Best Hydration Drinks And Supplements: Keys To Staying Hydrated

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Most people want to know what drills or skills they can practice to help improve their performance. The answer is normally dry fire, but there is also one performance-enhancing substance that goes totally ignored. Water.

Chances are, you don’t drink enough water in your daily life. Dehydration isn’t just bad for you, it can seriously impact your performance at the range, in the gym, or just living your normal life. 

But is water the best it can be? What about Gatorade, or fancy powders we add to our water? 

DISCLAIMER

I am not a doctor. I don’t play one on TV and if you are looking to me for medical advice, you’re wrong.

I’m a dude who shoots a lot in the desert and took the time to try my way through a bunch of drink supplements and do a bunch of reading on the internet about how these big words help me not die in the desert.

Please use this information wisely and with the apprehension appropriate for the information you read online.

WHAT YOUR BODY NEEDS

Water. Your body needs water. Sweat keeps you cool but also expresses a lot of water out of your system. How much depends on a whole lot of factors, but can be up to about 3 to 4 liters per hour in the heat while exorcising. 

With that sweat, your body loses sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride. You also lose some other stuff, but those are the big four and the ones that really matter for this article.

Don’t just shoot the water. Drink the water.

How much you lose is a very complex issue and depends on a lot of things like temperature, humidity, personal body chemistry, activity, length of activity, and your level of acclimation. But broadly speaking, it can be as much as 4.8g and 6g of sodium during a 10-hour period in ~95f heat.

To help with the math later and because most of the people reading this are American, I’ll remind the class that 1 gram (g) is 1,000 milligrams (mg).

HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU DRINK

The real answer is going to really depend on you, what you’re doing, and what the weather is like.

But we can look at some ballpark numbers to at least give you an idea. Most of these numbers are coming from a study in the Journal Of Occupational Medicine And Toxicology, “Sweat rate and sodium loss during work in the heat”.

Based on that, let’s assume an average of 5.5g of sodium in a 10-hour period in 95f heat. That’s 550mg per hour. 

The most important thing for you to do is drink water, normally anywhere from 300-1500ml per hour depending on the heat and activity level, but if it’s really hot and you’re active you could need significantly more.

Personally, I get cases of water with bottles in the 500ml (16fl oz) size. 

In the winter and the weather is only up to the mid-70s, I normally drink 1 or 2 bottles an hour.

During the summer in Arizona when it’s 110 degrees, I drink at least 4 bottles of water an hour but I’ve had days when 6 an hour was required to keep me going.

I find that a hydration packet/bottle every 3rd or 4th bottle of water works out well. But it depends on what snacks you’re eating, activity, etc. This is what I do, but might not be what you should do.

Something to keep in mind is that snacks are going to take longer to digest. If you’re relying on food like salted nuts or jerky to replace your sodium, it takes longer to actually get absorbed than drinking a hydration drink. Be sure to plan ahead.

WHAT THESE WORDS MEAN

Maybe you were asleep in health class or maybe you just forgot, but here is a refresher if you want to understand a little more of the science behind this all. Honestly, it’s not critical and you can skip it if you want.

The big takeaway from this is that Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, and Chloride are important. Some sugar helps a lot in multiple ways. The rest is just kind of there and useful to your body but not critical parts of a hydration supplement. 

Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, and Chloride

These are the main 4 electrolytes and are very important for staying alive. They do a lot of things but a short list includes moving nutrients into cells, removing waste out of cells, supporting muscle and nerve function, keeping your heart beating correctly, keeping your blood pressure stable, helping your body make and use energy, and a lot more. Importantly, you lose them via sweating so replacing them is needed.

Sugar

Specifically, glucose is a type of sugar that your body needs. It does a ton of things but isn’t lost during sweat. So why do you want it in a hydration supplement? First, it makes things taste good and that’s important because sodium tastes bad. More importantly, glucose helps your body absorb the water and electrolytes you’re drinking. How much sugar you need to help absorption is debatable, but you need at least some. Thus, sugar-free supplements aren’t as effective.

Calcium

A mineral that builds strong bones and teeth, calcium is also critical for muscle movement, nerve function, blood vessel function, and more. Do you need it in a hydration pack? I didn’t find anything that said you did but it can’t hurt.

