Even though you have been running for a while, you might not have been doing long distances. This was me at least. Prior to training for my trail marathon, I did a lot of 3 to 5-mile runs in order to stay healthy and active. If you know anything about hydration for runners then you’ll know that you don’t need to worry too much when you’re doing something as simple as a 3-miler.
As you start heading into uncharted territory with running, where you start running for an hour and a half, versus thirty to forty minutes then you quickly realize that you’re burning through all of your energy stores. Another important element that you’re going to start losing is Electrolytes as well.
Electrolytes are basically in a nutshell: Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Chloride, Phosphate, Bicarbonate and Sulfate. The four major electrolytes are Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium.
Electrolytes maintain your body’s fluid balance so that you don’t experience something none of us runners want to experience which is muscle fatigue and cramping. If you’ve ever experienced that side stitch whilst running longer distances then that’s also likely because of your electrolyte imbalance. Whilst everyone is different (I’ll touch more on this later) with their hydration levels, there are ways to effectively rehydrate your body whilst running to avoid these uncomfortable feelings from occurring.
These are called electrolyte tablets. I’ve reviewed some of the best electrolyte tablets for runners below from personal experience in order to hopefully help you out when choosing your first!
Best Electrolyte Tablets For Runners Compared and Reviewed
|Top||SaltStick Electrolyte Caps||SaltStick||Check Price on Amazon|
|Nuun Sports Electrolyte Tablets||Nuun||Check Price on Amazon|
|Hydralyte Effervescent Electrolyte Hydration Tablets||Hydralite||Check Price on Amazon|
|Science in Sport Go Hydro Electrolyte with Caffeine Tablets||Science in Sport||Check Price on Amazon|
|Precision Hydration Lite Hydration Tablets||Precision Hydration||Check Price on Amazon|
#1 - SaltStick Electrolyte Caps
The SaltStick capsules have been one of the more prominent and aged players when it comes to electrolyte supplements. These are a very natural source of electrolytes as they contain only natural, necessary and safe ingredients to replenish your electrolyte levels.
Each capsule contains 215 mg sodium, 32 mg potassium, 22 mg calcium, and 11 mg magnesium. These, as mentioned above and later on in the guide are the four most important electrolytes for your body that need to be replenished when doing a strenuous activity over longer periods of time.
The standard pack comes with 100-capsules. These should be taken once every 30-60 minutes of exercise in order to maintain your electrolyte levels. Therefore, they should last you a long time as they should only be used with a massive race underway or when performing a long run or other crazy cardiovascular activity (Yes all we runners are crazy!).
Whilst the option listed here is the standard original SaltStick, there are other variations (If for example, you wanted caffeine as part of the ingredients).
What do other runners say about the SaltStick Electrolyte Caps?
“I don’t want to be too biased but these products are absolutely amazing. I used to suffer from headaches whenever I did a long run and I would rely heavily on Gatorade to get me through it. After starting to use SaltStick I’ve noticed that my headaches were gone after my long run. Not sure if it’s the sugar from the Gatorade or the quality of this product but I’m happy that I’ve now found something that works for me.” Richard W
#2 -Nuun Sports Electrolyte Tablets
The Nuun Electrolyte tablets form into a rich sports drink, which also contains a natural low-calorie fruity flavor. This flavoring isn’t based on artificial flavoring or sweeteners. These drinks are also friendly if you’re on a ketogenic diet.
The Nuun comes in a box of eight tubes that contain 80 servings of the electrolyte-rich drink. The active ingredients in these electrolyte tablets are 300mg Sodium (bicarbonate and carbonate), 150mg potassium (bicarbonate and chloride), 25mg magnesium (oxide) and 13mg calcium (carbonate). Total calories are 15 and only contain 1-gram of sugar.
The Nuun I believe is a great option for those of you that find it hard to let go of a flavorful drink like Gatorade but at the same time, you’re looking for a healthier option that doesn’t contain as much sugar.
How have other users reviewed this product?
