I’m a firm believer in the benefit of appropriate use of electrolyte supplements, particularly for cramp prevention. This is despite the lack of scientific explanation of the mechanics behind cramping and the lack of evidence from controlled studies that these supplements help athletes in general. Or people in general. Whatever. I have good reason to believe that they help me, so I use them, e21 being a product that falls under this category.
Full disclosure – I have applied for sponsorship by e21 and my product review here is a consideration of whether I could make the team or not. I don’t know what the precise qualifications are for making the team so I have no idea whether I have a shot or not. In this review, I make every reasonable effort to report my impressions of the product without undue influence of the sponsorship opportunity.
Now on to the product review.
First, a review of this particular product would have little meaning without a history of what other electrolytes I have used and what motivated product switches along the way.
If I jump into the wayback machine, I primarily used Hammer’s Endurolytes. Why? Because I had handfuls of samples from race schwag bags, that’s why. I bought a few jars too, out of sheer product familiarity. See how marketing via free samples works? It sure does! As far as I recall, they worked fine. However, after I recognized lactose intolerance as something I deal with, I moved away from Endurolytes because they use lactose as filler. I didn’t have any clear, compelling evidence that this lactose was enough to cause digestive issues during races, but I figured why not switch to be safe. So I did.
This is when I began using Lava Salts. What I liked about those was the smaller capsule size and the lack of lactose. Lava Salts worked fine for me. They aren’t cheap, but what’s new in the world of triathlon related products? Also, if it’s a very hot event, I have to really stay on top of popping those pills lest I get behind on the process. This happened pretty frequently, actually, so I tried a different product on the recommendation of an ultrarunner friend of mine.
This is where Succeed! S-Caps came into the picture. This product line was designed by an ultrarunner for ultrarunners. The benefit of the S-Caps formulation is the higher concentration of electrolytes per capsule, reducing the need to carry dozens of pills (in addition to one’s nutrition) for ultralong events. I have used these a few times and it is clear that these capsules pack a more powerful punch due to the stomach distress they cause if taken without a bit of food or goo to act as a buffer. Everything else about the caps is great, but the stomach issue is a bit of a problem when using during an event.
This is when I found out about e21 Electrolytes. I received a sample package and used them during a long training run and before and after a few workouts. I intended to use them during a recent 14 mile trail race, but I forgot to take them during and after. I did take a few prior to the event. Below I review my impressions and results in comparison to product claims in their marketing materials.
Here’s what I like about this supplement:
- It’s from a natural source (Dunaliella Salina), which I like the idea of over and above lab-generated formulations. This is a pscyho-emotional warm and fuzzy benefit, rather than one rooted in hard science, but it’s a benefit nonetheless.
- Because it is from a natural source, there’s the real possibility of unknown benefits from a host of trace elements and micronutrients, just like we get from our colorful veggies.
- The capsules have a seaweed odor and flavor to them, which reminds me of sushi. I like sushi, so I consider this to be a positive attribute.
- They seem to work as well as other electrolytes, from a benefits of taking electrolytes standpoint (cramp prevention). Of course, the true test would be to take them when it’s hot and humid, rather than in December.
Recovery e21 claims and my experience:
- “Potent and powerful electrolyte boost from a natural source.” I can’t say if it’s more potent or powerful than others. In fact, I’d argue that S-Caps are the most potent and powerful ones I’ve used, if you have a stomach of steel or reliably take them with something else. However, it is the only one I can think of off the top of my head that comes from a natural source, so I suppose I’ll buy that claim.
- “You too can beat your personal best.” If cramps or pre-cramp muscle issues have prevented you from reaching your potential in training and races, then yes, these can likely help. Just like any other properly used electrolyte supplement that your body takes to well could remove these obstacles from performance optimization.
- “…rather than hitting the wall…you’ll smash right through it.” It depends on what you mean by the wall. If the wall you tend to hit is neither fitness nor bonk related, then sure, appropriate use of an electrolyte supplement that removes obstacles to optimum training and racing performance may help you push the wall out further than otherwise.
- “…your source of electrolytes should be natural, organic, bio-available and in harmony with your body.” This goes back to my first item in my list of what I like about the product. Is it science-based? No. If you ascribe to the notion that natural and organic tend to be better than the alternatives, then this is a good product choice to support that belief. Belief that something is beneficial is something that studies have shown to correlate with improved performance. This is often referred to as a placebo effect, which I point out not to criticize the effect but to note that it’s real even if the mechanism isn’t what we think it is.
To summarize, I’ve found e21 to be a viable alternative to other electrolyte supplements and one that I would use moving forward. I look forward to opportunities to test it in more hot and humid conditions. I don’t have any evidence to suggest that my performance and recovery improve with use of the product, but perhaps with further use I might be able to see a trend on these points. In general, it is difficult to tease out the cause of performance and recovery increases out of the host of other variables at play, most notably, improved fitness from a properly executed training plan. I hope this review has been helpful for some people.