The Best Electrolytes for Runners, According to a Dietitian

Skratch Labs Sport Hydration Drink Mix has electrolytes plus energy for fueling

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Electrolytes—mainly sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium— are minerals in our bodies that play a critical role in fluid balance, blood pressure, muscle contraction, and hormone regulation. Electrolyte imbalances primarily happen when you lose body fluids, so when you sweat while running, you are losing not only water but also electrolytes. This is where electrolyte supplements for runners can play a key role in maintaining your body's electrolyte levels.

The amount of sweat and electrolyte loss during exercise is highly individualized and varies depending on physical and environmental factors. In general, if you're running for under 60 minutes, you don't usually need an electrolyte supplement, as long as you are properly recovering with food and water. However, replenishing electrolytes during prolonged endurance training is crucial for optimal performance.

Kristy Baumann, RD, a dietitian who works with runners, says that if you are running in the heat, exercising for long periods of time, or running at high altitude, you should opt for an electrolyte supplement with a higher electrolyte profile, paying special attention to the sodium content. Sodium, along with carbohydrates, will help your body hold onto water. Carbohydrates are also beneficial because they provide you with fuel. In order to select the best electrolyte supplements for runners, our sports dietitian (who is also a marathon runner!) looked at a wide variety of electrolytes, considering electrolyte and carbohydrate content along with other ingredients.

Verywell Fit Approved Electrolytes for Runners

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and which dosage to take.

Are Electrolyte Supplements Beneficial for Runners?

While consuming a balanced and varied diet will likely provide you with the electrolytes you need on a daily basis, you lose important electrolytes through sweat. Since these electrolytes are involved in processes such as fluid balance and muscle contraction, an imbalance can greatly impact your running performance.

Many electrolyte supplements for runners also contain carbohydrates, which serve several purposes. These added sugars can help your body hold onto water, which prevents dehydration. They also provide you with energy so you can keep running and recover more quickly. Plus, they make beverages more palatable, encouraging you to drink.

Electrolyte supplements may help you as a runner if you are:

Running for an hour or longer: If you are running for an hour or more, you may benefit from electrolyte supplements that contain carbohydrates and the electrolytes lost in sweat—sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. The carbohydrates will provide you with energy, while the sodium and carbohydrates together help your body retain water as well as stimulate thirst, encouraging you to drink more.

Running in the heat: Electrolyte supplements become particularly important when running in the heat due to increased sweat rates. The higher fluid loss can result in dehydration, which can harm your running performance.

Running at a new altitude: Altitude shifts can also impact electrolyte balance. In addition to upping your water and carbohydrate consumption, an electrolyte drink might be beneficial.

Experiencing illness-related fluid losses: If you are losing fluids via vomiting or diarrhea due to illness, an electrolyte supplement can help you replace these losses. Be sure to incorporate water as well, and consult a healthcare provider if needed.

Who May Not Benefit From Electrolyte Supplements

Recreational athletes: If you are running for under an hour at low to moderate intensity, particularly in cool conditions, you can likely recover with plain water and food.

Individuals with lower activity levels: If you are not engaging in prolonged exercise or losing fluids for other reasons, you likely do not need an electrolyte supplement. By consuming a varied diet, you will be able to obtain the electrolytes you need from food.

Children who are not competitive athletes: Most research that has been done on electrolyte supplements for runners has focused on an adult population. Children are encouraged to drink plain water to stay hydrated. However, if your child is losing fluids due to an illness or is a competitive athlete, they may benefit from electrolyte supplements.

Best Overall: Skratch Labs Sport Hydration Drink Mix

Skratch Labs Sport Hydration Drink Mix

Amazon

Pros
  • Contains electrolytes lost in sweat

  • Adequate sodium to maintain hydration

  • Contains carbohydrates for fuel

Cons
  • Must be prepared in advance

Who else recommends it? Runner's World also picked the Skratch Labs Sport Hydration Drink Mix.

What do buyers say? 94% of 4,500+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

If you are running for over 60 minutes or running in the heat, using an electrolyte supplement may help you stay hydrated on the run and help you rehydrate more quickly post-run. Skratch Labs Sport Hydration Drink Mix contains the electrolytes lost in sweat—sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, with a focus on sodium at 380 milligrams per serving. It is important to choose an electrolyte drink with adequate sodium levels since sodium is the main electrolyte lost in sweat, and it can help your body hold onto water.

