Re-Inventing Water

Is there any real benefit to fitness drinks?

In the days before mochas and lattes, it used to be a simple question with a simple answer: How do you take your coffee?

Now it’s the same with water. And the answer is more complex than with ice or without, bottled or from the tap.

Consumers can choose from countless varieties of water: Flavored, oxygenated, caffeinated, “organic” and waters spiked with fiber, vitamins and minerals.

While the advertising touts the benefits of so-called fitness or enhanced waters, claims that those waters are actually better than plain old H2O have been met with skepticism. Spokane fitness trainer Marla Emde drinks her water straight up, from the tap.

of the Valley Girl Triathlon and other local races. She questions the benefits of designer waters. In the three decades she’s raced professionally and trained other athletes, Emde has yet to read a study that’s convinced her there’s anything better than plain water.

Registered dietician and nutrition expert Lanah J. Brennan divides water beverages into three categories: plain water or water with “added oxygen,” water with electrolytes and water with sugar, electrolytes and other additives, like vitamins. Brennan says oxygenated water is no different, really, than plain water.

Retired chemistry professor Stephen Lower has a Website dedicated to “AquaScams.” His take on oxygenated water: “Unless you have gills, it’s just an expensive burp.”

Any water that’s been exposed to air has oxygen in it, and though additional oxygen can be added in the bottling process, Lower says the extra air escapes once the bottle is opened. Instead of buying oxygenated water, he recommends drinking water, then taking in a free gulp of air.

While added-air waters don’t have added calories, many of the other water beverages on the market do.

For instance, Glaceau’s VitaminWater has 50 calories per serving — or 125 calories per 20-ounce bottle. Gatorade’s Propel Fit Water has only 25 calories in a same-sized bottle.

Weight Watchers describes these as “empty calories” and although fitness water, like Propel, counts toward the fluid requirements for Weight Watchers participants, the diet gurus favor regular water.

“For most people, regular water is all that is needed to keep them hydrated,” says Brennan. “A water with electrolytes may be beneficial to people who are working out or sweating because it replaces the electrolytes lost through sweat.” She’s talking high-level exercise, though, like training for the Ironman. “If you are not active more than 90 minutes, these drinks are not recommended because they will serve no purpose other than supplying extra calories that may be stored as fat,” she says.

Hollywood trainer Joshua Love agrees. “There’s really no replacement for just water itself,” says Love, who helped Jodie Sweetin of Full House fame work off 40 pounds of post-baby weight.

Love says some of his clients can’t stand drinking water all day. If that’s the case, he says, enhanced or fitness waters will suffice — the lower calorie, the better.


In tough economic times, there’s another alternative to buying flavored water: Make your own. Here are a couple quick recipes:

Get Juiced: Squeeze some lemon or lime into your water or add the juice of a fresh grapefruit. Fresh cranberry or grape juice also adds a nice flavor to water.

Minty Fresh: Add mint leaves for a guilt- and booze-free mojito.

Cool and Refreshing: Float cucumber slices in your water. Save a couple for those circles under your eyes.

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