Which hydration aids really work and could they cure your hangover?

From jelly sweets to protein drinks: Which hydration aids really work and could they cure your hangover?

Staying hydrated is vital to health and our ability to function — and while that’s never more so than in hot weather, for some groups, such as older people, it can be a struggle to remain properly hydrated.

Forgetting to drink enough or not realising how much fluid you’ve lost through sweating, exercise or illness can upset the balance of minerals (electrolytes) in the body — ‘which can quickly lead to symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, confusion and muscle cramps’, says dietitian Chris Cashin, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association.

Longer term, dehydration can raise the risk of a rapid heart rate and urinary infection. As a rough rule of thumb, the colour of your urine indicates if you’re properly hydrated, she adds. Pale, straw-coloured urine is good, while darker urine is a sign you need more fluids.

And it seems optimum hydration may not just be about drinking enough fluid. You can now buy hydration ‘aids’, from jelly sweets to fizzy tablets, said to make basic H2O three times more hydrating.

But are they any good? We asked Chris Cashin and Ruth Kander, a dietitian at Fleet Street Clinic in London, to assess a selection of hydration products. We then rated (and tasted) them…

Forgetting to drink enough or not realising how much fluid you’ve lost through sweating, exercise or illness can upset the balance of minerals (electrolytes) in the body


£19.20 for 30 servings, huxhealth.com

Per 100ml: Calories, 10; sugar, 0g; salt, 0.14g

CLAIM: ‘A carefully formulated nutritional complex of electrolytes and minerals to support optimum hydration and muscle function. Rehydrates more than water alone. Bolsters your immune system and protects cells.’

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Electrolytes can help the body absorb fluid more efficiently,’ says Chris Cashin.

‘There are small amounts of sodium, potassium, zinc and magnesium [all of which are electrolytes] here — some of which can aid muscle recovery and are important for a healthy immune system. But you should be able to get adequate amounts from a well-balanced diet.’

She adds that electrolyte supplements are usually needed if your body’s under stress (e.g. after vomiting), or you’re sweating excessively or hungover (alcohol is a diuretic).

Ruth Kander says that although the sodium in these effervescent tablets can help gut cells absorb fluid more efficiently, ‘a pinch of salt in a glass of water would have the same effect’.7/10

Electrolyte supplements are usually needed if your body’s under stress (e.g. after vomiting), or you’re sweating excessively or hungover (File image)

TASTE TEST: It has a very pleasant, natural flavour.9/10


£6.45 for 8 x 3g sachets, superdrug.com

Per 100ml: Calories, 2; sugar, 0.13g; salt, 0.03mg

CLAIM: ‘Designed to help you drink more water. Add a sachet to 300-500ml water for an unbeatable night of sleep.

‘Contains L-theanine [an amino acid said to ease stress] & 5-HTP [an amino acid converted by the body into the ‘feel good’ hormone serotonin] and magnesium. Drink 60 to 90 minutes before bed.’

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Adding these sachets of sugar-free flavour and nutrients to water is designed to encourage you to drink more water,’ says Ruth Kander.

‘But hydration is not just about water: other fluids, including fruit juice, milk and tea or coffee, as well as fruit and veg with a high water content, such as cucumbers, also count.’

The sachets contain sodium and potassium ‘in very small amounts’, she adds. ‘L-theanine and 5-HTP are said to help insomnia and depression, but more research is needed to support those claims.’

Chris Cashin adds: ‘For many people, drinking a substantial amount of fluid before bedtime can lead to a night disturbed by trips to the loo. So if that’s you, maintaining good hydration throughout the day with regular fluid intake is a better idea.’ 5/10

TASTE TEST: The blackcurrant flavour is overpowered by the sweetener.2/10


From 95p for nine drops, jellydrops.com (pictured)

Per 100g: Calories, 13; sugar, 0g; salt, 0.17g

Ruth Kander says jelly drops ‘work as a handy snack or treat’ in these circumstances, but ‘nine sweets offer just 50ml of water’ 

CLAIM: ‘Sugar-free jelly sweets made with 95 per cent water and added electrolytes [salt, sodium citrate and potassium chloride]. Popular with people with dementia, the elderly and others who struggle to stay hydrated, this snack helps to increase fluid intake.’

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Adequate fluid intake can become a real problem as we age,’ says Chris Cashin. We can lose the ability to register thirst and need to be prompted to drink — which is a particular problem for those with dementia.

‘Mobility or urological problems may also lead some people to drink less, potentially leading to dehydration, confusion and urinary tract infections,’ she adds.

Ruth Kander says these may ‘work as a handy snack or treat’ in these circumstances, but ‘nine sweets offer just 50ml of water, which will have very little impact on hydration levels.

Home remedies: DIY treatments that really work

This week: Oats to soothe skin after cancer therapy 

Radiotherapy and chemotherapy can make the skin more irritated and sensitive, making it dry and itchy, for example.

A study published in the Journal of Radiotherapy in Practice in 2016, found that applying a cream containing oat extract reduced skin reactions and improved skin regeneration in a group of 12 cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy.

