I Tried Liquid I.V. Hydration for a Week—Here’s What Happened
An Ironman athlete put his thirst to the test in the California heat with seven days of Liquid I.V. Here's the verdict on whether it quenched.
As a Certified Personal Trainer, nutrition coach, and Ironman endurance athlete—as well as a former Southern California professional firefighter and paramedic—good hydration has been an essential key to my wellness since the beginning of my career. Stepping up to the starting line of a 12-hour endurance event without having taken in enough water can quickly cut a race short, thanks to issues like cramping and fatigue. To say I have a heightened interest in the various hydration and electrolyte replacement options on the market would be a massive understatement. One that’s made my radar is Liquid I.V. Hydration.
In my mid-forties today, I grew up in the Gatorade generation. Developed in 1965 by a group of scientists at the University of Florida (hence the name Gator-ade) it may not have been the first sports drink, but it’s arguably the most iconic and still perhaps the widest-available. Touted as the thirst quencher and the answer to the hydration issues many athletes face, Gatorade seemed to stand solo on the stage for many years. Since that time, we have seen a proliferation of sports drinks, and now powder electrolyte drink mixes, each highlighting their ability to keep us hydrated and operating at the highest level.
Liquid I.V. was my go-to workout hydration mix for many of my longer endurance training and race events over the past few years. During a summer of seemingly non-stop heat waves, I wondered whether I’d see any changes if I drank it even while I wasn’t training for any big events.
What is Liquid I.V?
Developed in 2012, Liquid I.V. is an electrolyte drink mix that comes packaged as a powdered product. It’s then combined with a recommended 16 ounces of water for the blend to then be consumed. The intended use is for electrolyte supplementation and replacement for those who are actively engaging in, or recovery from, activities or illnesses where hydration levels may be off balance.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are electrically charged substances within our bodies, such as sodium, calcium and potassium, that are essential for the proper functioning of our system. Everything from muscle contraction to the individual beats of your heart are reliant upon different electrolytes at the cellular level.
An imbalance of these electrolytes can create more benign issues like muscle cramping, and at worst seizures and coma in cases of hyponatremia, which is when your blood sodium levels become dangerously low. Heavy sweating is one way large quantities of sodium can leave the body, which is why electrolyte replacement may be necessary both during and after intense bouts of exercise.
This is where Liquid I.V., or other Oral Hydration Solutions (OHS), play a role. A quick glance at the Liquid I.V. nutrition facts will highlight a product with a host of hydration benefiting ingredients, including sodium, potassium, and a number of B vitamins. The packaging also mentions the use of the brand’s Cellular Transport Technology, which uses a combination of ingredients that help to promote active transport and increase the rate at which the hydration aids enter the bloodstream.
I felt more hydrated
Admittedly my usual morning ingestion consists solely of two to three cups of black coffee, followed by a trip to the local gym for a fasted resistance training workout. The coffee usually leaves me feeling fairly full, so when I’m not training I confess I am pretty bad at adding any additional hydration before heading out.
Adding the Liquid I.V. was a way to ensure that I was starting my day with an adequate level of hydration. I could feel the difference throughout the remainder of my day. What I can’t say is that my workout performance showed any drastic difference, but I wasn’t really expecting that to be the case.
I was more motivated to stay hydrated
Consuming the product early in the day gave me a sense that I was better in-tune with my body’s needs and that I was engaging in positive activities to start my day on the right foot. I’m all about morning routines. From reading to meditation, there are certain ways that I like to begin my morning, and it’s traditionally with ways that feed me positive energy and create a sense of well-being.
Adding the Liquid I.V. was an easy step that required little effort, and gave me that added feeling that I was treating myself right. Although I am typically good with staying on top of my hydration, this felt like it gave me an early start and helped limit the potential of a slip-up and getting behind throughout the day. It seemed to increase my motivation to be more vigilant with my fluid intake throughout the remainder of the day. This was a bonus I wasn’t expecting.
I questioned the necessity
Here’s the thing about electrolyte replacement: There is a huge misconception about when supplementation is necessary and how to go about that replacement. For years, sports drink and hydration product companies have used clever marketing to promote their products as performance-enhancers, when the truth is that for many consumers simple water would be just as effective. A balanced diet could take care of the large majority of your electrolyte intake.
Salt is a primary source of sodium, and foods like bananas can add important elements like potassium. For the lay person doing short workouts and eating well, electrolyte replacement beverages may be unnecessary and can add high levels of sugar that may derail many health and fitness goals. (Some Amazon reviewers have noted dismay over the sugar the original Liquid I.V. contains, with 11 grams of added sugar—just shy of three teaspoons.) Although this sugar can be beneficial when you’re engaging in long bouts of exercise, it may serve as unnecessary additional calories for the casual gym-goer. The brand does offer what they call “sugar-free” formulations.
Hydration can be very individual in nature, and things like sweat rate, type of daily work, geographic location and any recent illnesses can be big factors in maintaining appropriate hydration levels. That said, many sources, such as this 2018 review from the Journal of the International Study of Sports Medicine, have noted water to be the preferred hydration source for exercise or activities that are lower in intensity or less than an hour in duration.