Our multi-strength electrolyte supplements come in three different formats. Many of our athletes will make use of each of them in different scenarios or at different times before, during and after events, but here's a quick rundown of the differences to help you decide how best to implement your personalised hydration plan...
Precision Fuel & Hydration's electrolyte supplements
Our electrolyte supplements come in three formats, because all athletes and sports are different and so they have different needs.
1. All-natural drink mixes in waterproof, single-serving packets
2. Low calorie effervescent tablets (in tubes)
3. Blister-packed, swallowable Electrolyte Capsules
What do the drink mixes and tablets have in common?
We'll use our 1,500mg/l strength as an example here, but the same applies to the other strengths...
1. The sodium content (and packaging color)
Both the PH 1500 drink mixes and low-cal tablets contain 1,500mg of sodium per litre (when mixed as directed). The packaging for both has a flash of purple.
In other words, add either a PH 1500 tablet or the contents of a waterproof PH 1500 packet to 500ml (16oz) of water and you’ll get a solution with a concentration of 1500mg of sodium per litre (32oz).
This makes it easy to find the right strength supplements for you once you know your sweat sodium concentration (by having a Sweat Test). It also makes comparing our supplements with others on the market simpler too. If you’ve ever checked out the nutritional information on the back of different energy/hydration supplements, you’ll know that they tend to display the information in different ways, with one product containing 0.4g of salt and another 400mg of sodium (not actually the same thing, because salt is 39% sodium and 61% chloride) for example.
Basically, we’ve tried to make it really easy to implement a personalised hydration strategy and to see what you’re drinking. We've written about why we focus on the relative concentration of our drinks on the front of the packaging in more detail if you're interested in learning more about that.
2. The amount of water you need to mix one serving with
Both the drink mix packets and effervescent tablets should be dissolved into 500ml (~16oz) of water to achieve the concentration on the packaging.
Of course, it’s possible to mix them into more or less water than directed, but bear in mind that they’ll taste saltier and be more concentrated if you use less than 500ml (~16oz) of water per serving. and more dilute if you drop them into more water.
We recommend that you stick to using them as directed (1 serving in 500ml/16oz water). We have a 1l (32oz) bottle available to make this nice and easy.
3. They’re both formulated to be hypotonic
i.e. to be of a lower concentration than your blood. This helps you absorb them faster. For more on why a hypotonic drink is likely to be the best option for you, read this.
4. They have a very similar flavor
Although the ingredients and amounts of sodium in the PH 1500 packets and effervescent tablets are different, we’ve done our best to maintain a consistent, light citrus flavor across the board.
If you’ve not tried it already, it really is rather pleasant (even if we do say so ourselves). It’s a point of pride at PF&H HQ that we get so much positive feedback on the subtle nature of the flavor, especially as it’s not our main selling point!
5. They’re both gluten free, not genetically engineered and they're also vegan-friendly
What’s the difference between the drink mixes and tablets?
1. The carbohydrate content
The all-natural drink mix packets contain a small amount of carbohydrate (16-17g) in the form of sugar.
This sugar is in there for 3 reasons…
- It enables faster absorption of the drink into the blood stream via a process called sodium-glucose co-transport through the gut wall.
- It allows us to make the drink with natural ingredients (just 8 in total).
- It provides some quickly available energy to help your performance when you’re out there working hard and sweating (without trying to entirely fuel your efforts)
We’re well aware that sugar is an emotive word in the world of sports nutrition these days. Although it’s got a pretty bad rep in the mainstream press, there’s a very strong and positive, performance-led rationale for it’s inclusion in some of our supplements. If this is something you want to research further, read this blog post.
If sugar really is a complete no no for you, our low-calorie effervescent tablets and Electrolyte Capsules contain virtually no carbohydrates/sugars at all (less than 1g per serving).
On that note, if you have't read it already, we wrote a blog about how to fit Precision Fuel & Hydration supplements into your wider nutrition strategy and that is particularly relevant here. As always if you get stuck just drop us an email..
2. The drink mixes are all-natural
Part of the reason we launched the drink mixes (having already launched the low calorie tablets a few years earlier) is that we were increasingly aware that many of our athletes feel strongly that they only want to put natural foods into their body.
This is the way the sports nutrition market is heading and we wanted to make sure we gave our athletes an all-natural choice.
But, as we mentioned above, if even a small amount of sugar isn't an option for you, then we've still got you covered with our low-calorie tablets, which use a small amount of sweetener to make them taste nice.
We don't display the quantities used as they're so small as to be insignificant. The sweeteners we use in the tabs - Sucralose and Sorbitol - are generally considered ‘neutral’ as far as the body is concerned.
