replenish what’s lost in your beads of sweat. Try blending with milk and a frozen banana for a quick recovery smoothie that tastes like a dessert.