The 7 Best Sports Drinks of 2020, According to a Dietitian

Replenish and rehydrate your body during and after your routine

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Our Top Picks
"USDA organic, non-GMO, and vegan friendly."
"Provides an electrolyte boost without tons of extra calories and carbs."
Best Higher-Carbohydrate:
Gatorade Thirst Quencher at Amazon
"It has an electrolyte and carbohydrate base, which is essentially what is lost after sweating in the heat."
"Provides six electrolytes (magnesium, potassium, sodium, chloride, calcium, and phosphate) with no artificial flavors."
Best with Caffeine:
Nuun Sport + Caffeine at Amazon
"Contains 40 milligrams of caffeine."
"Perfect for athletes to throw in a gym bag or stash in their pocket to mix with water on the go."
"Made solely from coconut water sourced from organic young coconuts grown in Thailand."

Sports drinks, or electrolyte-enhanced beverages, help to replenish water, electrolytes, and energy lost during exercise. These drinks often contain a source of energy-boosting carbohydrates, as well as a balance of potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium, which help combat dehydration, replete glycogen stores, and delay fatigue. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that individuals partaking in vigorous exercise for one hour or longer consider drinking a carbohydrate-based sports beverages, especially if they are sweating heavily.

There are many options on the market when it comes to sports drinks, including ready-to-drink beverages and mix-with-water tablets or powders. Consider your calorie, sugar, and electrolyte needs when choosing a product that suits your hydration requirements.

Here are the best sports drinks.

Best Overall: NOOMA Organic Electrolyte Drink

Looking for a simple, organic sports drink with quality ingredients and necessary nutrition to keep going? NOOMA takes the top pick among sports drinks. The plant-based sports drink is USDA-certified organic, non-GMO, and vegan friendly. Unlike many other sports drinks, each ingredient on the label is easy to read and comes from real foods.

Each 17-ounce carton contains 30 calories and 7 grams of carbohydrates with no added sugar. Coconut water adds potassium, while natural sea salt provides a boost of sodium to help you replenish fluids lost during exercise. There’s a hint of organic stevia to give it a touch of sweetness, but otherwise, it’s a great alternative to sugar-laden sports drinks.

There's a flavor for every taste preference, including Chocolate Mint, Lemonade, Watermelon Lime, Mango, and Blueberry Peach. The convenient 12-pack provides adequate hydration for all your favorite workouts.

Best Low-Sugar: Nuun Electrolyte Drink Tablets

If you're a fan of sports drinks but watch your sugar intake, you may opt for a low- or no-sugar option. Nuun Sport's electrolyte tablets contain only 1 gram of sugar, 15 calories, and no artificial flavoring. Compared with the average sports drink that contains more than 30 grams of added sugar, this tablet provides an electrolyte boost without tons of extra calories and carbs.

The convenient tablets mix easily with water to create a hydrating, tasty beverage that comes in a variety of stevia-sweetened flavors, including Lemon Lime, Tri-Berry, Citrus Fruit, and Orange. Each tube provides 10 tablets that contain a balance of essential vitamins and minerals. They’re also soy-free, gluten-free, kosher, and vegan.

Best Higher-Carbohydrate: Gatorade Thirst Quencher

When you think of sports drinks, Gatorade is probably the first brand that comes to mind. Created in the summer of 1965 by a football coach at the University of Florida, this thirst-quenching drink was made with athletes in mind to help them replenish and recover after a tough workout. The formula is simple—it has an electrolyte and carbohydrate base, which is essentially what is lost after sweating in the heat, and a sweet flavor to entice you to drink. Favored on the sidelines of the NFL for 44 years, this go-to sports beverage is a preferred drink for many professional athletes as well as active adults.

Gatorade is budget-friendly and available almost everywhere, making it an easy option to buy after a long run in the sun. While it does have a lot of sugar in it, this can be helpful for endurance athletes looking for a quick source of easily digestible carbs. For those who want to watch their sugar consumption but love the taste, consider mixing a few tablespoons of Gatorade with cold water for a refreshing electrolyte drink. It comes in a variety of flavors, including Lemon-Lime, Orange, and Fruit Punch.

Best Powder: Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Powder

Powdered mixes go further than traditional bottled sports drinks—just stir some into water and go. Ultima's delicious-tasting powder provides six important electrolytes (magnesium, potassium, sodium, chloride, calcium, and phosphate) with no artificial flavors. This sugar-free, zero-calorie, and zero-carbohydrate beverage is sweetened with stevia. It's made with real fruit flavors and comes in many delicious varieties, including Cherry Pomegranate, Raspberry, Grape, and Orange. They're not overly sweet and taste refreshing.