In very large quantities, a small group of the population can find they get some digestive issues from consuming sweeteners, but this is rare and seems to be over-reported in the media. In essence, we'd say that sweeteners have been given a bad reputation by the press and, whilst they're probably not directly 'good' for your health, nor are they that ‘bad’ either, just neutral.
3. The packaging
Each box of all-natural drink mixes contains individual single-serving packets that are waterproof. This makes it really easy to carry a few servings with you during a training session or event. We've heard of triathletes and swimrunners carrying a packet in their wetsuit so they have one handy right out of the water.
The low-calorie effervescent tablets come in tubes. These are more weight/space efficient per serving and so make them a good option for anything where that matters, such as self-supported, multi-stage events.
4. The osmolality ("the concentration" in layman's terms)
We send our products to an independent lab for analysis to make sure they’re suitably hypotonic (in other words, a lower concentration than your blood) so that you can absorb them nice and fast (you can read more about why this is important here).
The results from our latest tests were…
All-natural drink mixes
- PH 250 = 111 mmol/kg
- PH 500 = 147 mmol/kg
- PH 1000 = 163 mmol/kg
- PH 1500 = 179 mmol/kg
Low-calorie effervescent tablets
- PH 250 = 53 mmol/kg
- PH 500 = 48 mmol/kg
- PH 1000 = 77 mmol/kg
- PH 1500 = 113 mmol/kg
That's compared with an osmolality of ~295 mmol/kg for the plasma in your blood.
Which Precision Fuel & Hydration electrolytes should you use?
This is mainly down to personal preference and circumstances. Here are a few examples of times when we’d probably recommend you use one over the other:
It’s probably best to use the all-natural drink mixes…
- …when you’re working hard and want your drink to contribute to your carbohydrate intake
- …when you’re trying to recover from dehydration, but you’re not taking in food with your drinks. (The glucose in the drink mixes will speed up the absorption of fluid in your gut)
- …if you want a drink thats 100% natural (i.e. no sweeteners)
- ...if you're especially prone to GI issues on longer/hotter events (when you're drinking more)
- ...if you want to carry a serving or two of electrolytes on the move, especially in your wetsuit (as the packets are waterproof)
- …if you just prefer the taste of the packets over the tablets. Mary Poppins was right, a spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down!
It might be better to use the low calorie effervescent tablets…
- …when you’re training in a fasted state to burn more fat, but still sweating and wanting to replace electrolyte losses
- …if you’re strictly following a LCHF (low carb, high fat) diet
- …at times when you’re actively trying to minimise your overall energy intake to lose body weight
- …when you’re on the move and trying to pack as light as possible. E.g. self-supported, multi-stage races
- …if you prefer to get your energy exclusively from solid foods/bars/gels rather than fluids
- …if you have diabetes (or other medical conditions requiring a lower sugar diet) and struggle to keep your glucose intake in check
It might be better to use the blister-packed, swallowable Electrolyte Capsules…
- ...if you prefer plain water to even mildly flavoured drinks
- ...when your total sweat output is likely to be high, but you don’t want to / can't carry lots of fluid (e.g. during the run leg of a triathlon)
Fundamentally, there are no wrong answers here, but having a more complete understanding of the differences between our products should help you make an informed decision on what’s right for you in different scenarios.
Ultimately, the most important thing is to use the correct strength(s) for you and to mix your drinks up as directed (1 serving per 500ml/16oz of water).
Book an exercise-free, Sweat Test at our network of Sweat Test Centers around the world, or take our free [Fuel & Hydration Planner](https://www.precisionhydration.com/planner/ "Precision Fuel & Hydration Planner) to get started with personalising your hydration strategy.
When should you use the PF 60 Energy Drink Mix?
We added the PF 60 Energy Drink Mix to our fueling range in 2021. It's designed to deliver the critical trifecta of carbs (60g per litre), fluids and electrolytes (1,000mg per litre), and is designed primarily for high intensity efforts lasting ~1-2 hours, though it can also be a useful contributor to your energy needs during longer sessions.
It delivers a steady stream of rapidly digestible energy along with fluid and a significant level of sodium to combat dehydration and electrolyte losses.
Andy's explained when you should use the PF 60 Energy Drink Mix and when you would want to use the PH Electrolyte Drink Mixes:
- The ’S’ Word - Why is there sugar in the new Precision Fuel & Hydration range?
- Why we put the 'relative sodium concentration' of our drinks on the front of the packet
- How does Precision Fuel & Hydration fit in with your wider nutrition plan?
- Why sodium is crucial to athletes performing at their best
- Different types of sports drinks and when to use them