Vitamin-Enhanced Drinks to Stay Hydrated and Score Key Nutrients
Considering the widespread love for HIIT workouts, Instant Pots, and do-it-all skin-care products, it seems fair to say that most folks are obsessed with living their lives as efficiently as possible. So when you're hydrating, why not get two — the need to hit your fluid intake and the desire to score some nutrients — for the price of one?
Enter: Vitamin-enhanced drinks, which — just as their name implies — are beverages that have been mixed with refreshing flavors and powders containing vitamins (e.g. vitamins A, B, C, D, and E), and in some cases, minerals (e.g. magnesium or zinc), says Abby Chan, M.S., R.D.N., a registered dietitian nutritionist and the co-owner of EVOLVE Flagstaff in Arizona. "What's typically in them is a pretty small amount of actual vitamins…[so] you're not going to overdose yourself with vitamins, especially because all of these are typically water-soluble," says Chan. "If your body doesn't need them, you'll generally just end up peeing them out."
More specifically, water-soluble vitamins (e.g. vitamins C and B), don't build up in the cells and excess amounts can be excreted, while fat-soluble vitamins (e.g. vitamins A, D, E, and K) are stored in cells, don't pass through the body as easily, and have the potential to cause harm when consumed in excess, according to University of Michigan Health. But you don't have to worry about "overdosing" on those fat-soluble nutrients: Research on supplements shows you'd need to consume more than four times the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin A and more than three times that of vitamin D to potentially experience "toxic" side effects.
In general, sipping on vitamin drinks can help you stay hydrated throughout the day (women typically need to consume about 11.5 cups of fluid daily, according to the Mayo Clinic), and they don't come with any major health risks, says Chan. However, you may not experience a drink's supposed benefits unless you're deficient in the particular nutrient, she says. For example, some beverages infused with B vitamins — which help the body turn the food you eat into energy — are labeled as "energy-boosting" drinks, but you probably won't get a pick-me-up from that kind of vitamin water unless you're low on the vitamin, she explains. (Related: Could Vitamin Deficiencies Be Ruining Your Workout?)
More significantly, Chan says vitamin-enhanced drinks generally contain a high amount of added sugar, which can contribute to health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease when consumed in excess, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A bottle of vitaminwater's energy beverage, for instance, contains 27 grams of added sugar, accounting for 54 percent of the recommended daily allowance established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). "Sugar isn't inherently bad by any means — there's definitely a time and a place for it," says Chan. "But...if this is your main source of taking in vitamins, it's going to be much better done through food, which is going to have a higher content of these vitamins as well as other nutrients, such as phytonutrients, antioxidants...protein, carbs, and all that" — without all the added cane sugar.
Some brands opt to blend their vitamin-enhanced drinks with sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners, such as erythritol and Stevia, which don't impact blood sugar, says Chan. Still, some of these alternatives have been linked with gastrointestinal distress and discomfort, especially when consumed in large amounts. "They are also generally exponentially sweeter than typical sugar," she adds. "So that could maybe change your palate preferences so that when you are actually eating and consuming real sugar, you may want that same bang for your buck — that super, super sweetness." This could, in theory, lead to consuming more sugar to get the same result. (Related: Meet Allulose, the New Low-Calorie Sweetener That's Sweeping the Market)
To keep yourself hydrated without dealing with any of those potential downsides, Chan generally recommends sipping on straight-up, no-frills H2O the majority of the time. "But if it's something that really brings you joy, or if you really love a certain type of vitamin-infused beverage, great," says Chan. "Let's partake in that in a way that isn't all day, every day and replacing water consumption." That might mean keeping your consumption of these bevvies to a moderate level (read: not gulping down bottles upon bottles each day, maintaining your intake of no-sugar-added drinks (think: water, unsweetened tea, etc.), and remembering that vitamin-enhanced drinks aren't a "magic pill" that will help you hit your daily nutrient quotas, says Chan.
Still, if you are eating a nutrient-dense diet already and you want to jazz up your water intake while copping a few essential nutrients along the way, consider stocking your fridge with these vitamin drinks.