Whether you wish to lose a few pounds, improve your endurance, or speed up recovery, enhanced water beverages have portrayed themselves as having all the goodness of plain water but with the added benefits of extra nutrients. But are they warranted, or are they really needed?  The short answer: not really.

Weight Loss

One of the main concerns with enhanced water is the added sweeteners, for example agave nectar. Although agave is naturally derived and has a lower glyceamic index (low GI) compared to table sugar (sucrose), many varieties still contain more calories than a can of soda. Lighter versions may have less calories, however this reduction is negated due to the larger serving size – making it almost equivalent as far as added sugar content is concerned.

Label watch: Sugar has many guises, among them agave syrup, cane sugar, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, high-fructose and more. Although some of these may be less processed than others, they all count as added sweeteners. If weight-loss is your goal, try water flavored with sliced citrus, fruit or mint to cut back on extra calories (see recipe below).

Improve your wellbeing

Catchy claims like “revive” and “energy” may sound appealing if you’re trying to wean off the soy lattes, however some varieties contain added guarana – a source of caffeine in amounts similar to a cup of instant coffee. This is important to be aware of if you’re pregnant, have heart conditions or sensitive to caffeine. Claims with “no caffeine” still contain added sugars and food acids (in particular citric acid), which have been shown to cause tooth enamel erosion with prolonged consumption.

Label watch: Despite their labels touting their ability to energise, enhanced waters are simply “artificial concoctions” of sugar, caffeine and additives more likely to undermine drinkers’ health than improve it. Likewise, the term “organic” may imply health benefits, however this term is meaningless, not to mention unregulated, especially given most varieties contain additives.

Improving endurance

Most contain a potent mixture of sugar and other stimulants including caffeine, guarana, and a natural herb called ginseng, which together are known for their performance-enhancing benefits, such as increased energy, stamina and recovery.

Label watch: The added sugar may provide an additional source of carbohydrate for a quick energy boost if you’re working out in hot weather or exercising for extended periods of time. However some varieties can contain more sugar compared to sports drinks (without the electrolytes) so will not have the same hydrating or replenishing effects. What’s more, large doses of caffeine can increase blood pressure and heart rate and cause nervousness and irritability.

Speed up recovery

You may be lead to believe that the added vitamins and antioxidants will do much more than just keep you hydrated. The truth is, any water will hydrate your body, but water enriched with vitamins is basically sugar-water, fortified chemically with synthesized vitamins which are available in negligible amounts.

Label watch: Most people get enough vitamins from their diet so what they receive from vitamin-enriched water is unnecessary. You’re better off taking a multivitamin supplement if absolutely necessary.