this thing's incredible

These Better-Than-Gatorade Electrolyte Tablets Fuel My Runs (and Cure Hangovers)

Photo: Courtesy of Nuun

In our age of status water bottles and jumbo jugs, it seems like everyone is making hydration a priority. This is a good first step, but as much as I hate to break it to you, most experts will say that plain water often isn’t enough — especially if intense exercise is part of your regular routine. As I learned while I was training for my first marathon, to achieve true hydrated bliss, you also need to replenish electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium that are lost through sweat. I’m a fairly heavy sweater, so I was already drinking plenty of water before, during, and after my long training runs. But I still sometimes felt woozy when I finished, or even worse, stuck with muscle cramps or a headache that I couldn’t shake.

After talking to more experienced runners and doing some Googling, I realized an electrolyte deficit was likely to blame — which makes sense considering I often finished my runs covered in a layer of salt I just sweated out. Along with preventing those muscle cramps, electrolytes are essential for a host of important biological functions like regulating heart rate and blood pressure, and making sure your nervous system is working properly. For a long time, it seemed like Gatorade or other sugary sports drinks were athletes’ only options for getting their electrolyte fill; indeed, at most of the races I ran, volunteers would hand out neon-green Gatorade or Powerade at water stations. Although the drinks did give me a quick burst of energy and help with muscle cramps, I was never a fan of their overly sweet taste and I’d often feel myself crashing a few miles later.

Which is why I was very excited to discover Nuun tablets when I started working at a running store a few years back. Unlike Gatorade or Powerade, Nuun isn’t a household name, but I learned the brand does have a cult following among athletes. Similar to Alka Seltzer tablets, these fizzy tabs dissolve in water and, even though they have subtle fruity flavors, deliver a strong dose of electrolytes without a sugar rush. That’s because, unlike regular Gatorade (which has around 120 calories and 30 grams of sugar per serving), or sugar-free Gatorade (which has artificial sweeteners), each Nuun tablet has only 15 (basically negligible) calories and one gram of sugar. I noticed that customers who tried the tablets always came back for more, so I decided I had nothing to lose and bought a pack.

Now, my pantry is never without them. Another advantage of Nuun is that it just tastes really good; I remember first trying it out and being impressed by how sweet it was not. When I drank a Nuun-laced glass of water after a long run, I didn’t get post-run headaches and I had more energy. And when I sipped some while running, I totally avoided muscle cramps. My favorite flavor is lemon lime (I buy it in bulk), but tri-berry, watermelon, and strawberry lemonade are tasty, too. In addition to drinking Nuun water after and during runs, I’ll sometimes prepare a water bottle with it on hot days when I know I’ll be sweating a lot, or just drink it when I’m bored with regular water.

Back when I first bought it, my co-workers at the running store also told me about a little “off-label” Nuun tip: If you pop one into a glass of water and guzzle it down after a particularly heavy night of drinking, it works wonders at curing hangovers. I’m not proud to admit that I’ve held my nose and chugged down sickeningly sweet Pedialyte in the past, but now I can get the same headache and nausea relief from a beverage that’s actually refreshing and rinses the stale taste of last night’s cheap white wine from my mouth.

More of my favorite flavors

If you want something with a little more pep

Nuun also makes tablets with caffeine. Each one has 40 milligrams of caffeine, which is about half as much as a cup of coffee, but enough to give your runs (or your aching head) a little boost. I use these during marathon-training runs when I want a little more energy, and they’ve definitely kept me from fading towards the end of an 18- or 20-mile slog.

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This Low-Sugar Electrolyte Drink Also Relieves Hangovers