Alkaline water, mineral water, carbonated water, coconut water: There are so many different water options available that it can feel a bit overwhelming at the grocery store. Which one will serve your athlete best, or is plain old tap water the optimal solution?
Here, TrueSport Expert Stephanie Miezin, MS, RD, CSSD, explains the difference between different types of enriched waters—including the role of sports drinks—and discusses how you can determine the best option for your athlete.
Sports drink versus enriched water
In general, when we talk about water, we’re talking about water with minimal (if any) calories added. Electrolytes may be included. Sports drinks refer to caloric beverages that contain not only critical carbohydrates, but electrolytes like sodium and potassium as well. These electrolytes are crucial to rehydration: Especially in hot, humid weather or after extreme exertion, water alone may not be enough to adequately rehydrate your athlete.
Some waters may sound sport-ready: alkaline water and mineral water both seem like they’d contain vital electrolytes to help your athlete excel on the playing field. But neither beverage contains more than trace minerals, and will work only as well as regular water, just with a higher price tag.
“Alkaline water is just a marketing ploy,” says Miezin. “Our bodies are perfectly capable of staying at the proper pH without help from alkaline water—we have natural mechanisms for that, and if you were to get out of balance, you’d be in the hospital.”
On the other side of the spectrum, coconut water may sound like simple flavored water, but it actually contains carbohydrates and electrolytes.