We also like that Skratch contains a higher amount of carbohydrates since this can help you replenish your glycogen stores (stores of carbohydrates) that are utilized while running. Skratch has 21 grams of carbohydrates per scoop, making it ideal for mid-run fueling or quick post-run recovery. Skratch is also flavored with fruit and no artificial sweeteners, providing a subtly sweet taste that encourages you to keep drinking.

Form: Powder | Calories per serving: 80 | Carbohydrates per serving: 21 g | Sodium per serving: 380 mg | Electrolytes: Sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium

Best Powder: Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel

Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel

Amazon

Pros
  • Contains carbohydrates for fuel

  • No artificial sweeteners or fillers

Cons
  • May be difficult to take on the go

If you’re looking for a powdered electrolyte supplement that packs a powerful punch, Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel is a great option. One scoop of Tailwind provides 25 grams of sugar which can help you fuel your runs and supports optimal recovery. It is sweetened with fruit, providing a lightly sweet flavor that is not overpowering.

One of the benefits of using powdered electrolyte supplements is that you can adjust the amount to your liking. Tailwind recommends putting two to three scoops in 24 ounces of water per hour of exercise for longer workouts, or one to two scoops for shorter efforts, so you can use this powder in a way that works for you.

In addition to carbohydrates, it is also important to replenish sodium after hard running efforts. Tailwind contains 310 milligrams of sodium per serving, along with smaller amounts of potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

Form: Powder | Calories per serving: 100 | Carbohydrates per serving: 25 g | Sodium per serving: 310 mg | Electrolytes: Sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium

Best for Light Runs: Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator

Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator

Amazon

Pros
  • NSF Certified for Sport

  • Contains vitamin C

Cons
  • May not be appropriate for fueling runs over 60 minutes

If you’re going for a shorter or lighter run, you might be searching for an electrolyte drink that you can pair with recovery foods. Enter: Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator. One scoop of this powder provides electrolytes, 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, and zero grams of sugar. However, keep in mind that carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source and are important for runners, so be sure to recover post-run with carbohydrate-containing foods.

Vega Sport is NSF Certified for Sport, meaning it has been tested to ensure it does not contain substances prohibited by sports organizations. This powder comes in two flavors—lemon-lime or berry, and it does not contain any artificial flavors or sweeteners. It is also certified vegan and non-GMO. Simply mix one scoop into a 16-ounce glass of water for a hydrating boost.

Form: Powder | Calories per serving: 5 | Carbohydrates per serving: 2 g | Sodium per serving: 240 mg | Electrolytes: Sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium

Best Gel: Muir Energy Real Food Energy Gel Variety Pack

Muir Energy Real Food Energy Gel Variety Pack

Amazon

Pros
  • Real food ingredients

  • Contains carbohydrates for fuel

  • Different options for high intensity versus endurance runs

Cons
  • Lower in sodium

Muir Energy was founded by an ultra-distance hiker who was tired of the traditional endurance products on the market. Muir’s Real Food Energy Packs contain four to six real food ingredients, including different fruit and nut blends.

Runners can choose between fast-burning packs, which the manufacturer says are ideal for quick energy and higher-intensity workouts, or slow-burning packs with added healthy fats and protein, which the manufacturer recommends for endurance activities such as marathons, cycling, hiking, or longer jogs. You can choose between the two depending on your goals and needs, or opt for a variety pack with both.

These packs do more than just replenish electrolytes. They also provide energy in the form of nut butter (slow-burning energy) or fruit and coconut nectar (fast-burning energy). Each ingredient used in all Muir’s products is carefully curated to provide high nutrient density with low gastrointestinal impact—important for endurance runners.

Form: Gel | Calories per serving: 106-150 | Carbohydrates per serving: 12-18 g | Sodium per serving: 100 mg | Electrolytes: Potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium, manganese

Best Light Tasting: Skratch Clear Hydration Drink Mix

Skratch Clear Hydration Drink Mix

Amazon

Pros
  • Light flavor

  • Contains electrolytes lost in sweat

  • Contains carbohydrates for fuel

Cons
  • Must shake well to dissolve

While many electrolyte drinks are very sweet tasting, Skratch Clear Hydration Drink Mix tastes like water with a light hint of lemon or orange. Despite the subtle taste, Skratch Clear Hydration contains 13 grams of carbohydrates per serving along with 270 milligrams of sodium. This carbohydrate and electrolyte profile is somewhat lower than their sport hydration drink mix, so you might opt for this version after shorter, lower-intensity runs. Since it comes in powdered form, you can also adjust the amount to suit your needs.

Skratch Clear Hydration Mix is made with non-GMO ingredients and is gluten-free, dairy-free, and kosher.

