Liquid IV is an electrolyte powder company that makes a strange claim that their products "multiply hydration." The brand claims that one stick of Liquid IV has "3x the electrolytes of traditional sports drinks."
But are Liquid IV's strange health claims backed by legitimate scientific research? Do regular consumers even need "hydration multipliers"? Does Liquid IV contain any unhealthy ingredients? And how do real users rate its taste and effects?
In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more as we review the hydration multiplier claims based on medical research, analyze every ingredient in Liquid IV to give our take on whether the product is healthy or not, and also review the ingredients in Liquid IV Energy and Liquid IV Sleep.
We'll compare Liquid IV to Pedialyte, and share a price breakdown detailing which retailer currently has the best price on Liquid IV.
Highly Questionable Health Claims
Liquid IV claims that their product(s) can provide "faster hydration than water alone" and that one stick "can provide 2-3x the hydration of water alone."
To understand why Liquid IV’s claim of hydration multiplication makes no sense, we have to first overview what hydration is.
Hydration is simply the process of drinking water, or consuming water-containing foods like fresh fruit, to replace that lost during the day and maintain proper biological function.
There is no way to “multiply” hydration, and not even an explanation of what that would entail on Liquid IV’s site; it’s pseudoscientific marketing babble.
Liquid IV’s formulation is rooted in a solution created to rapidly rehydrate patients with severe dehydration, usually caused by diarrhea, in impoverished countries called Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS). They even state this on their blog.
Liquid IV then links to a medical study from 1994 proving that ORS was effective for patients with cholera.
For individuals without cholera or severe diarrhea, we haven’t come across any medical evidence at all suggesting benefits of ORS. Liquid IV doesn’t publish any, so we find the entire premise behind their company to be highly questionable. Regular, healthy people should not have a need for a formulation made for those with severe dehydration or illness.
Liquid IV’s blog post on ORS also states that “A little-known fact about the human body is that we can drink all the water we want, but very little of that water actually gets absorbed and used by the body.”
This is not true, and has no source or citation because it’s just made up nonsense. Liquid IV is claiming that humans have somehow been drinking water wrong for our entire existence.
Humans have evolved for millions of years hydrating just fine from water and food without sugary electrolyte powders.
Liquid IV Ingredient Analysis
Liquid IV's most popular product is a powder called Hydration Multiplier. The ingredients are shown above, and we had to source the ingredients list from a third-party seller because Liquid IV fails to publish them on their product page. This is a red flag about the ethics of the business, as ingredient lists are important for consumer safety.
The first ingredient is 11 grams (g) of pure cane sugar. We know from medical research that dietary sugar intake (in excess) is harmful for human health, and outside of extreme dehydration conditions, sugar has no beneficial effect on hydration.
Many Americans already consume too much added sugar from food and supplements, and we recommend avoiding products with added sugar entirely.
Liquid IV Hydration has seemingly random amounts of vitamins added, including vitamin C and vitamin B12. We haven’t seen any research suggesting that vitamin supplementation affects hydration status, and Liquid IV doesn’t publish any.
Their explainer blog post simply states that “We’ve added Vitamins B and C for an extra wellness boost.” If these vitamins have no impact on hydration then why are they added to a hydration formula? We find many statements published by this company to be confusing and unscientific.
Overall we do not recommend this product, either to regular people or to athletes. While highly elite and specialized athletes like endurance runners training outdoors may benefit from additional sugar and electrolytes, we would recommend that those niche groups speak with a dietitian to tailor a formulation for their particular needs.
For 99.9% of regular people and athletes, we think Liquid IV is a total waste of money and is unhealthy, because it contains a significant amount of added sugar.
Liquid IV Taste Test
A YouTube channel called "Vitality Vixens" reviewed the taste of every Liquid IV product and gave their thoughts on the best flavors:
Who Has the Best Liquid IV Price?
While we don't recommend Liquid IV overall, below is a breakdown of its price at various retailers for consumers who are intent on purchasing this product. We're using the Lemon Lime flavor, which is the most popular flavor, and using price-per-stick at bulk prices to standardize this breakdown:
Brand website: $1.41
Amazon: $1.33 (link to product on Amazon)
The cheapest place to buy Liquid IV online is currently Amazon.
Costco was out of the Lemon Lime flavor at the time of updating this article, but the price-per-stick was actually lower on Costco ($1.25) for some other flavors than on Amazon, so it may be worthwhile for consumers who have a Costco membership and want to purchase Liquid IV to check prices at their local store.
How Do Other Liquid IV Products Stack Up?
Liquid IV sells two other popular supplements: Liquid IV Energy Multiplier and Liquid IV Sleep Multiplier.
