When I first published this article, it was a straight out review of Nuun vs Liquid IV. However, then I learned about something called water enhancers. Specifically, I learned about one called Stur. So, I’ve modified this article to include all three products.
Now, why was I interested, originally, in a hydration product like Nuun or Liquid IV? Well, the Peloton cult is to blame.
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Once I started doing Power Zone Training on my Peloton bike, that’s when Nuun showed up on my radar. Usually, when we were doing longer Power Zone rides with Matt Wilpers, he would recommend bringing a banana along and having something extra in your water like Nuun tablets.
A few years after that, my daughter Annie, a hardcore fitness enthusiast and athlete (much like Matt Wilpers), introduced me to Liquid IV electrolyte drink mix. She swears by it as her hydration drink.
Why I decided to try Nuun vs Liquid IV
So, what led me to decide to try and compare Nuun vs Liquid IV? After injuring myself last year and slowly getting back into exercising, I realized how out of shape I was. In addition, I also realized that my hydration routine was out of whack.
Plus, now that I was on a Power Zone Challenge team again and riding longer and harder, drinking straight water just wasn’t cutting it for me. Finally, I was on medication that was dehydrating me so my mouth always felt dry, despite my drinking tons of water.
My doctor suggested I try drinking a product with electrolytes. If ever there was a time to try a hydration product, now was it.
Again, after first writing this article, I added water enhancers to the review list. So, this is an updated review of three products.
Definition of water enhancers
So, what exactly are water enhancers? They are flavorings that you add to water to make it taste more like juice or any other drink you like.
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However, in many instances these enhancers have a lot less sugar than store-bought drinks, such as sodas. You could say that they’re comparable to lower-calorie drinks from a cafe or coffee shop, such as Starbucks Refreshers, but with a much less expensive price tag.
According to Cedars Sinai, “Electrolytes are essential minerals — like sodium, calcium and potassium — that are vital to many key functions in the body.” Lots of hydration products claim to include electrolytes. But only by reading ingredient labels can you tell if this is true.
For example, the Liquid IV label includes at least two mentions of salt or sodium plus potassium. Nuun mentions sodium and calcium on its nutrition facts label.
“You get the added benefit of replacing sodium and potassium lost during exercise over just water alone,” said Ryan Horton of Horton Barbell regarding Liquid IV. “Personally, I also like that I don’t have to waste plastic bottles.”
Testing water enhancers
I knew it was time to check out these three different water enhancers. In addition to taste-testing them, I needed to try them out during and after exercise.
You can buy all of these products at most major retailers. However, thanks to my Amazon Prime membership, I could order them online and get them delivered within 48 hours. Let the taste testing begin.
Water enhancer flavors I chose
I wanted to buy the same or similar flavors of each product. That way, I felt I could do a better side-by-side review. Unfortunately, there were no apples-to-apples options available when I did my shopping. This is what I got:
- Liquid IV Hydration Powder Electrolyte Supplements in Grape
- Nuun Hydration Sport Drink Vegan Tabs in Fruit Punch
- Stur Liquid Water Enhancer Classic Variety Pack
Making my enhanced water drinks
Each of these products comes packaged differently. Liquid IV is a powder in a long, skinny packet — kind of like if you’ve ever made a single serving of Crystal Light. You add water and stir.
On the other hand, Nuun comes in a plastic cylinder with a flip top. These are effervescent tablets that dissolve in water. Once it dissolves, your water is flat, not fizzy. Note: you can buy Nuun as a powder, too.
Finally, Stur sells squeeze bottles of flavored liquid. You’re supposed to add one squirt per 8 ounces of liquid. Then, give your water bottle a good shake, and you’re good to go.
Because of the different delivery systems, the Nuun and Stur drinks were easiest to make. The Nuun tablet dissolved quickly. Same with the Stur drops — I could drink it immediately.
On the other hand, because I hadn’t stirred the Liquid IV enough, I got a big blob of powder with my first drink via a straw. Blech. That’s one of the drawbacks of drinking with a straw. If an electrolyte powder settles to the bottom of your water bottle and you don’t mix it well enough, then you’re going to get a disproportionate amount of flavor.
The same thing happens when I order flavored iced coffee. If the barista hasn’t done a sufficient job stirring, I’ll stick my straw in, take a sip and all I taste is the flavored syrup. Again, blech.
