We Tried It: Nuun’s New Sports Drink

PLUS for Nuun is a flavorless tablet that contains a blend of carbohydrates (a 2-to-1 dextrose to sucrose ratio) plus electrolytes.

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The Triathlete staff got the chance to try out Nuun’s new sports drink, PLUS for Nuun, a flavorless tablet that contains a blend of carbohydrates (a 2-to-1 dextrose to sucrose ratio) plus electrolytes. Nuun created the new product to help athletes manage their hydration and fueling in longer or more intense workouts through its popular effervescent tablet form in eco-friendly tubes.

How it works

PLUS, which comes in a tube of 12 thick tablets, is designed to be used in conjunction with Nuun Active or Energy, the two sugar-less but flavorful (in more than a dozen flavor options) lines of Nuun electrolyte tablets. Combine two PLUS tablets with one Active tablet for a 16-ounce sports drink for high-intensity workouts or long workouts (60 minutes or more). The drink should decrease an athlete’s reliance on gels, bars, etc. for calories and carbohydrates, but it doesn’t provide enough carbs to fuel workouts alone.

Behind the creation

When coming up with a drink that could fuel workouts in addition to providing hydration, Vishal Patel, Nuun’s chief nutritionist, decided to follow Nuun’s tried-and-true form factor of effervescent tablets because, based on research, it’s effective at increasing the rate of fluid and nutrient absorption. When Nuun was originally created by Tim Moxey, a British Ironman athlete, effervescent tablets were popular in the UK and Europe. The idea is that the ingredients in the tablet, when combined with water, convert into a bioavailable form (as in, able to penetrate blood barriers and be absorbed by the body). During the dissolving process, carbon dioxide is released, which theoretically increases the permeability of nutrients by widening the cells.

PLUS is also in line with the well-supported idea of utilizing multiple types of carbohydrates (dextrose and sucrose) for optimal absorption. There’s also been a trend in the last few years of creating low-osmolality, lower-calorie sports drinks, something that’s been pioneered by companies such as Skratch Labs and Osmo Nutrition, and followed by GU and CLIF. The “New Age Hydration” drinks, a term coined by Patel, also have way fewer carbohydrates which can promote increased rates of fluid and electrolyte delivery and decrease gastroinstestinal issues, as they’re a hypotonic solution.

What we think

We’ve been fans of Nuun’s eco-friendly tubes and modular format, so that we can hydrate without the mess of powder or scoops, and PLUS is no different. Nutritionally, two servings of PLUS (four tablets) plus one Active tablet is comparable to Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix.

PLUS for Nuun (4 tablets plus 1 Active tablet in 16 ounces):
Calories: 88
Carbohydrate: 21 grams
Sodium: 510 milligrams
Potassium: 401 milligrams
Also: electrolytes magnesium and calcium

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix Lemon + Limes (16 ounces prepared):
Calories: 80
Carbohydrate: 21 grams
Sodium: 360 milligrams
Potassium: 40 milligrams
Also: electrolytes magnesium and calcium

We wanted to know a little bit more about the choice of effervescent tablets in a sports drink, as it’s something that’s hard to find in the U.S. While it’s a popular in Europe still, not many contract manufacturers in the U.S. specialize in this form factor. “Creating a sports drink in an effervescent tablet is tough,” Patel says, “and it’s extremely expensive. There are certain ingredients in traditional effervescent tablets that some companies don’t feel comfortable with putting in their product, such as sorbitol, as a small percentage of the population is sensitive to this ingredient. At Nuun we understand this concern and have spent the last 15 months addressing it and researching new alternative ingredients.”

We like the idea of it being flavorless and mixable with any of our favorite Nuun flavors, and we don’t really taste any difference in flavor. It’s given us a boost without stomach upset on shorter, high-intensity workouts, but we have yet to try it on a long workout. One serving (two tablets) is on the low end of calories/carbohydrates as compared to similar drinks, but we do like the ability to so easily (and without a mess) adjust our calorie intake.

PLUS for Nuun is available for sale across running, cycling, triathlon and outdoor specialty retail for $6.99 per tube of six two-tablet servings.

RELATEd – 2015 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Nutrition

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