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Product Review: Nuun vs. Camelbak Elixir

Posted Mar 16 2008 12:00am

Aside from my interest/obsession with makeup and beauty products, I enjoy looking for a lot of other items to improve my life. Now that warm spring days are approaching, I can finally resume my hobby of cycling. Granted, cycling can be a year-round hobby, but it's incredibly difficult to motivate myself to put on cold weather gear and pedal at least 10 mph when I can barely motivate myself to put on a coat and scarf to run errands in town. Even though I have the long tights, booties (to cover cycling shoes in cold weather), gloves, jacket, and all that other stuff, I am happiest when on a bike trail on a warm day.

One very important part of cycling in warm weather is making sure to stay hydrated. The warm weather and sun already work against you to raise your body temperature, and if you add moderate physical activity to that, you're sure to need some hydration. I have 2 cages on my bike to hold water bottles - one water, and the other containing an electrolyte drink. I also have something set up on my bike to hold energy gel - rather nasty stuff, but it works to keep your energy up. If I'm feeling ambitious to stay outside for more than an hour or two, I wear a Camelbak for even more water.

Water is the best thing that you can drink while exercising to stay hydrated. However, if you're doing a really long workout or going on a long ride, sometimes water just won't do the job. Sometimes it just tastes boring (and can taste a like plastic if it sits in a bottle too long), and other times you just need more than water to keep your energy level up. Sports drinks like Gatorade and Propel help, but they're often loaded with calories, carbs, and unnecessary sugars that will hurt your efforts to exercise. That's where these two items come into play: Nuun and Camelbak Elixir.

I first discovered Nuun through a fitness magazine. CB Elixir is a newer product, to compete against Nuun. Both products are electrolyte enhanced items, meant to keep you hydrated. Packaging is similar - the product is contained within a plastic tube, with a lid that opens easily, but stays secure when closed. This means that you can take the container with you, so if you know you're on an especially long workout/hike, you can use more tabs/pills as long as you can find more water. I find the cardboard packing for CB Elixir unnecessary - it's a bit wasteful if you ask me. Nuun is sold directly in its tube container. The CB Elixir was designed for use in Camelbak hydration systems, rather than dropping a tab into a water bottle. CB Elixir comes in a larger container (the image of the CB tube isn't to scale with the box), since the tabs are larger and meant to dissolve in larger quantities of water. Both products contain 12 tabs, and they both appear white and somewhat chalky. For this comparison I used Lemon Lime Nuun and Elixir; Nuun also carries flavors in Citrus Fruit, Kona Cola, and Tri-Berry. Elixir is available in Lemon Lime and Orange Alert (with 75 mg caffeine).

The Nuun tablets are split down the middle - this makes it easier to break the tablet in half. Each half tablet should be used in 8 oz of water. The CB Elixir tablet is meant to be used for 24 oz of water. For this comparison, I split the Elixir tab in half using a knife, and dissolved it in 12 oz of water. All you do is drop the tablet in water and wait about 2 minutes. They both effervesce, sinking to the bottom but adding a little bit of fizz to the water to dissolve.

As you can see, the Nuun tablets tint the water a yellow-green; this is from the natural flavoring/dye that they use in their products. The Elixir is a clear, but cloudy mixture. The Nuun smells a little tangy/citrusy, while the Elixir honestly reminds me of Sprite.

Taste: Lemon Lime Nuun tastes a bit like flat soda. There's a little bit of fizz in the water, but it's nothing extreme. I think if I used a whole tablet in 16 oz, there would be more fizz. The Elixir has a syrupy texture; it feels thicker than the Nuun. It tastes like extremely flat Sprite or 7-up.

Effectiveness: Sadly, I can't compare the effectiveness of these products because I have yet to go out on the bike trail. I've used Nuun many times in my water bottles while cycling, at the gym, and I've even used it at work, just to add a little extra something to the water to help keep me hydrated. (I tend not to drink as much if I'm in a cold room, and my office building is ALWAYS cold.) I do plan to try using the Elixir tabs in my Camelbak once I can get my butt back on my bike.

Based on taste alone, I prefer using the Nuun tablets, since they don't have that syrupy taste. I also like the flavor options that Nuun offers - Kona Cola and Citrus Fruit are tasty. I personally don't care for Tri-Berry, since they use a beet extract to flavor the tablet (it turns the water a raspberry pink) and it just tastes odd to me.

Availability: Both sites offer a store locator, so you can find the stores nearest you that would carry the product. Nuun sells their products online; Camelbak does not. Most bike shops, fitness stores (REI, Eastern Mountain Sports), and running stores should carry either or both products.

Here is a breakdown of the ingredients and nutritional information from the container on each product:

Nuun Camelbak
Quantity 12 12
Serving Size 8 oz 24 oz
Calories 3 10
Total Fat 0
Total Carbohydrates <1g 1 g
Sodium 180 mg 410 mg
Potassium 50 mg 70 mg
Magnesium 12.5 mg 18 mg
Calcium 6.25 mg 36 mg
Vitamin C 18.75 mg 86 mg
Riboflavin 250 mcg
1.4 mg
68 mg


Citric Acid X X
Sorbitol X X
Sodium Carbonate X X
Natural Flavors X X
Sodium Bicarbonate X X
Potassium Bicarbonate X X
Sodium Benzoate X X
Polyethylene Glycol X X
Magnesium Sulfate X X
Calcium Carbonate X X
Acesulfame Potassium X X
Riboflavin-5-Phosphate X
Sodium Citrate
Ascorbic Acid
Sodium Chloride
Potassium Chloride
Manganese Gluconate

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