An electrolyte drink is a beverage that contains both fluids and electrolytes. Drinking these beverages replaces what’s lost through sweat, urine, and the business of living.

Unfortunately, standard hydration advice still revolves around drinking plain water.

You’ve probably heard of the 8x8 rule. This piece of homespun wisdom holds that we should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day to prevent dehydration. The problem is, 8x8 isn’t rooted in science.

Rather, the science suggests that drinking plain water is a poor hydration strategy. Why? Because healthy hydration isn’t just about water. It’s also about fluid balance, and electrolytes are an essential part of fluid balance.

Without electrolytes, you run the risk of over-saturating your body with water. This is called overhydration, and it’s arguably more dangerous than dehydration.

This is clear at the finish of a marathon, where you see runners staggering around confused, crampy, and lethargic. They aren’t sick from the lack of water. They’re sick from over-watering on top of intense, sweat-soaked exercise and depleting energy stores.

This doesn’t mean we should stop drinking fluids. We’d shrivel up like a daffodil in the Sahara. I’m just saying that we should consume electrolytes along with our fluids.

In other words, we should be rehydrating with electrolyte drinks. I wrote this blog to share how to make the best homemade electrolyte drink for health, hydration, and energy.

But first, let’s dig into dehydration, rehydration, and the importance of electrolytes.

What Is Dehydration?

Dehydration is defined as net water loss, or losing more water than you take in.

The consequence of dehydration is a low body water state called hypohydration. You’re generally considered hypo-hydrated if you’ve lost 1% of your body weight as water.

Dehydration and hypohydration aren’t technically the same thing, but most people use them interchangeably. For that reason, I’ll be doing the same.

The most common form of dehydration is isotonic dehydration, which involves proportional losses of sodium and fluids. Sweating is the typical cause of isotonic dehydration.

There’s also hypertonic dehydration (greater water losses) and hypotonic dehydration (greater sodium losses). Anything with a diuretic effect—like Keto dieting—falls into the hypotonic category. You lose sodium more quickly than you lose the optimal amount of water for that sodium to exist in.

Dehydration can cause a variety of symptoms—headache, fatigue, cramps, dry mouth, etc.—but it’s a smaller problem than most people think. It’s rare in healthy people, and only slightly more common in elderly people who:

  • Have problems regulating thirst
  • Take diuretic drugs
  • Have less mobility to access fluids

Even when dehydration does occur, it’s not always a cause for concern. Temporary dehydration is a natural state.

Think of our shirtless ancestors chasing a gazelle on the scorching Serengeti. They were sweating like beasts, but the water losses didn’t stop them. They kept hunting.

The evidence supports this point. Athletic performance, it’s been shown, isn’t impaired by dehydration.

But lost fluids—from sweat, vomit, urine, feces, diarrhea, breathing, and living—do have to be replaced eventually. How should you best replace them?

The Wrong Way To Rehydrate

After a bout of sweaty exercise, there’s a wrong way and a right way to rehydrate. Allow me to rant about the wrong way for a few paragraphs.

The wrong way is to exclusively drink boatloads of plain water. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with having water with your meal… especially as a substitute for sugary sodas or “fruit juice”. But when you’re exercising or recovering from exercise, the more plain water one drinks, the more dangerously wrong one’s efforts become.

Drinking too much plain water is dangerous because it dilutes blood sodium levels. The resulting low sodium condition is called hyponatremia.

Hyponatremia, not dehydration, is the scourge of athletes. About 15% of endurance athletes suffer from low serum sodium after a race. The consequences? Muscle cramps, fatigue, confusion, seizures, brain damage, and even death.

The problem is bad hydration advice. Despite what the science says, organizations like the American College of Sports Medicine continue to recommend over-watering tactics. That’s why you see water stations every mile or two on marathon courses.

This isn’t just an issue for elite athletes. It’s an issue for us too. If we replace fluids without replacing electrolytes, we’ll also be low on sodium.

