On October 2nd, 1965, a small team of medical scientists at the University of Florida invented a sports drink they dubbed "Gatorade." Little more than water, sugar, salt, and lemon juice, no one expected the unassuming lemon-lime drink to succeed. Today, more than fifty years later, the sports drink industry is worth almost $5 billion, and countless companies have flooded the market with their products in an attempt to get a piece of the pie.
Of those countless hydration drinks, energy drinks, and electrolyte powders, precious few provide more benefits than you could get from plain water with a bit of added table salt. Still, valuable products do exist for those who know where to look, and the right hydration supplement can have a profound impact on your physical performance and overall health.
In order to help you identify those products worth your money, we've compiled a comprehensive breakdown of the hydration industry, from how to tell if you need more hydration to what to look for in a potential product.
By the end of this article, you'll have all the information and resources you need to choose for yourself which supplement works best for your needs.
The Health Benefits of Staying Hydrated
Alongside healthy eating habits and good sleep, proper hydration is one of the single most impactful factors for athletic performance and general quality of life. Not only do many sources suggest that up to 75% of American adults are chronically dehydrated, but countless studies have also linked poor hydration to chronic illnesses, compromised sleep patterns, and even accelerated aging.
Worse, many U.S. adults have been living with dehydration for so long that they don't even recognize the issue, instead believing their symptoms to be the normal effects of day-to-day life. If you're wondering whether this might be the case for you, ask yourself if you experience any of these common dehydration symptoms:
- Muscle cramps
- Sunken eyes
If you recognize one or more of these symptoms, it may be that you suffer from sub-optimal hydration. Luckily, reversing these symptoms is often as simple as slight changes to your daily routine to better ensure proper hydration. Once you do, you can look forward to benefits such as:
- Improved sleep quality
- Decreased inflammation
- Better mental clarity and focus
- Increased strength and endurance
- A stronger heart
- Higher energy levels
While already substantial, this list is only a small fraction of all the diverse and potent benefits you can gain by improving your daily hydration.
Why Not Just Drink More Water?
The first question many people ask when you tell them about hydration products is usually, "Why not just drink water?"
Although it's reasonable to ask, this question stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the human body. While drinking water is important, what most people fail to understand is the overwhelming importance of key electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium, chloride, and phosphorus.
These minerals also comprise the electrolytes found in human blood, sweat, and urine and are responsible for the health of countless bodily functions and internal organs. And, while normal tap water does naturally carry some electrolytes, the amount is usually far less than the average person needs--much less those with active lifestyles.
To bridge the gap between the hydration offered by regular water and complete hydration, it's best to include a high-quality electrolyte supplement.
What to Look for In Hydration Drinks
When shopping for hydration supplements, there are some clear-cut qualities and features to watch out for. To help you make the right choice, we've put together a clear-cut breakdown of different types of products and their benefits.
Electrolyte Powders vs. Sports Drinks vs. Energy Drinks
Regardless of powdered or liquid, all hydration-focused products are essentially electrolyte supplements. That said, some trendy, popular sports drinks include unnecessary, potentially counterproductive ingredients like artificial flavors or added sugars, many of which can lead to an upset stomach or other unintended side effects.
In terms of artificial ingredients, energy drinks are by far the worst offender. Although these products often brand themselves as containing necessary electrolytes, any benefits they offer are dramatically outweighed by their sugar content, dehydrating doses of caffeine, and loosely regulated artificial additives.
If hydration is your primary goal, we suggest steering clear of energy drinks altogether.
Sports drinks are difficult to rank due to the overwhelming number of different products currently flooding the market. While typically healthier than energy drinks, the average sports drink is meant to somewhat address a wide range of issues rather than focusing solely on hydration.
Often, this means added caffeine, adaptogens, or creatine. And although each of these ingredients may be useful in certain circumstances, every ingredient not meant to promote hydration takes the place of one that could.
Additionally, the trendy nature of most sports drinks often leads to inflated costs and misleading branding, both of which needlessly complicates what should be a clear, simple function.
On the whole, a high-quality electrolyte powder provides the most clear-cut hydration benefits with the fewest unnecessary additives. This is because powdered electrolytes generally contain the fewest possible ingredients required to serve their single purpose: better hydration.
Generally, this means outstanding electrolyte levels, healthy artificial sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit extract, and natural flavors such as those from beetroot or malic acid. Additionally, a good electrolyte powder should be gluten-free, contain zero sugar, and have very few calories.
How to Take Hydration Powders
Because one scoop contains a day's worth of necessary electrolytes, hydration powders are much more versatile than most pre-mixed drinks. Still, factors such as timing and base liquids can help you maximize the effect of your chosen product.
What to Mix With
A good hydration powder should mix well with most types of liquids and leave little to no texture. While most people simply mix their powder into a water bottle, we also suggest trying it with coconut water for extra hydration, a citrus fruit juice like orange or grapefruit for vitamin C, or even your protein shakes.
For more adventurous customers who like a bit of sweetness but want to control the amount of added sugar in their diets, adding hydration powder to a healthy fruit punch or strawberry lemonade can make for a delicious, nutritious treat.
When to Consume
When you take your electrolyte powder depends entirely on your lifestyle. For the average person who simply wants to boost their daily hydration, feel free to drink your mix whenever you'd like throughout the day.
For gym-goers with a more active lifestyle, we suggest drinking electrolytes 1-2 hours before your workout session to promote performance and protect joints.
Finally, those who prefer a more intense workout, like endurance athletes or weightlifters, may want to consume an electrolyte drink before and during exercise to replenish lost fluids. By maintaining the body's fluid balance this way, you stave off potentially harmful cramps and ensure you can give each workout the effort it deserves.
Why You Should Try Hydrate48
Your body is complex, but that doesn't mean hydration needs to be. Unlike viral sports drinks or highly-caffeinated mixes, our Hydrate48 includes only the most essential ingredients to give you the hydration you need and none of the fluff you don't.
With a comprehensive electrolyte profile and delicious natural flavors, our product is perfect for both athletes and those simply looking to stay healthy with better daily hydration.