“I use these tablets whenever I do cardio and sip on the drink throughout my entire session. Because I do weights after cardio and not before my energy levels would usually be down to lift weights. With these tablets, I get through the entire session and walk out feeling amazing when all the endorphins of a good workout hit me.” Jane V
#3 - Hydralyte Effervescent Electrolyte Hydration Tablets
The Hydralyte’s are definitely stocked in a lot more locations such as pharmacies compared to the Nuun and SaltStick which are much more prominent in the online space. Hydralite has a vast range of flavor options that you can choose from as well.
One thing that I don’t like about the Hydralite over the Nuun and SaltStick is the fact that they aren’t sporting focus oriented. They’ve created a generic product and are used a lot more by people that are trying to recover from a hangover.
Needless to say, it has made my list because it still does as intended and it’s a lot easier to source for people that can’t get the previous two products. For me though, I prefer to go with brands that are focused on sports nutrition.
What are other people saying about these tablets?
“I’ve tried these for my long runs, simply because they’re easy to access as they’re available in most chemists and I don’t have the patience to wait for things to come through online. They work great, I’ve used SaltStick’s in the past but now I like to mix electrolytes with water and consume that throughout the whole run and I rely on the Hydralite to do so. One thing I’ve noticed with them, however, is that sometimes, some of the packages seem old and the tablets seem to get stuck together. Smacking it a few times on the table definitely helps.” Amanda T
#4 - Science in Sport Go Hydro Electrolyte with Caffeine Tablets
The total drink itself is only 9 calories and contains 0.8 grams of carbohydrates. I haven’t been able to find the amount of mg it contains in other electrolytes however the fact that it contains caffeine has made this a popular electrolyte choice for a lot of runners.
The option here is quite similar to the last two (Nuun and Hydralite) as they’re all electrolytes that are dissolved in tablets. However, the predecessors didn’t contain artificial sweeteners, which the SiS electrolyte tablets unfortunately have. They contain Sucralose (Splenda).
If you’re looking for a natural option, check out the previous 3 electrolytes but if you’re looking for a tasty drink that contains a hit of caffeine then this could be your choice.
How have other fitness enthusiasts reviewed these electrolyte tablets?
“The Science in Sport electrolytes really hit it off for me, I’m a bit of a coffee junky so the caffeine helps in adding to my focus and the drink tastes really good” John C
#5 - Precision Hydration Lite Hydration Tablets
The Precision Hydration Lite hydration tablets pack 250mg of Sodium, 250mg of Potassium, 6mg of Calcium and 12mg of Magnesium in its PH 250 mix. They also have other options such as PH 250 (The original), as well as a 500 / 1000 and 1500 mg of Sodium option so it can be tailored to your personal requirements.
These tablets have been independently batch tested for a wide range of prohibited substances on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list. It is used by a long list of teams in the NFL, NBA, and MLB. (Source: Manufacturer).
Many users have advised that these pills are very fast absorbing through its hypotonic formula. It is also gluten/dairy-free, therefore, making it vegan friendly as well as being GMO-free. This product also contains some artificial sweeteners.
What do others say about this product?
“I’ve tried a few effervescent tablets however these are now a go-to for me. Being a vegan I’m happy that they don’t contain use any animal products but at the same time the number of electrolyte ingredients contained is the among the highest as well as being an affordable option for me as a student” Miles G
My Number One Pick
What To Look Out For When Searching For The Best Electrolyte Tablets For Runners
Let’s face it, running long distances is hard, very hard. The last thing that you want is for your body to start cramping, stitching and suffering whilst you’re trying to complete your first marathon or even your first long-run in preparation for your first marathon.
With electrolyte tablets or an electrolyte drink-mix, you will be able to effectively re-hydrate yourself on the go to ensure you don’t suffer from any muscle cramps, stitches and so on. However, everyone’s hydration needs are different and what amount works for one person may not be the same for the other. We all have our own individual sweat rates, as well as the rate in which our body rehydrates itself.
The bathroom frequency and urine color is the simplest way to assess your hydration levels. You should be urinating 5-8 times a day and the color should be a light yellow. This is important to realize after you have done a long run or an intense cardio workout. From here-on, if you notice your urine is very dark then you will need to assess your hydration needs. The best way to do this is to hydrate on the go or on the workout.
