The PowerBar brand boasts a wide range of sports nutrition products, including these 5 Electrolytes tablets, designed to add to water in your drink bottle. As the name implies, they contain five electrolytes or minerals, and are intended to replace those minerals as you lose them via sweat when exercising. The drink tastes pleasant enough, and may help you stay hydrated, which in turn may help improve performance when racing or training.
The tablets come in various flavours, including blackcurrant, pink grapefruit, lemon, mango and passionfruit, and raspberry and pomegranate, which all have the five electrolytes in the same quantities: sodium (250mg per tablet), potassium (150mg), chloride (200mg), calcium (60mg), and magnesium (28mg). I've been testing the Lemon Tonic Boost, which has an additional 75mg of caffeine thrown into the mix.
Other ingredients include citric acid, natural flavourings and sucralose sweetener. This gives the drink a slightly sweet taste, but it's not sticky or fizzy. Even after you've been cycling for a few hours in hot weather it's still quite refreshing and not at all unpleasant to drink.
The tablets contain virtually no carbohydrate and absolutely no fat or protein, so they are billed as 'zero calories'. It may seem stating the bleedin' obvious, but it's important to realise that, despite the brand name, Powerbar 5 Electrolytes tablets are not a source of power or energy.
So why drink it? Do you actually need these 5 Electrolytes tablets (or any other similar product) just to stay hydrated or avoid dehydration?
The answer is not straightforward. But here are the basics in general terms:
Most doctors and sports nutritionists agree that hydration is important because dehydration can have a negative impact on athletic performance (basically, you get tired sooner). However, this situation is complicated because the terms 'hydration' and 'dehydration' are often used inconsistently. For example, some doctors refer to dehydration simply as a body losing more fluid (via sweat and urine) than taken in (via drinking), and therefore define hydration as drinking more fluid than you lose. Some sports nutritionists (and – perhaps not surprisingly – some sports nutrition manufacturers) may also include the loss of electrolytes in their definition of dehydration, and therefore recommend taking on those electrolytes, as well as water, as part of the hydration process.
Which is correct? Once again, it's not straightforward. Some sports science studies show that replacing the electrolytes lost via sweat helps improve performance, more than drinking water alone. Other studies suggest that you don't need extra electrolytes, and that drinking water is enough.
A 'middle way' argument claims that the additional electrolytes in the fluid, even if not actually needed, still encourage athletes to drink the correct amount and stay hydrated. Another argument claims that it's the taste of hydration products, rather than the electrolytes, that encourage athletes to drink – because it's simply more enticing than plain water.
In the end, for most cyclists, it comes down to personal preference. On that basis, and from my own experience, I recommend trying these Powerbar 5 Electrolytes tablets. At between two and four quid for a tube of 10 tablets, a little experimentation isn't going to break the bank.
If you like the taste, and if you feel that dropping a tab in your bottle helps you drink a bit more, which in turn helps keep you cycling further or faster (or just helps you enjoy tootling around), then it's well worth sticking with. If this product doesn't work for you, then try something else, or stick with plain water.
As with all nutrition products, taste and impact can be a personal thing, so it's best to try these electrolyte tabs when you're training – or even when you're sitting at home – to find out what concentration works best for you, rather than trying it for the first time on the day of a big race or sportive.
Tasty and refreshing drink-mix which may help you stay better hydrated and improve performance
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Make and model: Powerbar 5 Electrolytes Tablets
Size tested: 10 tabs per tube, Lemon Tonic
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
This product is a drink-mix containing electrolytes or minerals, aimed at athletes. It is important to realise that it is NOT an energy product.
The PowerBar website says: "...with Powerbar 5 Electrolytes tablets you can mix yourself a zero calorie sports drink which provides the body with the 5 main electrolytes in the ratio they are lost through sweat. it is ideal when you want to train your basic endurance and whenever you workout and want to stay hydrated without carbs or calories."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The PowerBar website goes on to highlight other attributes including: "...10 tabs per tube; 5 ELECTROLYTES (sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium and calcium) in the ratio lost through sweat; Zero Sugar – Zero Calories; Natural flavours; fruity taste; No aspartame or preservatives; Tabs dissolve completely with no gas left; 10 Tabs make up to 7.5 litre of sport drink; Pink Grapefruit and Lemon Tonic Boost flavours contain 75mg caffeine per serve, which can boost mental performance."
Rate the product for performance:
Performance is very good, in that the tablets mix easily with water to create a refreshing drink. Not all cyclists will need extra electrolytes in their drink, but if you try them and your own performance is improved, then stick with them.
Rate the product for value:
A tube of 10 tabs has a full retail price of £3.99 but you can find them slightly less than this at sports shops, and a lot less (about half price) at the usual online mega stores. This is about par when compared against similar products from High5 (£3-6 for 20 tabs) or Nuun (£4-6 for 12 tabs).
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, this product performed very well, in that the tablets mix easily with water to create a refreshing drink. On test rides, I enjoyed the flavour and probably drank more than if I'd had just plain water in my bottle. The caffeine might have provided an extra boost but, to be honest, I didn't notice it.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Crisp taste. Non-fizzy. Non-sticky.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Age: 53 Height: 5ft 10 / 178cm Weight: 10.5 stone / 69kg
I usually ride: an old aluminium Marin for audax riding and winter training, an old steel Jensen for tootling and commuting My best bike is: an old carbon Giant for sportives
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, trail riding, gravel 'racing', rough-stuff, CX sportives (and anything off road on a road bike)
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