Athletes Love This Hydration Hack
The electrolyte-boosting tablets are an alternative to sports drinks for endurance athletes. But what do they do for the rest of us?
Countless companies have tried to reinvent water. They’ve infused it with vitamins, electrolytes, or rock salt for “better body balance.” Most of these, as Elemental has previously reported, are plain old H2O in an overpriced bottle. But what about hydration that doesn’t come in liquid form at all?
Nuun is a Seattle-based brand that has a loyal following of endurance athletes. Its electrolyte and vitamin-infused tablets dissolve into water and create what the company calls a “refreshingly effervescent hydration beverage.” (The evidence for this seems to be that the drink is fizzy and fairly tasty, according to several Nuun fans I spoke to for this story.)
With a Silicon Valley-esque name, tubular packaging, and slogans like “hydration you can feel,” you might expect Nuun to be another wellness brand hawking some kind of miracle cure. But unlike dietary supplement companies that make outrageous promises or use unsafe ingredients, Nuun’s sports product delivers on its claims: helping athletes replenish electrolytes during long runs and bike rides.
“Electrolyte balance helps to maintain fluid balance,” says Yasi Ansari, a registered sports dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which cannot comment on branded products. “By being adequately hydrated, this helps both mental and physical sports performance.”
Electrolytes are salts such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium that help the body regulate blood pressure and muscle contraction. When you lose them through sweat, you get the familiar symptoms of dehydration: cramps, headaches, nausea, and dizziness.
Nuun’s “sport” tablet helps you stock up on these, without the added carbohydrates of Gatorade. That’s a big part of the appeal for athletes who use Nuun. “The reason I particularly like Nuun is I’m sensitive to drinks that have a lot of sugar in them; when I’m running, it upsets my stomach,” says Rachel E. Scherr, assistant research scientist at the University of California, Davis. (It’s also what makes it a good hangover cure.)