When you’re hiking, you need to stay hydrated, especially on a hot day. But, you need more than plain water. Yep, you need electrolytes, too.
When you’re hiking and sweating a lot, you lose a lot of essential minerals. If you’re only drinking water, you can create a dangerous electrolyte imbalance.
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So, what do electrolytes even do anyway? And, how do you know if you need them? And, which are the best electrolytes for hiking?
In this article we’re answering all these questions and more. Plus, we’re covering different ways to replenish electrolytes. It’s not all about sports drinks.
What Do Electrolytes Do?
Electrolytes are minerals that conduct electricity when dissolved in water. They regulate many essential natural processes in your body.
Electrolytes regulate muscle function and nerve function (including your heart), regulate your blood pH and regulate fluid levels in your blood and body.
They also help the human body remove waste and rebuild damaged tissue. Without them, many essential bodily functions would be totally out of whack.
Electrolyte levels drop when hiking through sweating and urinating. And, when we sweat excessively, we need to replace the electrolytes that we’re losing.
How Do I Know If I Need Electrolytes?
An electrolyte imbalance can throw off your entire system. Here are common symptoms that may indicate a troubling electrolyte imbalance:
● Muscle twitching
● Muscle cramps
● Salt cravings
● Poor or lowered endurance
● Slow or irregular heartbeat
● Tingling in feet and fingers
● Intense itchiness and poor circulation
If you’ve been losing a lot of fluid through sweating while hiking or vomiting and diarrhea if you’re sick, chances are you need essential electrolytes.
When hiking in warm or humid conditions, it’s always a good idea to bring along electrolyte mixes or an electrolyte drink in addition to cold water.
Do Electrolytes Rehydrate Faster Than Water?
Electrolytes and electrolyte drink powders help your body rehydrate faster and more efficiently than just drinking regular water.
This is because the salts in electrolytes help your body retain fluid, and the minerals help the processes in your body operate more efficiently.
Taking in electrolyte drinks is especially important when you are sick, after periods of intense physical activity or when hiking in warm or hot weather.
Drinking water alone can be dangerous. If you don’t replenish electrolytes and drink just water, you can cause an even greater imbalance in your body.
Best Electrolyte Drinks
Electrolyte drinks have water, electrolytes (usually sodium and potassium), and sugar or a sugar alternative. You can find them in fluid or powder form.
Common store brands include Gatorade or Pedialyte, but there are many different brands, flavors and types of electrolyte replacements.
NOOMA is a keto-friendly sports drink with no added sugar, only 30 calories and a low overall carb count.
This plant based electrolyte drink gets its electrolyte content from Himalayan pink salt and organic coconut water, so it’s all nature-based.
In addition to electrolytes, NOOMA drinks have adaptogens from cordyceps mushrooms and ashwagandha, which help with recovery and stress.
This is a great overall rehydration drink for sports, hiking and outdoor activities. It’s also good if you’ve been sick.
Gatorade Fit is an electrolyte drink alternative to regular Gatorade. You can find this drink online or in grocery stores.
It has only 10 to 15 calories per serving and 1 gram of sugar. Compare this to 110 calories and 32 grams of sugar in regular Gatorade.
This sports drink comes in many different flavors and sources electrolytes naturally through watermelon and sea salt. It also contains vitamins A and C.
Gatorade Fit is sweetened with stevia. It has no added sugar and no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners. It can be an alternative to original Gatorade.
Biolyte is a physician-formulated electrolyte drink labeled as as “the IV in a bottle” with “immediate electrolyte replacement.”
Biolyte claims to be “the first recovery drink to contain the same amount of electrolytes as an IV bag.” It also contains other key minerals.
Biolyte has sodium and potassium, natural sugars, milk thistle and N-Acetyl to help remove toxins. Anti-nausea supplements help to soothe upset stomach.
This electrolyte drink is great if you need serious hydration and you need it fast. It’s a fantastic all-around hydrating drink for trail hikers.
The Electrolit hydration drink has magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium to help replace electrolytes and help your body recover.
This electrolyte drink comes in many different flavors and is great for recovery when hiking, from illness, working out, even hangovers.
This zero sugar, zero calorie sports drink comes in multiple flavors. You can find this drink online or in many department and convenience stores.
Electrolit launched in 1950 as a dehydration drink for children. But, because of its effectiveness, it’s now used for sports recovery, illness recovery, and more.
Body Armor Lyte is a popular sports drink for a day hike that comes in a variety of flavors. It supplies a lot of electrolytes, antioxidants and B vitamins.
This electrolyte drink is low calorie and has zero added sugars. It’s sweetened with erythritol, a natural sweetener.
This premium sports drink first hit the shelves in 2011 and has quickly become one of the most popular sports drinks among athletes and outdoor enthusiasts.
It’s made with coconut water and natural flavors and is a great all-around sports and recovery drink. You can find it online and in grocery stores.
Best Electrolyte Powders
Electrolyte powders are pouches of electrolyte drink mix, and they’re typically a single serving size. These electrolyte products are perfect to add to a water bottle.
Hydration mixes contain the electrolytes you need in a single serving. They’re also more convenient to carry on a long hike than several bottles of sports drinks.
The Skratch Labs hydration powder mix contains clinical levels of electrolytes and zinc for treating severe dehydration and upset stomach.
This electrolyte drink mix is formulated to help address nutrient and electrolyte deficiencies from illness or extreme exercise.
Skratch Labs has multiple types of electrolyte drink mixes, and this wellness version contains more than double the electrolytes as the original version.
Best of all, it’s easy to drink and flavored with real fruit flavor and natural ingredients. It doesn’t contain any artificial additives or added sugars.