Testing each product during a Peloton class
My taste test occurred over three 45-minute Peloton spin classes, taken within a few days of each other. Each time, I used a water bottle that held 20 ounces of liquid. On the first ride, I added the Nuun fruit punch tablet to my water bottle.
The next day, I added the Liquid IV grape powder to my water bottle and mixed well. I didn’t want to be choking on unmixed and undissolved powder during the ride.
Finally, a few days later, I used the Stur liquid. I chose the strawberry watermelon drops to add to my water.
Ingredients in electrolyte drink products
As I pointed out earlier, for a powder, tablet or liquid drop to qualify as an electrolyte replacement product, it needs to have certain ingredients. This includes calcium, salt and potassium. Since two of the three products I’d tested say they are electrolyte replacements, I thought it was important to outline their ingredients.
Liquid IV ingredients
So what are the ingredients in the Liquid IV powder? I grabbed the list of ingredients for the grape flavor directly from Target.com:
- Pure Cane Sugar
- Citric Acid
- Potassium Citrate
- Sodium Citrate
- Dipotassium Phosphate
- Tartaric Acid
- Silicon Dioxide
- Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
- Rebaudioside-A (Stevia Leaf Extract)
- Natural Flavor
- Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide)
- Vitamin B5 (D-Calcium Pantothenate)
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride)
- Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin)
A single packet of Liquid IV has 45 calories, probably because the first ingredient is sugar.
Here is the list of ingredients of the Nuun fruit punch tablet that I tried out. Again, I grabbed this from Target.com.
- Citric Acid
- Natural Flavors
- Monk Fruit Extract
- Stevia Leaf Extract
- Beet Juice Powder (For Color)
- Avocado Oil
- Riboflavin (For Color)
A single Nuun table has 10 calories–the primary sweetener seems to be Stevia.
Liquid IV flavors
Here is a list of flavors you can get Liquid IV in. Note: Liquid IV offers a sugar-free version now. So, some of the flavors listed here come sugar free.
Finally, Liquid IV makes products for children. My daughters are grown so I don’t want to make any recommendations for parents of young children about using electrolyte solutions like Liquid IV. Therefore, the flavors I’ve listed here are only the ones designed specifically for adults.
- White peach
- Green grape
- Concord grape
- Golden cherry
- Pina colada
- Guava fruit
- Acai berry
- Wild berry
- Mango Tamarind (with caffeine)
- Yuzu pineapple (with caffeine)
- Lemon ginger (with caffeine)
There are 13 flavors of Nuun tablets. They are:
- Citrus fruit
- Fruit punch
- Cherry Limeade (plus caffeine)
- Fresh lime (plus caffeine)
- Mango orange (plus caffeine)
- Wild berry (plus caffeine) or wild berry (without caffeine)
- Strawberry lemonade
Stur liquid water enhancer flavors
I got a classic variety pack box of five Stur flavors. They included:
- Strawberry watermelon
- Tropical punch
- Pomegranate cranberry
- Blue and blackberry
- Fruit punch
Overall thoughts on the best water enhancers
All of the drinks were delicious, though the Liquid IV grape tasted the best. To be fair, of all three water enhancers, only Liquid IV uses real sugar as a sweetener. There is a sugar-free version, but I didn’t try that. Stur and Nuun use Stevia leaf as a sweetener.
The Nuun flavor was crisp and light, so pleasant to drink. However, after the ride, I continued to crave water and didn’t feel like it had rehydrated me.
After drinking 20 ounces of water with Liquid IV, I wasn’t thirsty until hours later when I had lunch. The Liquid IV really did a good job of keeping me feeling full and hydrated. Also, the mouthfeel of Liquid IV reminded me of drinking Vitamin Water, which was part of my colonoscopy prep.
Finally, Stur left me feeling hydrated and not at all thirsty or craving more water. Plus, my mouth didn’t feel dry, which is what happens when I need more fluids.
So, based on my very unscientific taste test, what would I tell you are the best water enhancers? Definitely, Liquid IV, if you don’t mind sugar. However, if you prefer Stevia for a sweetener, then I would recommend Stur. Also, the drops make it so easy to make your flavored water. Truth be told, after this taste test was over, I continued to reach for the Stur water enhancing drops for the taste, refreshment and ease of use.
Since Nuun comes in powdered form, maybe I should try it again in the future that way. But for now, it’s not at the top of my list.
Updated portions of this article appeared on Food Drink Life.