Drink water frequently as well as consume your electrolyte drink or capsule. Once you have reached the range of light yellow urine then you know that you’re getting the adequate water and electrolyte that your body needs. This might take a few days of trial and error so make sure you don’t experiment with this on the day of the actual race.
Now that you’re aware of how to address your hydration needs, there are a few features and key nuances that you should look out for when searching for the best electrolyte tablet for yourself. Below are some key considerations to consider before making your decision on how you’re going to refuel your electrolytes.
There are many options that you can choose from to get your electrolytes, some of which you probably never even thought of but seen every day. Take Gatorade or Powerade for instance, these are a sports-electrolyte drink however they do contain a lot of sugar. Some people still swear by this energy source as well as using it to provide them with electrolytes.
Now your other options are of course the ones that have been listed on the reviews I’ve made above. I’ve also played around with Gatorade however I found that I had a lot of stomach problems with it when going for longer runs (More than 2 hours).
Simple options have worked best for me, this is why I’ve chosen the SaltStick Capsules. You can either put them into your drink or swallow the capsule as a whole. Easy right?
Then there’s the option of tablets, which would usually dissolve into water and be used similar to a sports drink, although with much fewer amounts of simple sugars. Again, your personal preference here is going to trump the decision.
Some people like to have a hit of their favorite watermelon punch flavor whilst some people like to opt for no flavors at all.
If you’re going to choose no flavors at all, the SaltStick option might be a great one to go for as it has no flavor at all and is easy to consume, knocking it out of the way fast. Some people, however, prefer to have a hit of their favorite flavor as the taste gives them the impression of the drink working almost instantly. It’s all a mental and personal preference here yet again.
Ease of Use
Having a powder-based electrolyte drink mix might not be the best option when you’re running a 50K ultramarathon. You would need to stop, to ensure you rip the seal properly and then put it in your drink and mix it before it’s ready to go. Not exactly the most time-efficient or easy method which is why none of my options that I’ve tried are really powder-based.
Tablets are better for this, as you can quickly put them in your soft flask or similar and wait for it to dissolve and then enjoy the electrolyte goodness. Then there’s the even simpler option which is what I opt for which is just chugging down the SaltStick electrolyte capsules with a bit of water. The caps are quite small and easy to digest. I’ve never had any stomach or GI problems with them either.
The portability and usability should be very easy, especially when you’re 15-miles deep into a run and the last thing you want to do is think about how to prepare your sports drink.
Looking out for electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium which are the primary electrolytes should be at the top of your list when searching for the best product. You would want to avoid products that contain too many simple sugars, artificial colorings or flavorings as these products can cause problems with your stomach depending on how sensitive you are.
Frequently Asked Questions About Electrolytes
Q. How often should I use electrolytes when running or training?
A. Most electrolytes, such as SaltStick’s are used once every 30-60 minutes. You should, however, read the manufacturers guidelines of your specific product to confirm the requirements.
Q. Are tablets the only form of electrolyte supplements?
A. No, for example, the SaltStick is a capsule. There is also pure powder form which you can put directly into water instead of waiting for a tablet to dissolve.
Q. Do I need electrolytes if I’m drinking a sports drink such as Gatorade?
A. Usually, a sports drink such as Gatorade will contain the electrolytes that you need however they’re also filled with a lot of simple sugars which can cause an upset stomach.
As you can probably assume from the article and the guide, each individual is going to have their own preference for what type of electrolytes they’re going to consume. Portability I believe is the most important factor and ease-of-use. Most companies have various options so for example if you don’t like tablets, they might have a pure powder form.
Do you have any choices that you prefer that aren’t on the list? Maybe share it in the comments box below so we can all check it out. And of course, best of luck with all of your training! Stay hard.
Marko Rakic is a trail runner and fitness enthusiast from Sydney, Australia. He is the lead writer for The Ultimate Primate and believes the best way to live a happy life is to take a holistic approach to fitness and health.