By  Rebecca Brotzman

What are “enhanced” waters enhanced with?

First came the bottled water craze, which has become a booming industry over the last thirty years.  Now products are coming out that seem to take the convenience of bottled water to the next level of health:  vitamins and water?  Isn’t that better than just bottled water?!  Sadly, in an attempt to be healthier, people are being fooled into wasting money and hurting the environment.

Manufacturers market products to appear healthier than they are.  Even just plain bottled water is not any better for you than tap water, and often is just tap water.  “Enhanced” waters almost always contain added sugar or artificial sweeteners, with minimal amounts of the vitamins and other “healthy” additives they are promoting on the label. 

The most important thing to do is to read the ingredients and nutrition facts carefully.  It is also essential to recognize what serving size the label is referring to and how many servings you are actually consuming.

Let’s go through some of the most common “enhanced” waters and see what they are really enhanced with:

Vitamin Waters:

Most often sold in 20 ounce bottles (which are really two and half servings), most people would drink the entire bottle without a second thought.  The nutrition facts listed on the label are for one serving (8 ounces), so all nutrition information has to be multiplied by 2.5 if you drink the whole bottle.  So, for a 20 ounce bottle that lists 50 calories and 13 grams of sugar, you’ll actually be consuming 125 calories per bottle, and 33 grams of sugar (8 teaspoons) per bottle. 

If you drink the entire bottle, you will get between 25-250% of the recommended dietary allowance for 6 or 7 vitamins, with most of them being 50% or less (usually only vitamin C is over 50%).  You would be much better off health-wise, budget-wise, and environmental-wise, if you take a multivitamin and wash it down with tap water.

New versions of these products are being unveiled that show manufacturers are responding to a change in consumer awareness.  These versions have fewer calories and less sugar.  One example has only 10 calories per serving and 30 calories per 20 ounce bottle. 


Fitness Waters:

“Fitness Water” is just water with sucrose syrup, sucralose (Splenda), and a few vitamins (in one example: C, E, and four of the B vitamins).  The good thing about this drink is that it’s usually only 30 calories for a whole 24 oz container.  For one popular brand, a 24 ounce bottle will give you 75% of the RDA for 3 of the B vitamins, but 30% or less for vitamins C, E, and B-12.  Once again, you are paying for expensive tap water and a few vitamins.  A bottle of multivitamins containing 100% if the RDA for a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals would cost about the same as 2 or 3 bottles of this beverage.


Sports Drinks:

“Sports drinks” are potentially useful only after a high intensity workout lasting longer than an hour.  This beverage is really only intended for serious athletes who need to replenish electrolytes due to sweat loss.  Otherwise, they are just unnecessary calories and sodium.  Electrolytes are molecules in your body fluids that perform many important functions.  If someone perspires hard enough and long enough, they need to replenish them.  Sports drinks usually contain sodium and potassium because these are the electrolytes lost in the highest amounts through sweating.  They also contain sugar to provide athletes with a fuel source during sustained exercise.  Only during long endurance events are these sources needed.  Drinking plain water before, during, and after a workout is all most people need to do to stay hydrated.  Drinking a “sports drink” while you are NOT working out is completely unnecessary.  It will not hydrate you any better than water, and will give you empty calories and salt.  These drinks often come in 32 ounce containers, which contain four servings.  At 50 calories a serving, this works out to 200 calories if you drink the whole bottle.  You will also get 14 teaspoons of sugar, 440 mg sodium (20% of the recommended daily limit!), 120 mg potassium, and 372 mg of chloride. 

 

 Electrolyte Waters:

Water with added electrolytes is another kind of “enhanced” water found on the market.  The amount of added electrolytes is tiny. (One popular brand had 10mg potassium, 10 mg calcium, 15 mg magnesium per liter).  These are too few electrolytes to replenish a dehydrated athlete, and make little difference for a non-athlete.   Interestingly, some bottled waters contain more than this amount of electrolytes, and yet do not market themselves as “enhanced” water.  Electrolyte waters are closer to regular bottled water than to anything else.  Like water, they have no calories or artificial sweeteners, but they are not any better than tap water.   In fact, they are worse than tap water in terms of your wallet and the environment.

 
In Summary:

Becoming a savvy label reader is the most important way to not be fooled by marketing ploys.  Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1)      Labels don’t always use a standard 8 ounce serving.  Check serving size, then servings per container.

2)      Make sure you multiply the information on the nutrition label to match the servings you would realistically drink.

3)      Always read the ingredients.  Remember, ingredients are listed in order of what makes up most of the product to least of the product.

4)      Think of your wallet and your impact on the environment before you purchase a hyped-up version of what is readily available through the tap.

 

 

 

 

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