Zero-carb electrolyte drink tabs are a convenient way to replace lost minerals and prevent cramp. Here we review four of the best electrolyte tablets available and take a look at some of the top deals…
What are electrolyte tablets good for?
Hydration tablets aim to maintain electrolyte levels in the body which are depleted during sweat-inducing exercise sessions. This is important as electrolytes help the body to regulate temperature and avoid dehydration, thus leading to fatigue, and risks of further issues such as heat stroke and nausea.
Importantly, electrolytes help protect against the muscles becoming dehydrated and developing cramp, which can be debilitating and either set you back in your training or sabotage your performance on race day.
- Dehydration and sodium: why replacing salt is crucial
- A triathlete’s guide to salt levels
- Do pink drinks make you faster?
Best electrolyte drink tablets
- £3.50 for 20 tabs
High5’s pink grapefruit Zero is a great little product, though only when you drop in two tablets per 750ml (High5 recommend one or two). Each tablet contains 200mg of sodium, 70mg potassium, 9mg calcium and 56mg magnesium. Just a note on magnesium, that’s applicable for all the tablets here; it’s rare an individual is deficient in magnesium even when sweating.
Like the Nuun, it comes with vitamin C (28m), which again might be better for taste than adaptation. It also contains 1mg green tea for a very minor caffeine hit. At less than 30p per tablet (£5.83 for 20), these are the cheapest on test here.
Verdict: Highly affordable option that tastes good
Buy from www.chainreactioncycles.com
- £4.50 for 10 tabs
This is one for hot races punctuated with stiff climbs thanks to 79mg caffeine per tablet. That’s a weak coffee but is enough for a mild physical and mental boost taken 20mins before a tough section. You might argue that caffeine’s a diuretic, which isn’t what you want with a hydration tablet, but increasing evidence suggests otherwise.
Sodium is a standard 250mg, alongside 60mg calcium, 28.1mg magnesium and 150mg potassium, though it also includes 200mg chloride – another essential electrolyte for fluid regulation. The grapefruit taste is pleasant and, at 10 per tube, it’s wallet-friendly, too.
Verdict: Impressive hydration tablet with a caffeine hit
Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk
SiS Go Hydro
SiS’s hydration offering is certainly palatable, with one tablet per 500ml providing a nice, sweet taste, albeit lacking the real citrus hit of lemon. As for electrolytes, sodium is at the 300mg mark, along with 102mg calcium, 8.1mg magnesium and 65mg potassium. Each tablet is 4.2g and contains just 7kcals, with added vitamins including the likes of B1 Thiamine and B6.
Like Nuun, the Hydro can’t resist a hit of carbs, albeit just 0.8g per tablet with one tablet dropped into 500ml of water. Again, we’d prefer no carbs. Also be aware that SiS offer GO Electrolyte in powder form containing all the sweat-related electrolytes of the Hydro, but with 36g of carbs. Twenty in a tube equates to 35p per tablet.
Verdict: Tasty but not quite as carb pure as we’d like
Nuun’s Active ticks the electrolyte boxes thanks to 100mg potassium, 25mg magnesium, 13mg calcium and 360mg sodium, the latter too much for many. Its vitamin C addition is debatable, with research stating antioxidant supplement hampers muscular adaptation. It features sugar in the form of 1g dextrose and Nuun argue that’s down to increased hydration, presumably because glycogen attracts water in a 3:1 ratio, but we’d rather see no carbs in a hydration drink. The recipe has been upgraded using Stevia leaf extract as a sweetener, beet juice powder and avocado oil. But these come at a monetary cost.
Verdict: A proven product loaded with electrolytes
Best hydration tablet deals
Wiggle Nutrition Hydration Tablets
- £3.99 for 20 tabs
As with most tabs, Wiggle recommend that you mix one tab per 500ml of water, that means that one tube of tabs should be good for 10 litres of electrolyte water. Designed to ‘taste great’ but also be ‘gentle on the stomach’, the Wiggle tabs are available in lemon, orange, strawberry and blackcurrant, all of which are vegan. The tabs also contain 8.4mg of caffeine, to help give you that extra performance boost (blackcurrant flavour is caffeine free).
O.R.S Hydration Tablets
- £4.99 for 24 tabs
Available at a reduced price from sites such as Wiggle, these O.R.S (oral rehydration solution) tabs seems great value for money at 24 tabs a tube. Boasting an all-natural and preservative-free composition, the O.R.S tabs can be purchased in strawberry, lemon, or blackcurrant and are vegan-friendly.
How do they work? O.R.S say they ‘allow your body to absorb water almost as soon as you drink it using a scientific process called osmosis’. The added glucose is said to optimise this process. Bear in mind, however, that serving size is significantly less that others mentioned here, with O.R.S recommending two tablets to be used in every 200ml of water.
GU Hydration Drink Tabs
- £9.00 for 12 tabs
Well known for its luxury desserts, GU is also a big name in the sports nutrition world, producing gels, capsules and hydration tabs for athletes. These naturally flavoured tabs contain 320mg of sodium and 10kcals per serving, they’re also caffeine-free. Just plop one tab into approximately 500ml of water and away you go.
A stand-out ingredient in these is the addition of xylitol, which GU claims should ‘help reduce gastrointestinal distress’ in comparison to more widely used substances like sorbitol. So, if you’re prone to stomach cramps and upset, these could be the tabs for you.
OTE Hydro Tab
- £7.50 for 20 tabs
Recently launched these OTE hydro tabs aim to be refreshing and contain multiple electrolytes including sodium, potassium and magnesium. One eight-calorie tablet is needed per 500ml of water, along with important hydration salts, these also contain vitamins B6, B2 and B1. These tabs are available in four different flavours: orange, pink grapefruit, blackcurrant and lemon. Full review coming soon.
Elite Activ Hydrate
- £9.99 for 40 tabs
Available in berry burst or citrus twist flavour, these vegan-friendly hydration tabs are composed of a score of electrolytes including 300mg sodium, 100mg potassium, 40mg calcium and 20mg magnesium. Recommended dosage is one tablet in 500ml of water. Elite pride themselves on being a trustworthy range of products as they have been tested by the ‘Sport and Specialised Analytical Services’ for banned substances.
What is the difference between hydration tabs and electrolyte powder?
Both hydration powders and tabs are effectively the same thing in that they are effervescent substances (dissolve in water) that contain electrolytes and sometimes other substances such as vitamins, glucose and sweeteners, dependant on the specific product in use. They both aim to keep the user hydrated during and after exercise, by replenishing salts lost through sweat. How they differ, however, is in their form.
Quite simply, a powder must be spooned into water and measured out depending on desired quantity, and a tab can be considered more convenient as it is already portioned out and easier to transport; all the user needs to do is simply plop one into a bottle and go. You may find powders to be slightly better value for money, but it really depends on which you go for, check out our sports drink page for more info.
What is hyponatremia?
Hyponatremia is a condition that develops as a direct result of low sodium levels in the blood. Levels are reduced due to too much water in the body diluting the sodium in the blood, this is a common cause of potentially life-threatening issues such as diuretic use, liver disease and heart failure.
However, it can also occur due to excess sweating and subsequent rehydrating with liquids that don’t contain salts to replace those lost. This is why it is important to consider adding electrolyte tabs to your refuelling arsenal during particularly hard, hot, or long efforts.
- Hyponatremia: causes and symptoms of low sodium levels
- Post-exercise nausea: why do I feel sick after exercise?
- Does a woman’s hydration needs differ to a man’s?
- Does an endurance athlete’s hydration needs change as they age?
- Why sports drinks containing both glucose and fructose can help performance