Barring medical conditions, we probably won’t develop clinically relevant hyponatremia. But we might have headaches, fatigue, weakness, and low energy.

Electrolytes for Healthy Hydration

Healthy hydration equals water plus electrolytes.

Electrolytes are minerals—sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and bicarbonate—that carry electrical charges in your body. This electricity conduction allows cells to communicate, including brain cells.

To say that electrolytes are important is a massive understatement. They’re essential.

Electrolytes also play a critical role in fluid balance. Fluid balance is what keeps your blood flowing, your eyes moist with tears, your sweat glands functional, and so on.

Sodium and potassium are the chief fluid-balancing electrolytes. Sodium helps balance fluids outside cells and potassium helps balance fluids inside of cells.

But the big boss of fluid balance is your brain. If your tissues get over-saturated with water, osmoreceptors in your brain pick up on that. Then a brain structure called the hypothalamus stops producing antidiuretic hormone so you can excrete the excess fluid through urine.

If you’re low on fluids, the opposite happens. Antidiuretic hormone goes up and you retain fluids. Plus your brain triggers the thirst mechanism so you’ll drink something.

The system isn’t perfect though. If you drink too much regular water, your body can’t keep up. The balance of fluids to electrolytes shifts, creating a suboptimal state for energy, performance, and general health.

That’s why I recommend adding salt to your water.

Why Most People Need More Salt

Most health-conscious people don’t consume enough salt, the only dietary source of sodium. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. The US government recommends capping sodium intake at 2.3 grams per day.
  2. Whole foods diets like keto and Paleo are naturally low in sodium. According to the FDA, an estimated 70% of sodium in American diets is consumed through packaged and processed foods.
  3. Low-carb diets and fasting regimens both cause increased sodium loss through urine.
  4. Sodium is lost through sweat during exercise.
  5. Standard hydration advice neglects electrolytes.

At the root of this problem is the government-supported war on salt. Limiting salt, we’re told, is good for your heart.

But the evidence doesn’t support this claim. For example, a 2011 JAMA study found that sodium restriction in line with government recommendations was correlated with higher frequencies of heart attack and stroke in high-risk patients. The optimal sodium intake for heart health was around 5 grams per day, more than twice the recommended amount.

But surely eating more sodium causes high blood pressure? That’s not what the Intersalt Study found. Despite looking at thousands of people across the globe, the researchers found no link between sodium intake and hypertension in most populations.

I could go on, but I need to keep this moving. If you want to keep going on this topic, check out Robb’s short treatise on sodium.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, most people need more salt to stay healthy and hydrated. And that’s why a good electrolyte drink should contain plenty of it.

How To Make an Electrolyte Drink

The basic formula for an electrolyte drink is simple: Add salt to water.

By drinking this mixture, you replace sodium along with fluids and prevent the dilution of blood sodium levels. This helps keep your body and mind running smoothly.

I also believe an electrolyte drink should contain smaller quantities of potassium and magnesium. I used this principle in formulating my electrolyte drink mix, LMNT. Let me share the story of how this happened.

It started in Ketogains, the community of low-carb dieters founded by myself and Luis Villaseñor. We noticed that new members often complained about low energy, fatigue, headaches, and other “keto flu” symptoms.

We suspected a sodium problem, and dietary assessments confirmed our suspicion. New members were consistently light on sodium intake. Plus we knew they were excreting sodium at higher rates due to carb restriction.

So we started advising our members to mix up electrolyte homebrews with salt, water, and other electrolytes. It was a little labor intensive, but it did the trick.

Around this time, bestselling author and Paleo thought leader Robb Wolf came to us with a problem: he was flagging on the jiu-jitsu mat. We told him immediately it was probably a sodium issue, but he wasn’t convinced.

It took about a year, but Robb eventually bumped up his sodium, and the results were great. Still, it took a little while longer mixing those messy, time-consuming homebrews before we had a collective “AHA” moment: Our community needed an easy way to make an electrolyte drink. The homebrews were too much work.

That was the impetus for creating LMNT.