Vitamin C

This might help your muscles recover after exercise. But the studies I found were conflicting and the positive ones said you needed it for several days before and after exercising for it to work. So, again, do you need it?

Vitamin B6, B12, Niacin, and Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)

More micronutrients that your body needs for muscles, nerves, energy production, and more. Studies abound saying how important these are for a healthy body, but most also agree that a normal healthy diet tends to cover how much you need. If you’re out for a long period, these might be nice in your hydration packs if you’re not covering them through a normal diet. But in the short term, like a day or two, it’s unlikely that this will make or break your hydration.

Phosphorus

While there is only limited research on the topic, it’s suggested that phosphorus during exercise may help reduce muscle fatigue and increase recovery. However, while this is an important thing to have in your body, I found nothing to suggest that it was important to replenish via hydration supplements or drinks.

BEST HYDRATION SUPPLEMENT

Liquid IV Regular (Editor’s Choice)

Between what is in each packet, 560mg of sodium, 370mg of potassium, 11g of sugar, and a range of vitamins, combined with the cost per packet and the flavor offered — this is the Goldilocks pick.

If you order from Amazon, this isn’t a bad price. But LiquidIV is also carried at Costco making the price even better. For the most options in flavor and version, Liquid-IV’s website has everything and as long as you buy in bulk you’ll get a pretty good price and free shipping.

The taste is fine. It’s not great, it’s not bad, but it is fine. Cold water makes it taste better, but even warm isn’t too bad. I haven’t tried all of their flavors, so maybe some of the ones offered via their website are more impressive than the lemon-lime that Costco carries.

Packets are an average size and don’t take a lot of room in your bags. They also seem to dissolve fully when added to 500ml/16 fl oz bottles of water even when the water is cold. 

Liquid IV also offers some other formulas with the same hydration but added stuff like the Energy version with 100mg of caffeine, Immune Support with 500mg of vitamin C, Gut Health that has a boatload of probiotics and sleep with 3mg of melatonin.

SPECS:

  • Sodium: 560mg
  • Sugar: 11g
  • Potassium: 370mg
  • Magnesium: 0mg
  • Extra: Vitamin C, B6, B12, B5, and Pantothenic Acid 
  • Price: $1.00 (Costco), $1.21 (Liquid-IV.com), $1.41 (Amazon) Per Packet

DripDrop Regular

This was my first hydration supplement and how I got sent down this rabbit hole in the first place. I still really like DripDrop’s flavor, but it’s light in the sodium department and that’s part of why it tastes so good.

The flavors are bold, and that’s what I like. 

If you’re combining this with high-salt snacks or drinking more packets than I do, you’re probably fine. But I don’t normally snack that much while I’m on the range or at a match, so that doesn’t cut it for me. 

That said, the price is great even off of Amazon and like I said, the taste helps a lot. During the winter I’ve picked up DripDrop a few times since I know I don’t need as powerful a hydration supplement and this saves money while still covering what I need.

SPECS:

  • Sodium: 330mg
  • Sugar: 7g
  • Potassium: 185mg
  • Magnesium: 39mg
  • Extra: Zinc 
  • Price: $0.89 (DropDrop.com 4-Pack), $1.00 (Amazon), $1.09 (DripDrop.com Single Pack) Per Packet

Hoist Bottle (Best Hydration Supplement Bottle)

Compared to other options, Hoist has a lot going for it. The bottles aren’t super expensive, but more expensive than the powder, but the price goes down by a lot if you buy in bulk off their website.

The taste is pretty good, if a bit salty, and offered in a lot of flavors. I would strongly suggest a combo pack until you know what you like. Personally, the peach was my favorite but the Dragon Fruit was pretty icky.

Hoist cold tastes a lot better than warm, but it isn’t horrible when warm. When warm the saltyness comes out. Understandable, since there is 430mg of sodium in these.

I like Hoist over the other bottles because Hoist has more electrolytes than Gatorade without as much sugar, but more sugar than Pedialyte Sport. To me, this is just a better balance than what the others offer. And it’s less than half the price of Pedialyte Sport.