Oat baths can help too, suggests Mark Brown, an oncology nurse and founder of U.S. based Dermavitality, which makes skincare for cancer patients.

‘Oats contain avenanthramides, anti-inflammatory antioxidants that add moisture to the skin. They also contain beta-glucans, soluble fibre that hydrate skin and boost its natural barrier.

‘For an oat bath, grind rolled oats into a fine powder and add this to the water — or you can find ready-prepared oatmeal bath products in health stores. Keep water lukewarm and get out after ten to 15 minutes to avoid irritating skin further.’

‘Other approaches — including using a straw or offering foods with a high water content (such as soups or ice lollies made with fruit) — can also be very effective.’6/10

TASTE TEST: Refreshingly fruity, but sweetener aftertaste lingers.6/10


£24.95 for 60g, cultbeauty.co.uk

Per 100ml: Calories, 0.9; sugar, n/a; salt, trace

CLAIM: Add a scoop of this powder to at least 400ml water. Drink once or twice a day.

‘Provides long-lasting cellular hydration to revitalise your skin and body. Contains hyaluronic acid — which can retain up to 1,000 times its own weight in water and provide a cushion between cells to keep skin looking plump.’

EXPERT VERDICT: Dehydration can lead to dry skin, says Chris Cashin, who adds that the powder contains electrolytes to aid fluid uptake, plus 100 per cent of your daily vitamin C. ‘But you should be able to get all of this from a balanced diet,’ she says.

Ruth Kander adds that there is a ‘small amount’ (76mg in a serving) of hyaluronic acid and resveratrol. Early studies suggest hyaluronic acid (a natural lubricant found in the skin, eyes and joints) may help moisturise skin, but more research is needed ‘and there’s only a small amount here’.

Resveratrol — a powerful antioxidant found in red grapes — might interfere with blood-thinning medication and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, so consult your GP before you try this.5/10

TASTE TEST: This has a subtle berry flavour.8/10


£1.65 for 500ml, sainsburys.co.uk

Per 100ml: Calories, 12; sugar, 0g; salt, less than 0.01g

CLAIM: Contains whey isolate protein from milk and ‘gives instant access to essential hydration, body-boosting protein and energising B vitamins without slowing you down. Zero sugar’.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘This is basically flavoured water with added protein and vitamins,’ says Ruth Kander. ‘It won’t hydrate you more efficiently than a glass of water, but if you’re exercising you’ll also get the benefit of 10g protein — the equivalent of two small boiled eggs. Ingesting protein (10-20g depending on body weight) after exercise can help muscle recovery.’

While B vitamins are important for converting food into energy, you need to be eating a balanced diet for them to do their job — and if so, you shouldn’t need the extra vitamins, she adds.

Although this also contains BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) for muscle recovery, these are naturally found in meat, beans, wholegrains and nuts.

‘There’s no strong evidence that BCAA supplements are better for muscle growth than those we get from food,’ says Ruth Kander.

BCAAs can interact with thyroid, diabetes and Parkinson’s medications so check with your GP before using this.4/10

READ MORE: Some over-65s need protein drinks to build up muscle mass lost through ageing, study finds

TASTE TEST: This has a fruity flavour and a powdery aftertaste.5/10


£8.90 for 12 cubes, waterdrop.com

Per 100ml: Calories, 1; sugar, 0g; salt, 0.06g

CLAIM: ‘Energising hydration.’ One cube dropped into a bottle of water provides ‘guarana, cola nut, blackberry, a hint of activated charcoal and 100mg natural caffeine for an energy kick’.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘These soluble cubes offer a handy sustainable way to make drinking water more palatable,’ says Ruth Kander.

‘The high caffeine content — similar to a strong cup of coffee — comes from a combination of guarana [an Amazonian plant] and cola nut and might be useful for a quick energy boost when you’re flagging. I wouldn’t recommend drinking it in the evening — the caffeine could keep you awake. Caffeine can also trigger reflux.’

Chris Cashin adds: ‘The vitamin B12 — 45 per cent of your recommended daily amount — in this could be helpful if you don’t eat animal products.’ 5/10

TASTE TEST: This has a spicy blackberry flavour.9/10


£4.36 for 24 tablets, boots.com

Per 100ml: Calories, 8; sugar, 1.67g; salt, 0.34g

CLAIM: ‘Formulated to follow the World Health Organization oral rehydration solution guidelines. A mix of electrolytes and glucose is proven to be the fastest way to restore a healthy level of hydration, and also keeps you hydrated for longer than water alone.’ Use two tablets in 200ml water.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘The combination of a small amount of glucose with electrolytes [potassium and sodium] is ideal for fast rehydration after excessive sweating, vomiting or diarrhoea, as the glucose helps the body absorb fluid and electrolytes more quickly,’ says Ruth Kander.

‘The sodium changes the pressure in the cells to hydrate the body. This is a useful product for a holiday first aid kit.’ 9/10

TASTE TEST: This has a sweet, chalky, lemon flavour. 4/10

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