Then it was time to formulate it. Based on our dietary assessment, Ketogains members were super low on sodium, moderately low on potassium, and slightly low on magnesium.

And so we designed LMNT to have:

  • 1000 mg sodium
  • 200 mg potassium
  • 60 mg magnesium

No other product on the market had a gram of sodium. We would be in a category of our own—the only electrolyte drink with enough sodium to move the needle.

Just as important was what we left out. We left out the sugar, the artificial ingredients, the fillers, the preservatives, and all the other junk found in many popular sports drinks. We only used safe and natural ingredients—ingredients like stevia, citric acid, and natural flavors.

We were adamant about leaving sugar out of LMNT. Not only did it interfere with our low-carb lifestyles, but refined sugar is accelerating the advent of many modern diseases. And despite what many think, you don’t actually need sugar for flavor, electrolyte absorption, or energy (ATP) production anyway.

11 Homemade Electrolyte Drink Recipes

In the many years we spent mixing electrolyte homebrews before LMNT existed, you can imagine we found a good recipe or two.

Below are a few electrolyte drinks you can prep at home. It’s a little more work, but on the plus side you’ll feel like a mad hydration scientist.

#1: Robb Wolf’s Homebrew Electrolyte Elixir

INGREDIENTS (serves 1):

  • 1 quart water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Dash of stevia, to taste (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (provides ~1 g sodium)
  • 500 mg potassium citrate powder (provides ~200 mg potassium)
  • ¼ teaspoon of magnesium malate (provides ~60 mg magnesium)
  • (or 1 packet LMNT Raw Unflavored for sodium, magnesium, and potassium)

DIRECTIONS: Stir or shake to mix well. Add all of the above to a blender and blend with 1/2 to 1 cup of ice.

#2: Ketogains’ Cucumber Mint

INGREDIENTS (serves 1):

  • 16-32 oz soda water
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • ¼ cup sliced cucumber
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
  • Dash of stevia, to taste (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (provides ~1 gram sodium)
  • 500 mg potassium citrate powder (provides ~200 mg potassium)
  • ¼ teaspoon of magnesium malate (provides ~60 mg magnesium)
  • (or 1 packet LMNT Citrus Salt for lime juice, stevia, sodium, magnesium, and potassium)

DIRECTIONS: Mix everything together and let sit in the refrigerator overnight. Enjoy the next day!

#3: Ketogains’ Raspberry Mint

INGREDIENTS (serves 1):

  • 16-32 oz soda water
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • ¼ cup whole raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
  • Stevia (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (provides ~1 gram sodium)
  • 500 mg potassium citrate powder (provides ~200 mg potassium)
  • ¼ teaspoon of magnesium malate (provides ~60 mg magnesium)
  • (or 1 packet LMNT Raspberry Salt for stevia, sodium, magnesium, and potassium)

DIRECTIONS: Stir or shake to mix well.

#4: The Salty Watermelon

INGREDIENTS (serves 1):

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup cubed watermelon (5.5g carbs)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Dash of stevia, to taste (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (provides ~1 gram sodium)
  • 500 mg potassium citrate powder (provides ~200 mg potassium)
  • ¼ teaspoon of magnesium malate (provides ~60 mg magnesium)
  • (or 1 packet LMNT Raw Unflavored for sodium, magnesium, and potassium)

DIRECTIONS: Blend until smooth. Serve over ice.

#5: Robb Wolf’s NorCal Margarita

INGREDIENTS (serves 1):

  • 16-32 oz soda water
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Handful of ice
  • Dash of stevia, to taste (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (provides ~1 gram sodium)
  • 500 mg potassium citrate powder (provides ~200 mg potassium)
  • ¼ teaspoon of magnesium malate (provides ~60 mg magnesium)
  • (or 1 packet LMNT Citrus Salt for lime, stevia, sodium, magnesium, and potassium)

DIRECTIONS: Stir or shake to mix well. Serve over ice.