Form: Powder | Calories per serving: 50 | Carbohydrates per serving: 13 g | Sodium per serving: 270 mg | Electrolytes: Sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium

Best Tablet: Nuun Sport: Electrolyte Drink Tablets

Nuun Sport Electrolyte Drink Tablets

Amazon

Pros
  • Informed Sport Certified

  • Contains electrolytes lost in sweat

  • No artificial sweeteners

Cons
  • Low carbohydrate content

Looking for a quick and easy electrolyte replenisher that you can keep in your gym bag or running shorts pocket? Look no further than Nuun’s sports tablets. One quick and easy tablet provides 300 milligrams of sodium as well as potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Nuun’s tablets are certified non-GMO, vegan, kosher, and gluten-free.

This product is also Informed Sport-certified, meaning it has gone through a certification program for sports supplements which assures athletes that products have been regularly tested for substances considered prohibited in sports competitions. 

Nuun’s sports tablets contain only 4 grams of carbohydrates per serving, so you should not rely on them as a fuel source. We recommend using these tablets for shorter runs or pairing them with carbohydrate-containing foods for post-workout replenishment.

Form: Tablet | Calories per serving: 15 | Carbohydrates per serving: 4 g | Sodium per serving: 300 mg | Electrolytes: Sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, calcium

Best Budget: Pedialyte Electrolyte Powder Strawberry Lemonade

Pedialyte Electrolyte Powder Strawberry Lemonade

Amazon

Pros
  • Contains carbohydrates for fuel

  • High sodium content to replace losses

  • Budget friendly

Cons
  • Contains artificial colorings

Electrolyte supplements can range in price and with so many products all featuring similar ingredients, it can be challenging to know where to get the biggest bang for your buck. Pedialyte has been a go-to product for over 50 years and is trusted by pharmacists and physicians.

These powder packs make hydrating convenient and affordable. One stick packs a potent punch of potassium, sodium, and chloride, as well as quick-burning sugar—great news for endurance athletes requiring hydration and fuel.

Form: Powder | Calories per serving: 50 | Carbohydrates per serving: 12 g | Sodium per serving: 490 mg | Electrolytes: Sodium, chloride, potassium

Best Capsule: SaltStick Electrolyte Caps

SaltStick Electrolyte Caps

Amazon

Pros
  • Capsule form

  • Convenient on the go

Cons
  • Does not contain carbohydrates or fluid

SaltStick Electrolyte Caps are electrolyte-containing capsules that can easily be taken on the go for mid-activity replenishment. With sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, their formula is meant to mimic the electrolyte composition of sweat. If you prefer drinking plain water, SatSticks can be a convenient way to incorporate electrolytes. They can also easily be carried in your pocket while you are running, hiking, or cycling.

Given that SaltStick Caps contain only electrolytes, you should be sure to pair them with both carbohydrates and fluids for adequate hydration. SaltStick Caps do not contain any added sweeteners or fillers, and they are non-GMO and vegetarian.

Form: Capsule | Calories per serving: 50 | Carbohydrates per serving: 0 g | Sodium per serving: 215 mg | Electrolytes: Sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium

Final Verdict

For a delicious and naturally flavored electrolyte supplement that will provide you with both fuel and electrolytes for your runs, try Skratch Labs Hydration Mix.

How We Select Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here. 

We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products. We prioritize products that are third-party tested and certified by one of three independent, third-party certifiers: USP, NSF, or ConsumerLab. 

It's important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.

What to Look for in Electrolyte Supplements for Runners

Third-Party Testing

Supplements that are third-party tested are sent to a lab where they are tested to ensure they contain what they say they contain and are not contaminated with specific high-risk, common contaminants. However, it’s important to note:

  • Third-party testing does not test to see if a product is effective or safe for everyone, and it does not ensure the supplement will not interact with other supplements or medications.
  • Not all third-party testing is created equal. It is not uncommon for supplement companies to pay labs for certificates after conducting minimal to no testing. 
  • The third-party certifications we can trust are: ConsumerLab, NSF, and USP. However, these certifications are difficult to obtain and/or expensive for manufacturers, so many companies choose not to get their products tested by one of these three organizations. 
  • Sometimes products tested by these three companies are more expensive to try to offset the cost they pay for certification.
  • Just because a supplement is not tested by one of these three companies, it does not mean it’s a bad product. We recommend doing some research on the reputability of the manufacturer and calling up the manufacturer and their testing lab to determine their protocols and decide if you feel comfortable consuming the supplement.

