Water Fight: These Are the Latest Beverages to Keep You Hydrated
Whether you’re exercising or just working up a sweat on your commute to work, summer is prime time to focus on staying well-hydrated. You could just hit the sink to fill your water bottle, but considering all of the other options now available may leave you wondering if there isn’t something better to drink.
“When we perspire heavily, we’re losing fluid and also electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium and magnesium,” explains Tara Collingwood, R.D., a sports dietitian in Orlando and co-author of Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies (Wiley 2014). “Regular water will replace the fluid, but not the electrolytes.” For bouts of intense, endurance exercise (running a marathon, for example) it might be worth downing a sports drink to fully replenish those important electrolytes. But what about when you just want hydration — maybe with a little something extra? Here's a rundown of what’s on the water menu.
One of the newer players in the water scene, this beverage is made from the liquid sap harvested from birch trees, mainly in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. Possibly because it’s tough to find in the United States, it’s also incredibly in demand among thirsty trendsetters. According to Collingwood, it does contain some zinc, copper and potassium, but no sodium. And the sugar content is mostly from fructose, which is the same as the naturally occurring sugar found in fruit.
Similar in many ways to birch tree water, maple water is what comes out when you tap into a maple tree. It is also rich in several trace minerals, including high amounts of manganese. The sugar content is from sucrose (the same compound that’s in table sugar), meaning maple water falls slightly higher on the glycemic scale than birch water. “Both of these tree waters will be hydrating and a little bit sweet, but most of the health and nutrition claims aren’t currently backed up with hard science,” says Collingwood.
While coconut water doesn’t contain much sodium, it is high in another important electrolyte: potassium. “It’s great for hydrating, and the potassium will help alleviate muscle cramping,” says Collingwood. Just watch out for flavored versions that may contain added sugar.
It seems like a great idea to get your hydration plus a caffeine buzz to keep you going, all in the same drink. “Caffeine does stimulate your brain and your muscles and can help boost performance,” says Collingwood. “But it’s a false energy and there are risks to mixing too much caffeine with exercise.” Caffeine raises your heart rate and blood pressure — as does exertion — so combining the two can make your heart work overtime. Caffeine is also a diuretic, so water that contains it won’t hydrate you quite as much as a decaffeinated version.
Another newcomer on the water scene is H2O that’s infused with additional hydrogen. The theory is that hydrogen acts like an antioxidant in the body, protecting it from cellular damage and helping to prevent a variety of health issues. “There’s no evidence that hydrogen-infused water will hydrate you better or help you recover from exercise better,” says Collingwood. As for its other claims? “I would say the jury is still out,” she says.
Sally Wadyka is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist who writes about nutrition, health and wellness.