#6: Ketogains Pre-Workout Blended Coffee

INGREDIENTS (serves 1):

  • Strong black coffee
  • 25-30 g protein from a low carb whey protein powder
  • 5-15 g MCT powder (if you’re new to MCT, start at 5g to avoid stomach upset)
  • 3-5 g creatine (3g females, 5g males)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (provides ~1 gram sodium)
  • 500 mg potassium citrate powder (provides ~200 mg potassium)
  • ¼ teaspoon of magnesium malate (provides ~60 mg magnesium)
  • (or 1 packet LMNT Raw Unflavored for sodium, magnesium, and potassium)

DIRECTIONS Take 20-30 minutes before training. Blend all of the above in a blender until smooth.

#7: Blended Cold Brew

INGREDIENTS (serves 1):

  • 2 oz cold brew coffee (or more if you want more caffeine)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • Handful of ice
  • Dash of stevia, to taste (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (provides ~1 gram sodium)
  • 500 mg potassium citrate powder (provides ~200 mg potassium)
  • ¼ teaspoon of magnesium malate (provides ~60 mg magnesium)
  • (or 1 packet LMNT Raw Unflavored for sodium, magnesium, and potassium)

DIRECTIONS: Blend and enjoy! Or mix all ingredients and serve over ice.

#8: Joe In Airplane Mode

INGREDIENTS (serves 1):

  • Black coffee or Americano
  • Dash of stevia (to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (provides ~1 gram sodium)
  • 500 mg potassium citrate powder (provides ~200 mg potassium)
  • ¼ teaspoon of magnesium malate (provides ~60 mg magnesium)
  • (or 1 packet LMNT Raw Unflavored for sodium, magnesium, and potassium)

DIRECTIONS:

  • Get through airport security
  • Buy coffee
  • Add LMNT and sweetener of choice
  • Stir
  • Enjoy!

#9: Chicken Broth Simmer Sips

INGREDIENTS (serves 1):

  • 16 oz chicken bone broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt (provides ~1 gram sodium)
  • 500 mg potassium citrate powder (provides ~200 mg potassium)
  • ¼ teaspoon of magnesium malate (provides ~60 mg magnesium)
  • (or 1 packet LMNT Raw Unflavored for sodium, magnesium, and potassium)

DIRECTIONS: Add electrolytes to 16oz of your favorite chicken bone broth and heat until hot. Put in your thermos or insulated mug and sip throughout the day!

#10: Beef Broth Simmer Sips

INGREDIENTS (serves 1):

  • 16 oz beef bone broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt (provides ~1 gram sodium)
  • 500 mg potassium citrate powder (provides ~200 mg potassium)
  • ¼ teaspoon of magnesium malate (provides ~60 mg magnesium)
  • (or 1 packet LMNT Raw Unflavored for sodium, magnesium, and potassium)

DIRECTIONS: Add electrolytes to 16oz of your favorite beef bone broth and heat until hot. Put in your thermos or insulated mug and sip throughout the day!

#11: Beefed Up Bouillon

INGREDIENTS (serves 1):

  • Bouillon of your choice
  • ½ teaspoon salt (provides ~1 gram sodium)
  • 500 mg potassium citrate powder (provides ~200 mg potassium)
  • ¼ teaspoon of magnesium malate (provides ~60 mg magnesium)
  • (or 1 packet LMNT Raw Unflavored for sodium, magnesium, and potassium)

DIRECTIONS: Drinking bouillon is a great way to get in your sodium. You can “beef up” your bouillon by adding electrolytes. It’s tasty, and a great way to get in over 2 grams of sodium in one go.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Keep in mind that you can batch some of these tasks to reduce your assembly time. For instance, consider making a gallon (or two) at a time. To make a gallon, just multiply everything by four.

Or, pre-measure your sodium, potassium, and magnesium in a smaller container, like a weekly pill box. That way you only have to measure once per week.

However you make your electrolyte drink, let’s not forget why we’re hydrating. We’re hydrating to feel and perform our best. That’s why we drink electrolyte drinks instead of plain water. Stay salty.