Enhanced water beverages: OK, so if water is the best choice for activity lasting less than 60 minutes, surely a water fortified with vitamins or other supplements is a good thing, right? Not necessarily. If you’re eating healthfully and including a variety of foods in your diet, you likely aren’t going to need extra vitamins. And if you are taking vitamin supplements, there’s no need to drink them in your water. Furthermore, there’s always the risk of getting too many vitamins, as well. Also, watch out for some enhanced water beverages, as they can contain a hefty amount of carbohydrate.
Protein water: It was bound to happen sooner or later: Protein has now been added to water. A 500-milliliter bottle of For Goodness Shakes protein water contains 20 grams of protein (the equivalent of eating about 3 ounces of chicken) in the form of whey and casein protein. It also contains 86 calories, but surprisingly, it contains no sugar. Protein2O is another brand, containing 70 calories, 15 grams of protein, and 0 grams of sugar. But do you need protein water? Well, if you’re a competitive body builder or serious about your strength training, you likely do need a little more protein. However, you can easily get your extra protein from food sources.
Flavored water: If plain old tap water is less than appealing, there’s nothing wrong with having a little flavor in your water, especially if it helps you drink more. But choose your flavored water carefully. In other words, scrutinize the Nutrition Facts label. Avoid flavored waters that are high in calories and carbs. You can choose a flavored water that contains a nonnutritive sweetener, but even better is to flavor your own water with fresh lemon, lime, berries, cucumber, or mint (called infused water).
Sports drinks: Sports drinks go beyond water — they contain electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, along with sugar and, sometimes, vitamins. Sports drinks have their place, but generally aren’t necessary unless you’re working out for more than one hour. Also, these drinks typically contain about 14 grams of carb per 8 ounces, so consider the effect on your blood sugar. Sugar-free sports drinks are available, and contain nonnutritive sweeteners such as sucralose. Examples of sports drinks are Gatorade, Powerade, Propel, and BodyArmor.
Energy drinks: Energy drinks are similar to sports drinks in that they contain sugar and sodium. They also are jacked up with caffeine, which can boost performance and alertness, and depending on the drink, may have other ingredients, including taurine (an amino sulfonic acid) and herbs, such as gingko biloba, ginseng, and guarana. The downside of energy drinks? Besides the calories and carbs (8.4 ounces of Red Bull has 110 calories and 28 grams of carb), the caffeine can cause jitteriness, heart palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia. Sugar-free versions are available, although you’ll still get the caffeine jolt. Red Bull, Monster Energy, and Full Throttle are popular brands.
Chocolate milk: Only kids drink chocolate milk, right? Well, some athletes may, too. Research shows that chocolate milk is a good way to replenish after a workout. Like sports drinks, chocolate milk contains electrolytes, and its carb and protein balance help to repair muscle tears and replenish glycogen stores, too. In addition, chocolate milk seems to boost performance. However, consider the calories and carbs: 8 ounces of low-fat chocolate milk will set you back about 160 calories and 26 grams of carb. Fine if you’ve just run a 10K, but probably not necessary if you’ve ridden your bike for 30 minutes.
Coconut water: You’ve probably seen coconut water displayed on grocery shelves and maybe even sipped some. Popular brands include Vita Coco, Zico, and O.N.E. Coconut water is the juice that’s found inside a green coconut. It’s not the same as coconut milk. On average, 8 ounces of coconut water contains about 50 calories and 9 grams of carb. It’s touted as being a good choice for a “recovery” drink because, like sports drinks, it contains electrolytes, along with fiber and a little protein. Is it a good choice for you? That depends. If you’re a serious athlete, you’d probably be better off with a sports drink. If you’re a weekend warrior, water should be your go-to fluid. However, if you like the taste of coconut water and it helps you drink more fluids, it can be a good choice. But keep an eye on those calories and carbs.
To meet your daily hydration needs, these are the beverages I highly recommend, with amount listed beside each one. First and foremost, water is at the top of the list. If you don’t like the taste of your normal plain water, try filtered water or add a touch of lemon to make it a little more palatable
Level 1 — MOST Important
Plain water – drink a minimum of 20 ounces (0.5 liters) each day if you will be getting fluids from other sources, or aim for at least 64 ounces, if water is your beverage of choice.
Level 2 — Contain No Calories, Artificial Sweeteners, Caffeine, and Chlorine
These beverages can replace an equivalent amount of water. Consume up to 40 ounces per day.
Sparkling mineral water, unsweetened
Naturally decaffeinated tea – white, green, oolong, black, rooibos, tulsi, herbal (If naturally decaffeinated is not possible, go with the decaf option you have available to you.)
Naturally decaffeinated coffee
Level 3 — Contain No calories and Artificial Sweeteners
These beverages also can replace an equivalent amount of water, but try to limit your intake of caffeine to no more than 250 mg per day (one eight-ounce cup of coffee contains about 80 to 140 mg of caffeine: http://www.cspinet.org/new/cafchart.htm)
Caffeinated tea – white, green, oolong, black, yerba mate
Caffeinated coffee, espresso
Level 4 — Contain Some Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat
These contain about 80 percent water content. Consume 0 to 16 ounces per day.
Dairy Beverages – goat’s milk, cow’s milk, organic grass-fed if possible
Non-Dairy beverages – almond milk, hemp milk, rice milk, all unsweetened
Level 5 — Contain Mostly Carbohydrates
Consume up to eight ounces of these types of beverages per day if desired. Ideally, limit these types of beverages due to their high simple carbohydrate (sugar) content, which can lead to excess energy intake and blood sugar fluctuations.
100% fruit juice – no added sugar or artificial sweeteners