The Energy powder, ingredients shown above, has a very similar formulation to regular Liquid IV.
Organic matcha tea is a strange choice for an energy formulation, as it's rich in an amino acid called l theanine, which induces relaxation based on medical research.
Liquid IV Energy Multiplier also contains guayusa extract, which was shown to have a stimulatory effect in a 2020 medical review, but we can’t determine if it will be effective in this product since Liquid IV doesn’t publish the dosage.
We don't recommend this product due to the inclusion of added sugar and all of the synthetic vitamin additives.
The active ingredients in Liquid IV Sleep Multiplier are shown below.
Valerian root extract is an effective sleep aid as documented in an extensive meta-study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine. It may be underdosed in this supplement at only 175 milligrams (mg), because the above-linked study reported the effective dosing range to be 300-600 mg per day.
L-theanine is an amino acid that can have a relaxing effect, but we cannot find any medical evidence that it improves sleep quality or duration at as low a dose as 50 mg.
Melatonin is an effective sleep aid, and is one of the most well studied supplements for sleep. 3 mg of melatonin is an effective dose, as we documented in our review of sleep supplement Peptiva.
We don't recommend Liquid IV Sleep Multiplier because it contains added sugar and a host of synthetic vitamins we consider unnecessary for a sleep supplement. The only effectively dosed ingredient in this formulation based on our review of clinical research is melatonin, and melatonin can be taken in isolation without any of the questionable additives in Liquid IV Sleep for a much better price.
Liquid IV Vs. Pedialyte
Many consumers use Pedialyte to treat dehydration, and are often curious about whether Pedialyte or Liquid IV is a more effective and healthy option.
While we don't recommend either product, we consider Liquid IV to be a healthier and more effective choice. Liquid IV is based on ORS so it's proven to be effective for treating dehydration, and while it contains added sugar, it's free of highly questionable additives like artificial colors and artificial sweeteners.
As we documented in our article on "is Pedialyte bad for you", Pedialyte contains artificial colorants like Red 40 and artificial sweeteners like sucralose, while also containing added sugar.
Our Clean Electrolyte Powder Recommendation
The healthy electrolyte powder brand we recommend is LMNT Unflavored Electrolyte Powder Packets.
We recommend LMNT over Liquid IV due to its clean formulation. The only ingredients in LMNT Unflavored are electrolytes: sodium, potassium and magnesium. There are no questionable additives like citric acid, synthetic vitamins, flavoring agents or processed cane sugar.
For athletes or anyone who loses significant sweat during a workout, the main nutrients beyond water that need to be replenished are electrolytes that are lost in sweat.
Interested consumers can check out LMNT Unflavored Electrolyte Powder Packets at this link.
Liquid IV FAQs
Here's our take on some frequently asked questions about Liquid IV products:
Is Liquid IV good for you?
Liquid IV is not good for you in our opinion. For the everyday consumer who is not in a life-threatening dehydration situation, we consider it to be unhealthy to consume processed cane sugar and flavoring agents.
Does Liquid IV have caffeine?
Liquid IV's most popular product, Hydration Multiplier, does not have any caffeine. The only Liquid IV product that contains caffeine is Liquid IV Energy Multiplier which contains 100 mg of caffeine per serving. This is equivalent to around one regular cup of coffee.
Does Liquid IV work for hangovers?
Liquid IV is likely to improve symptoms of hangover because part of the discomfort of a hangover is typically caused by dehydration. Headache, fatigue and irritability can all be caused by dehydration.
We would recommend using a sugar-free, flavoring-free electrolyte powder like LMNT to treat hangover symptoms (or just water) rather than Liquid IV.
Does Liquid IV cause side effects?
Liquid IV is unlikely to cause side effects in our opinion. It has a simple and non-toxic formulation, and is more of a food product than a supplement. All of the ingredients in Liquid IV are safe and well-studied.
There is no definitive way to determine on a population level whether Liquid IV is likely to cause side effects, because the product has never been studied in a clinical trial. So for now all we can do is provide educated estimates based on the formulation.
How many Liquid IV can you drink in a day?
Liquid IV's FAQ page recommends one serving per day. While there would likely be no harm in consuming more than one serving over a short time period, we do not recommend doing so because consuming an increasing amount of added sugar is unhealthy.
How does Liquid IV work?
According to Liquid IV, the balance of electrolytes in their product cause water to enter the bloodstream more rapidly than would occur during standard digestion. We have not seen clinical evidence of this, and again, we do not see the value of this outside of severe, clinical dehydration which would be treated in a hospital setting and not with over-the-counter (OTC) supplements.