The Ultima Replenisher Hydration Electrolyte packets are single serve packets that contain a broad spectrum electrolyte mix for rehydration.
This blend contains trace minerals and six key electrolytes to help replenish your body, whether you’re working out or just hanging out. Or hiking, of course.
These packets are naturally sweetened without sugar. They use organic stevia leaf, real fruit flavors and plant-based coloring. It’s truly all-natural.
Ultima is vegan, gluten-free, caffeine free, soy/dairy free, keto-friendly, and much more. It’s available in single serve packets or canisters.
Liquid IV is one of the most popular hydration drink mixes and you can find it just about anywhere, including online and grocery stores.
This electrolyte powder, called the “Hydration Multiplier,” is a great tasting electrolyte drink mix in a convenient single-serve pouch.
Liquid IV contains three times the electrolytes of traditional sports drinks and five essential vitamins, including B3, B5, B6, B12 and C.
These mixes contain sodium, potassium and glucose to help you rapidly rehydrate when you’ve been sick, working out or hiking in the heat – or just sweating a lot.
Propel is a popular sports drink from the company that sells Gatorade. Propel is sugar-free and contains electrolytes, vitamin B, vitamin C and vitamin E.
You can get Propel drink powders in many flavors and they come in single-serve packets, which are perfect for on-the-go.
You can also get Propel Immune, an electrolyte drink mix that contains immune-boosting vitamins. This is great when you are feeling sick.
Like any single-serve electrolyte drink mix, simply add a packet to a bottle of water, shake it up and you’re good to go.
The LMNT Keto Electrolyte Powder Packs are keto-friendly and free of gluten, sugars, fillers and artificial ingredients.
These drink packets have the perfect blend of sodium, potassium and magnesium to help your body rehydrate when you’re most in need.
These drink packets come in flavors like citrus salt, orange salt, watermelon salt and raspberry salt, but they’re not salty. In fact, they’re sweetened with stevia.
These drink mixes were formulated by KetoGains to be keto friendly and adapted to a highly physically active workout lifestyle. Perfect if you’re on a Keto diet.
Best Electrolyte Tablets
Electrolyte tablets are similar to powdered drink mixes, yet in a more compact form. You simply dissolve them in water, just like powder packets.
If you’re hiking or backpacking and have minimal space, consider electrolyte tablets. Here are some of the top electrolyte tablets on the market.
Nuun Hydration sport tablets come with 10 single-serve tablets per container. And, they come in multiple flavors, like wild strawberry and lemon splash.
They take up hardly any space in your pack. They’re great for on-the-go hydration when your energy levels are low.
These tablets contain an optimized electrolyte blend to help you rehydrate better than water. Plus, they only have one gram of sugar.
Nuun tablets have sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium as a part of their electrolyte blend. They use natural ingredients for flavoring and color.
Voost is an effervescent electrolyte drink tablet that contains vitamin C, zinc and electrolytes to help you rehydrate and boost your immune system.
These tablets have only 10 calories and no sugar. There are 20 tablets per container. Each tablet is great for 8-16 oz of water, depending on taste preference.
If you like fizzy drinks, Voost is a great option for you because it’s effervescent. This is a great way to get your vitamins in and rehydrate.
Voost comes in many tantalizing flavors like blood orange, blackberry peach, orange guava, blueberry pomegranate, strawberry kiwi and orange mango.
This 4-pack of hydration tablets from GU energy contains 48 servings in four fun flavors: orange, lemon lime, strawberry lemonade and tri-berry.
These electrolyte tablets are easily dissolved in 16 oz of water and have a light, effervescent flavor, making them perfect for sensitive stomachs.
Each 10-calorie tablet contains 320 mg of sodium and 33 mg of potassium to help maintain water balance and help you stay hydrated or rehydrate.
These tablets are keto friendly, vegan, gluten free, caffeine free, Kosher and they only contain one gram of sugar.
Fluid Tactical effervescent hydration tablets come in a 4-pack with 10 servings per tube. Flavors include grape, lemon lime, mixed berry and orange pineapple.
Each tablet contains 320 mg sodium, 30 mg potassium, 30 mg magnesium and 15 mg calcium to help prevent dehydration and rehydrate.
These tablets have a shelf life of three years, so you can store them at home for a long period of time and use them as you need them.
Each tablet provides a complete electrolyte profile and the formulation is gluten free, dairy free, soy free, non-GMO, vegan friendly and keto friendly.
The Precision Hydration Lite Electrolyte drink tablets come in four different strengths to battle dehydration and all of its side effects, like muscle cramping.
These tablets come in strengths of 250, 500, 1,000 and 1,500 mg of sodium per liter to tailor your drink to what you need.
These effervescent tablets are low calorie and low carb. One serving is good for 16 oz of water.
These tablets are great for athletes, hiking or working out in hot weather, or for anytime you’re sweating or losing a lot of water and electrolytes.
Electrolyte Replacement Alternatives
If you want something other than drinks, powders or mixes for electrolyte replacement, there are popular alternatives, such as:
● Chewable electrolyte tablets that quickly dissolve
● Comes 60 to a bottle
● Take two tablets every 15-30 mins of activity
● 60 gummies to a bottle
● Take two gummies during activity to replenish electrolytes
Staying hydrated on the trails is of utmost importance for your health. This is the bottom line. An electrolyte imbalance can be dangerous.
Since electrolyte supplements come in drink form, powder form and tablet form, it’s never been easier to rehydrate quickly on-the-go.
No matter your taste preferences, you’re sure to find an electrolyte supplement that works for you. For on-the-go needs, tablets and powders are great.
Remember to drink plenty of water when hiking, especially in hot weather. And importantly, balance that out with electrolytes for rapid rehydration.