Unlike other powders, which can be chalky, Ultima mixes well and dissolves completely to become a smooth, hydrating drink. The versatile product appeals to many athletes, including those who follow vegan, gluten-free, keto, and paleo lifestyles. For those who are sensitive to caffeine, it’s also caffeine-free.

Best with Caffeine: Nuun Sport + Caffeine

Nuun Sport + Caffeine is an easy, portable way for athletes to hydrate and replete necessary electrolytes on the go. Each tube contains ten tablets that mix with water to create an effervescent, thirst-quenching, electrolyte-filled beverage. With only 1 gram of sugar and 15 calories, the super clean tablets provide all the electrolytes athletes need, with minimal extra sugar and no artificial flavorings.

Each tablet also contains 40 milligrams of caffeine, which can help add extra pep to an athlete’s step. Studies show that caffeine may boost athletic performance, although it is important not consume too much at once. Nuun Sport + Caffeine tablets may help athletes get a leg up on the competition, boosting performance while simultaneously rehydrating. 

Best Single-Serve: Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Powder

Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Powder is an excellent choice for a sugar-free beverage that will replenish electrolyte levels, hydrate effectively, and provide supporting minerals. In addition to electrolytes, most sports drinks contain sugar and carbohydrates, which can cause blood sugar modulations and add unwanted calories to the diet. Sweetened with stevia, Ultima is a delicious, zero-carb drink that is perfect for athletes who want to add electrolytes to their beverage but don't want extra sugar. 

The Ultima Single Serve Variety Pack comes with 20 sticks in a variety of flavors, including cherry pomegranate, grape, lemonade, orange, and raspberry. These convenient sticks are perfect for athletes to throw in a gym bag or stash in their pocket to mix with water on-the-go. With less mess and great flavor, these single-serve sticks are perfect for athletes who want an electrolyte boost but don't need additional carbs and calories.

Best Natural: Harmless Harvest Coconut Water

If you’re looking for the most natural, organic, electrolyte-filled drink available, Harmless Harvest Coconut Water is the best option for you. Made solely from coconut water sourced from organic young coconuts grown in Thailand, the thirst-quenching drink provides a variety of nutrients, including potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

Coconut water is a great natural electrolyte drink that helps to rehydrate and restore electrolyte balance. Each 8-ounce serving of Harmless Harvest Coconut Water provides 15 grams of carbohydrates and 60 calories to help replete glycogen stores. Although this drink is a bit more expensive than other options on the market, the beverage is truly nature's sports drink—made only from 100% Fair Trade Certified, USDA Organic coconut water.

What to Look for in a Sports Drink

Form: Sports drinks come in many forms, including ready-to-drink beverages, powders, and tablets. If you are looking for the easiest, grab-and-go option, a ready-to-drink sports drink is usually available at any grocery or convenience store. If you travel frequently or simply want a more portable sports drink, choosing a tablet or powder that you mix with water may be preferable.

Electrolytes: When you sweat, your body loses fluid and electrolytes. Sports drinks contain electrolytes—including potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium—to help combat dehydration. They work with your body to improve the absorption of fluid and replenish mineral losses. Look for a sports drink that contains at least sodium and potassium.

Calories: If you are engaging in endurance activities or strenuous sports, you may need a sports drink that is high in calories. When choosing a sports drink, consider your activity level, caloric expenditure, and energy needs. You may choose a sports drink higher in calories if you are training for a marathon. However, if you are exercising for over an hour but trying to lose weight, you may want to replete electrolytes without consuming extra calories.

Sugar: Many sports drinks contain sugar to help athletes replace carbohydrates lost during exercise quickly. If you watch your sugar intake or prefer a sugar-free option, some tablets and powders are low in sugar. Avoid sugar-free sports drinks that contain potentially harmful artificial sweeteners.

What Experts Say

"When choosing a sports drink for a super sweaty workout—or over an hour of exercise—I recommend looking for a beverage with at least 300 milligrams of potassium and at least 80 milligrams of sodium. A beverage like coconut water—with minimal added flavors and colors—is my favorite." — Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN

Why Trust Verywell Fit

A personal note on my recommendations written above. As a dietitian, I frequently work with athletes ranging from weekend warriors to triathletes who may need to use electrolyte drinks. After spending time reviewing the most current clinical research and looking at multiple products, I came up with a list of products that I would recommend to someone looking to add sports drinks into their routine. I am careful to suggest sports drinks, as many of them contain high amounts of sugar that are not necessary for everyday activity; however, some people do require a boost for more intense exercise and conditions. I believe that the products in the round-up are made by trusted brands.

As a marathoner, I have tried various electrolyte products, including most of the products on this list. When running, I use Ultima, Nuun, or Harmless Harvest Coconut Water. If a race only offers Gatorade, I will take a small sip and follow it with a sip of water. — Eliza Savage, MS, RD, CDN

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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