SPECS:

  • Sodium: 430mg
  • Sugar: 14g
  • Potassium: 260mg
  • Magnesium: 20mg
  • Price: $2.00 (DrinkHoist.com Subscription), $3.00 (Amazon) Per Bottle

Hoist Pouch

This is the only product I haven’t tried myself, but I like the idea of them so I’ve added them to the list.

These are only 8 oz pouches, so about half the size of most bottles or the bottles of water that you should add to the powders. And, as such, these pouches have about half the amount of sodium, potassium, and magnesium, but oddly the same amount of sugar. 

From a nutritional standpoint, these are not the best. But they are pretty good and offer a level of convenience that the other options don’t.

If you want to suck down something fast, like while you pound down a protein bar or something, these can be handy. But they won’t restore as much of what you need so they need to be combined with other options like snacks, tablets, etc.

SPECS:

  • Sodium: 150mg
  • Sugar: 12g
  • Potassium: 45mg
  • Magnesium: 20mg
  • Extra: Calcium 
  • Price: $2.18 (DrinkHoist.com) Per Pouch

Gatorlyte Powder

While I found studies talking about how you lose Chloride via sweating, I didn’t find anything that specifically looked at replenishing it. And the vast majority of hydration supplements don’t include it, so maybe it’s just not that important to boost.

That said, Gatorlyte is the only powder I tried that had Chloride in it. Plus, it has everything else you need and in decent amounts. The price is fine, the flavor is fine, but there isn’t a good range of flavors to pick from, and finding it in stock can be iffy.

Not my favorite, but if you want a supplement with Chloride, this is a good option. I didn’t feel any different after hydrating with the Gatorlyte Vs. other products.

SPECS:

  • Sodium: 420mg
  • Sugar: 10g
  • Potassium: 300mg
  • Magnesium: 95mg
  • Extra: Chloride 640mg
  • Price: $1.21 (Amazon) Per Packet

Hoist Powder

This has some pros and cons but it’s something to consider. First off, I love the flavor. But that’s probably because Hoist powder packets don’t have nearly as much sodium as their bottles (300mg vs. 430mg) and have almost double the sugar (24g vs. 14g). 

Does the extra sugar help absorption? Some claim it does, but I can’t find any science to back that up. I feel pretty good when hydrating with the Hoist powder, but that could be totally in my head or just a sugar rush

One thing that does flatly annoy me about the Hoist packets is that they are huge, roughly double the size of any other packet offered. If you’re backpacking or throwing these in bags with limited space, that can be a major downside.

The price is decent in bulk from their website, but it’s more than LiquidIV or DripDrop.

Hoist does offer 15-percent discounts for military and first responders.

SPECS:

  • Sodium: 300mg
  • Sugar: 24g
  • Potassium: 90mg
  • Magnesium: 40mg
  • Price: $1.41 (DrinkHoist Subscription), $1.58 (Amazon) Per Packet

Pedialyte AdvancedCare Plus Powder (Everything Your Body Needs)

Okay, that title should be “Everything Your Body Needs, Except Flavor” but that’s too long for a subtitle.

But ya, that’s my main issue with Pedialyte AdvancedCare Plus Powder. The flavor is very weak and to me, just not very good.

Version 1.0.0

It comes packed with a ton of everything you need, including Chloride, but the flavor is just so unappealing to me that I struggle to drink it. And if you’re drinking it with water that is warm or hot, oh it’s bad. Like, really bad.

650mg of sodium and only 10g of sugar, that poor sugar is doing a lot of heavy lifting to cover up the sodium.

If you like the flavor or you just don’t care, full send.

SPECS:

  • Sodium: 650mg
  • Sugar: 10g
  • Potassium: 370mg
  • Magnesium: 0mg
  • Extra: Chloride 840mg 
  • Price: $1.94 (Amazon)

LOOSE ROUNDS

The big lesson of this article is that you need to drink more water. A lot more. Water is more important than salty snacks, hydration powder, or fruity drinks. But those other things can help greatly if you’re looking to maintain peak performance or beat the heat.

What is best for you will depend, but now at least you have the tools to prepare yourself. 

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