What are the pros and cons of Electrolyte enhanced tap water vs bottled electrolyte water? Are there any proven benefits or risks of electrolyte water?
The trend of drinking electrolyte-infused water, once primarily associated with athletes, has expanded to the general public. The choices are many, from bottled electrolyte waters sold in stores to DIY versions using tap water and electrolyte additives. But what are the benefits of these hydration options, and how do they stand up to scientific scrutiny? Moreover, are there any potential downsides to increasing your electrolyte intake via water? Let’s dive in.
The Appeal of Electrolyte Water
Water enhanced with electrolytes—minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium—allegedly offers more than just quenching thirst. Manufacturers of electrolyte waters argue that their products provide better hydration and can aid bodily functions ranging from muscle contractions to nerve signalling. Electrolytes are also lost through sweat, which can potentially be replaced by drinking these enhanced waters.
Hydration and Health
Many studies suggest that these claims hold water (pun intended). For instance, research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that electrolyte solutions can provide more sustained hydration than plain water, particularly during prolonged physical activity or work in hot environments.
Furthermore, electrolyte waters can be beneficial during times of sickness, such as when dealing with vomiting or diarrhea, both of which can cause significant fluid and electrolyte loss. Electrolyte-infused water can help replenish these losses and aid recovery.
Bottled Electrolyte Water vs. Electrolyte-Enhanced Tap Water
Bottled electrolyte water and electrolyte-enhanced tap water may seem similar, but there are some differences to consider.
Bottled electrolyte water is often formulated to contain an optimal balance of electrolytes for general consumption. However, the actual amounts can vary greatly among brands. Some may contain minimal electrolytes, while others are formulated for athletes and may contain higher levels to compensate for what’s lost in sweat during intense exercise.
On the other hand, electrolyte-enhanced tap water allows for customization. Using electrolyte tablets or drops, individuals can control the amount and type of electrolytes they add to their tap water. This can be an advantage for those with specific needs or preferences, but it also requires more knowledge and care to prevent an imbalance.
Electrolytes in Normal Tap Water
Ordinary tap water contains varying amounts of natural electrolytes, including minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. The specific concentration of these electrolytes can greatly vary based on the water source and local geography. For instance, water that originates from a mineral-rich source or that has passed through certain types of rock or soil may have a higher electrolyte content.
Local water treatment processes also impact the electrolyte content. Water suppliers may add certain minerals back into the water after treatment to improve its taste and nutritional content.
Typically, the levels of electrolytes in tap water are quite low compared to what’s found in food or dedicated electrolyte drinks. However, these levels can contribute to your overall electrolyte and mineral intake, especially if you drink a substantial amount of water each day. It’s worth noting that the electrolyte content of tap water, while beneficial, is unlikely to be sufficient to replace electrolytes lost during intense physical activity or illness. For that, more concentrated sources of electrolytes are generally needed.
The Potential Pitfalls of Electrolyte Water
While electrolyte water can be beneficial, there are potential drawbacks to consider.
Just as a deficiency in electrolytes can cause problems, so can an excess. Drinking too much electrolyte water, especially varieties with high sodium or potassium content, can lead to hypernatremia or hyperkalemia, respectively. These conditions can trigger symptoms ranging from nausea and irregular heartbeat to more severe issues like kidney disease or heart problems.
Cost and Sustainability
Bottled electrolyte water can be expensive compared to regular tap water. Furthermore, the environmental impact of plastic bottles is considerable, leading to concerns about sustainability.
In contrast, enhancing tap water with electrolytes can be a cost-effective and eco-friendlier alternative, as long as one carefully monitors the type and amount of electrolytes added.
Electrolyte Water is Unnecessary for Average Hydration Needs
It’s worth noting that most people, under normal circumstances and with a balanced diet, get all the electrolytes they need from food. Unless engaging in intense, prolonged physical activity, or recovering from illness, electrolyte water is generally not necessary and plain water suffices for hydration.
How to measure electrolyes in beverages
Watch this video for a quick overview of how to measure electrolytes in sport drinks and drinking water.
Conclusion about Electrolyte Enhanced Tap Water vs Electrolyte Bottled Water?
Electrolyte-enhanced waters, both bottled and from the tap, offer potential benefits, particularly for athletes, those working in hot environments, or individuals recovering from certain illnesses. However, they also present potential drawbacks such as the risk.
PitcherPro by TAPP Water increases the alkalinity of the water and will also increase the electrolytes to some extent.
Sources and links:
For the specific claims in the article, below are general references you could look up for more information:
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has numerous studies on the role of electrolyte drinks and hydration. See, for instance, “Water, Hydration and Health” (Popkin, D’Anci, and Rosenberg, 2010).
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research also has related studies, such as “The Effects of Fluid Loss on Physical Performance: A Critical Review” (Casa, 1999).
For information about the role of oral rehydration therapy in illness, the World Health Organization’s website is a reliable resource.
For potential negative aspects, resources like the Mayo Clinic or Harvard Health Publishing provide detailed insights into topics like sugar consumption and electrolyte balance.