Reaching for a Sports Drink or Vitamin Water? Read This First

Photo (cc) by fivehanks

If you buy into the hype surrounding flavored and fortified drinks, you may be tempted to pass over regular old water and quench your thirst with a drink that promises to better hydrate your body with added electrolytes, vitamins and minerals.

But health experts warn that sports drinks and vitamin waters don’t always deliver on their claims of extra health benefits, and they’re often full of extra sugar, calories and artificial ingredients, including food coloring and extra preservatives.

According to Consumer Reports, which recently evaluated 20 popular flavored and fortified drinks, most Americans don’t need these drinks because more than 90 percent of us already get plenty of important nutrients. If you’re chugging fortified drinks, there’s a chance you’re actually getting too much of some vitamins and minerals, CR said.

Health experts say plain old water is just as hydrating and often healthier than fortified drinks. Plus, it’s cheap.

“Do vitamins and minerals add to hydration? No. What’s hydrating is the fluid,” said Leslie Bonci, a dietitian and director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, in the CR report.

Bonci added that “any liquid is going to be hydrating, even coffee.”

This is what CR found when it evaluated 20 popular drinks:

  • Sports drinks: Many sports drinks, which were designed to help athletes replace electrolytes and fluids lost through perspiration, have lots of sugar or artificial sweeteners as well as food coloring, preservatives and other added ingredients. CR said “unless you’re working out intensely for more than an hour, you’re unlikely to lose significant electrolytes,” so skip the sports drinks and grab a glass of water instead.
  • Coconut and plant-based drinks: These drinks, which include coconut, maple, artichoke and cactus waters, are often expensive and have far-reaching health claims. You definitely don’t need them, but “if you’re tired of the same old same old, coconut water and maple water can make for a nice — but pricey — change once in a while,” CR said.
  • Vitamin waters: Although some waters with added vitamins contain a daily recommended dose of certain vitamins, it’s unlikely that you need them, especially if you’re eating a balanced diet. Plus, more isn’t always better when it comes to vitamins. Many vitamin waters also contain added sugars. CR recommends drinking water and eating a balanced diet instead of relying on vitamin waters for hydration and nutrients.
  • Flavored and purified waters: These drinks sometimes have added electrolytes – like sodium, as well as artificial sweeteners. If you want to add some flavor to your water and save yourself some money, skip the flavored waters at the grocery store and simply add a squeeze of lemon to a cup of plain water, CR recommended.

The main takeaway from CR: If you’re thirsty, grab a glass of water, period. It will quench your thirst, keep you hydrated and it’s free — at least if you’re getting it out of a tap, which is actually safer and more tightly regulated than bottled water, according to CR.

Check out “Energy Drinks Linked to Higher Blood Pressure” and “Sugary Drinks Linked to 184,000 Adult Deaths Annually.”

What is your drink of choice? Are you a plain old water drinker or do you prefer flavored beverages? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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