Form

Electrolyte supplements for runners are commonly sold as ready-to-go liquid drinks, powders, tablets, chews, and gels. The form you choose may depend on personal preference, convenience, and individual tolerance.

It is important to note that the form of carbohydrate in electrolyte supplements may vary, with some products using food such as fruit puree, while others contain a quick digesting source of carbohydrates such as maltodextrin, sucrose, fructose, or glucose. You may find that you tolerate regular food options better, but these may also take longer to absorb. Practice with different electrolyte supplements to find one that works for you.

Ingredients and Potential Interactions

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included relative to the recommended daily value of that ingredient. Please bring the supplement label to a healthcare provider to review the different ingredients contained in the supplement and any potential interactions between these ingredients and other supplements and medications you are taking.

Electrolyte supplements are typically composed of water, electrolytes, and carbohydrates, although amounts will vary between supplements. Electrolyte supplements for runners are usually formulated to provide you with energy and support your hydration during runs.

Some electrolyte supplements contain artificial sweeteners, colorings, additives, or preservatives. They may also contain added vitamins and binding agents. Many electrolyte supplements also contain caffeine, so you should be aware of how much you are consuming if you are sensitive to caffeine.

Electrolyte Supplement Dosage

Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and to understand which dosage to take.

There is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for electrolyte supplements. However, there is an RDA for the electrolytes they contain.

The Institute of Medicine states that those exercising in hot weather should aim to include beverages with 20-30 meq/L (440-690 mg/L) sodium, 2-5 meq/L (78-95 mg/L) potassium, and that are five to ten percent carbohydrates.

While the main electrolytes lost in sweat are sodium and potassium, we also lose some calcium and magnesium. For men, the Adequate Intake of potassium per day is 2400 milligrams, and for women, it is 2600 milligrams. The RDA for calcium is 1000 milligrams for adult men and women. You can typically avoid electrolyte imbalances by consuming an overall balanced diet and adequately hydrating. 

How Much is Too Much?

Electrolyte supplements can be helpful in preventing dehydration and help to ensure you are adequately fueling for longer runs. If you are consuming a balanced diet, you do not need to use electrolyte supplements on a daily basis to support regular activity. Consuming high amounts of sodium over time can increase the risk of developing diseases such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Additionally, taking excessive electrolyte supplements without adequately hydrating can lead to electrolyte imbalances, so it is important to make sure you are drinking enough water when supplementing with electrolytes and follow the recommended dosages on the package.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are electrolyte supplements necessary for runners?

    Electrolyte supplements are not necessary for most leisurely runs in mild temperatures, at sea level, in moderate humidity, and under one hour. If you are running in hot temperatures (or in heavy layers in cold temperatures), you’re running for more than one hour, or you tend to sweat heavily, you may want to use an electrolyte supplement, or at least a beverage with sodium, before and during your run. Running in high levels of humidity or at high altitudes may also necessitate an electrolyte supplement.

  • Is it possible to take too many electrolytes?

    It is possible to take too many electrolytes, which can be dangerous, especially for people who are sensitive to sodium, potassium, and calcium. Always stick with the dosing recommendations on the packaging, and ensure that you’re consuming enough water with the product. Use electrolyte supplements only as recommended during longer runs or activities.

  • How do I make electrolyte water?

    To make your own electrolyte drink, you can combine water or coconut water with salt plus flavorings of choice, such as a splash of fruit juice. Try this homemade drink: Combine 2 cups of water, 1 ½ cups coconut water, ¼ cup lemon juice, ¼ cup pomegranate juice, and ¼ tsp salt.

  • What happens when your body is low on electrolytes?

    Low levels of electrolytes can be dangerous. Low levels of sodium in the blood, known as hyponatremia, can result in nausea, headaches, and fatigue, and severe drops can result in seizures and death. Chronically low levels of other electrolytes, such as calcium, can impact bone health and result in muscle spasms, while low potassium can lead to abnormal heart rhythms. If you are otherwise healthy and consume a balanced diet, deficiencies in these electrolytes are rare.

  • Do electrolytes give you energy?

    Our bodies generate energy from the macronutrients, which include carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Electrolytes are involved in many bodily processes, and they help us stay hydrated, which can provide feelings of energy. They do not in and of themselves, however, provide us with energy.

  • What foods have electrolytes?

    Different electrolytes can be found in varying foods. Foods with high levels of potassium include bananas and potatoes, while dairy products and dark leafy greens such as kale contain calcium. Magnesium can be found in legumes and nuts. By consuming a balanced diet, you will likely obtain enough electrolytes.

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