Are Electrolyte Drinks Without Sugar Better For You?

Sugar-free sounds good, but the science may surprise you.

Why is it so hard to find healthy electrolyte drinks without sugar? The answer is both simple and surprising. To put it plainly, a zero-sugar electrolyte drink is…well, pretty much pointless!

That’s because real sugar (not stevia, monk fruit, or any other substitute!) plays a fundamental, scientifically proven role in the hydration process. It’s not about sweetness — it’s a functional powerhouse working hard for you behind the scenes.

In short: Sugar is not some annoying additive that gets in the way. It’s the secret ingredient that makes it all work.

A Hydrating Formula Backed by Science
Whenever you break a sweat, reach for Nuun Sport to optimize your rehydration. Each tab is packed with electrolytes and only 1 gram of sugar — the perfect balance to help your body absorb water efficiently.

A Hydrating Formula Backed by Science
Whenever you break a sweat, reach for Nuun Sport to optimize your rehydration. Each tab is packed with electrolytes and only 1 gram of sugar — the perfect balance to help your body absorb water efficiently.

A Hydrating Formula Backed by Science
Whenever you break a sweat, reach for Nuun Sport to optimize your rehydration. Each tab is packed with electrolytes and only 1 gram of sugar — the perfect balance to help your body absorb water efficiently.

Hydration vs. Absorption: How a Pinch of Sugar Makes the Difference

Hydration seems simple enough: If you drink a glass of water, boom! You’re hydrated. But drinking water does not necessarily mean absorbing water.

The water you drink will always get delivered to your stomach, but what next makes all the difference. It can either get absorbed by your small intestine and distributed throughout your body, aiding everything from immune health to exercise recovery. Or it can keep moving through your system and out of your body before it has the chance to do much good.

Luckily, decades of scientific research have revealed that there is a magic formula for effective hydration: a little sugar and a little salt added to plain water give it the staying power for maximal absorption and optimal effects.

 

So…Sugar Water? Since When Is That a Thing?

Well, since about 1960. That’s the year that a doctor named Robert Crane identified the glucose “cotransport,” the concept that sugar activates the absorption capabilities of the small intestine. His work and the work of many others contributed to what is now known as Oral Rehydration Therapy, a profound scientific breakthrough that revolutionized treatments during cholera outbreaks for dangerously dehydrated patients.

This discovery has had wide-reaching implications, from elite athletics to everyday health, and is the foundation of modern hydration science. It’s been studied countless times since the 1960s, and the power of sugar still holds up.

 

Sounds Pretty Complicated. How Does It Work Exactly?

Imagine for a moment that you’re super thirsty, but you don’t have a cup. So you go to the sink and put your hand under the running water. You might catch a tiny bit for a quick sip, but mostly it streams right out of your hand and down the drain.

Not very efficient, not very quenching. And believe it or not, this is pretty much what your body does with plain water.

Now imagine what a big difference a cup makes. With this basic tool, you can get the water from Point A to Point B effectively and efficiently. It’s simple yet game-changing, and just like that, you’re not so thirsty anymore.

That’s essentially the role that sugar plays in helping your body absorb water. When paired with electrolytes in just the right ratio, sugar gets the water exactly where it needs to go: absorbed via the small intestine.

How much is 1 gram of sugar?

Just a pinch. It’s around a quarter of teaspoon, or about 4 calories’ worth.

You’ll see a wide range of sugar content from healthy sports drinks to not-so-healthy ones, but a gram of sugar is all you need for an average workout. That’s how much is contained in a tab of Nuun Sport, which is specially formulated for everyday exercise or anytime you break a sweat.

If a Little Sugar in Sports Drinks is Good, Is More Sugar Even Better?

Sugar is a powerful and necessary tool for sustaining longer workouts — think 90+ minutes — because carbohydrates generate energy. That’s when a specialized formula like Nuun Endurance comes in handy, to aid fluid absorption while supplying a steady stream of hard-working carbohydrates.

But for everyday activities and average workouts, you just need a little pinch of sugar to ensure that the water you drink is getting absorbed into your body. Nuun Sport is formulated with 1 gram of sugar, just enough to help water and electrolytes do their thing.

 

Sugar Is Sweet, as Long as It’s Working For You

Sugar gets a bad rap, but in the right quantity and context it can be a powerful tool to support your fitness and wellness goals. Thanks to decades of research, we know it’s an essential part of maintaining healthy hydration.

So when you see a little bit of sugar in an electrolyte drink, don’t sweat it. Or better yet: get sweaty and keep hydrating, knowing that sugar and science have your back.

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