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Water, Water, Every Where

By Marcus | In Nutrition | on August 8, 2011

Water, water, every where, nor any drop to drink

— “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

For the old timers in the gym, bear with me as I’m going to cover some ground that I’ve hit before. For those newer to the gym, I wanted to touch on the various choices of beverage many of you may choose to imbibe pre- and post-workout since I get these questions often. There’s lots of slick marketing hype out there designed to convince you that you NEED something more than regular water, so lets take a look at some of the most popular choices.


Sports drinks are a big business. Advertisers love to feature athletes drinking their beverages so people form a mental connection between the two. Who can forget the iconic “Be Like Mike” campaign?

Then there’s this more recent campaign, featuring my least favorite player:

The funny thing is that most people view the 2nd commercial and shake their heads at the thought of drinking soda after a workout. But aside from the carbonation, there’s not a lot of difference between Sprite and Gatorade. In fact, while they plan to change this year to a glucose-dextrose blend, Gatorade has been using HFCS as their energy source of choice… just like sodas. Further muddying the waters is the fact Gatorade is owned by Pepsi, while Coke owns Powerade. Yet oddly, many people reach for a Gatorade thinking that it’s somehow healthier than a can of soda.

Vitamin Water

This falls into much the same category as Gatorade and unsurprisingly, is owned by Coca-Cola (sensing a pattern here?). It is little more than flavored and sugared water with a handful of vitamins to make you feel better about drinking it. Maybe Coke wanted to stick their nose back into this arena after Diet Coke Plus bombed. In fact, much like Coke was admonished for making misleading claims about Diet Coke Plus, the same has happened to them with Vitamin Water. As the linked article mentions, “while Vitamin Water may appear virtuous, each brightly-coloured bottle contains as much as five teaspoons of sugar.” Of course, they have the sugar-free version so you may be tempted to go that route. As I said previously on this topic, aside from artificial sweeteners, it’s still just flavored water. If I needed to convince a 5 year old to drink more water and it would get them to switch from sucking down juice boxes, sure. For an adult, they should save their money and just drink water. If they have that overpowering a sweet tooth, they likely have more problems than dehydration.

Coconut Water

…aka Gatorade for the paleo crowd. This is one of the more popular drink options among the CrossFitting crowd. It doesn’t usually offend the paleo purists since you technically could crack open a coconut and get the same product. While there are myriad health claims for the stuff, an outside lab recently tested and found that the label claims don’t always add up. Also, for those of you playing along and keeping tabs on the beverage mafia ties, two of the biggest brands are owned by Pepsico and Coca-Cola — O.N.E. and Zico, respectively. For now, the corporate ownership seems benign enough, but watch those labels… you never know when they may decide you would benefit from some HFCS in your coconut water.

Alkaline and other designer Waters

This is a newer fad that has caught like wildfire in the CrossFit community. Everyone wants to look for an edge and the alkaline water companies will throw lots of late-night infomercial techniques to make them look like another cure-all when they are really snake oil. The power in the sales pitch is that alkaline water is frequently sold via multi-level marketing and for those who make the initial steep (~$2000 per machine) investment for a dispenser, the buyer wants desperately to believe they didn’t waste their money. Again, alkaline water is a subject I tackled a little while ago, but the fad continues to grow. The sad thing is, the science just doesn’t add up but people rarely dig that deeply. In this category I would also lump waters that claim to alter the molecular configuration of water, also debunked via good ol’ chemistry.

It should come as no surprise that the recommended drink of choice is plain ol’ water. Your body doesn’t need the extra sweeteners once you train your taste buds accordingly. Oh and those magical electrolytes? They’re pretty much nothing more than table salt. Unless you come into the gym seriously dehydrated, you would only need electrolytes after three or more hours of extreme exercising. Of course the other thing to keep in mind is if you are trying to lose body fat, any of the options containing sugars shouldn’t be in your fridge — yes, even coconut water.

So did I miss any? Please post to comments if there’s another one of these sports beverages you want me to look into and I’ll make a future post about it!

WOD 08.08.11
Clean & Jerk 3-2-1-1-1

Kettlebell Snatches
Sit Ups
(x3) Double Unders

(i.e. 20 KB Snatches, 20 sit ups, 60 double unders…)

6 Comments to "Water, Water, Every Where"

  • kathy says:

    August 8, 2011 at 7:51 AM -

    Gatorade is an excellent fix when one is feeling like vomiting whether from being hungover or from a wod involving the prowler.

    Coconut water is excellent when one is deficient in potassium. I saw it miraculously revive one of my Haiti team members who was suffering from the heat.

    No comment on whether they should replace water. Just saying they have their respective benefits.

    I want that tape that the men were wearing on their backs at the Crossfit finals. How about a post on that? I know you don’t believe but I saw some sleds move faster with that tape!

    1. Marcus says:

      August 8, 2011 at 8:52 AM -

      @Kathy — now that’s the kind of bratty response I’d expect out of Anna! Are you filling in for her while she’s working in San Diego? :)

      I think your team member in Haiti was likely dehydrated and not specifically suffering from hypokalemia. When hungover or dealing with high temperatures along with high humidity (e.g. Haiti), you have a legitimate case of electrolyte loss. You then have a good, better, best case of choices to make — pedialyte is good, since it has electrolytes and low sugars. Coconut water is better, due to even better mineral content and still low sugars, while the best option is to make your own mixture.

      Why didn’t I mention Gatorade? Well it comes with a big dose of fructose, which can induce diarrhea…and if you’re already hungover or dehydrated, do you really want to make things worse?

      And sure, I’ll work on a post about the magical tape

  • Alia says:

    August 8, 2011 at 9:38 AM -

    Love me some Vita Coco and it helps that the owner is a local. I have to laugh at the Neuro water (drinkneuro.com) water for my brain? Woooo!

    Kathy: I’m also interested in the kinesio tape. Good call! Although we all know we weren’t looking at the tape 😉

  • Mark Miller (M^2) says:

    August 8, 2011 at 9:51 AM -

    I was looking for one of my favorite papers by an actual University Prof. in Spain, Manuel J. Castillo Garzón (http://www.ugr.es/~cts262/EN/members.html), saying that beer is better than water for post exercise hydration & electrolyte replenishment. Beer is good! 😉

    I am interested in hearing about the fallacies of the magical tape. I’ve seen it in volleyball and other competitions too. I’ve had some done when I had patella tracking issues from having a stronger outer quad than inner quad. The hope was that it would help the knee cap to track in the correct direction, from 12 o’clock – 6 o’clock instead of the 1:30 – 6 that it was.

  • Rick says:

    August 8, 2011 at 1:03 PM -

    Last week I heard an interview on this same topic; reinforcing the idea of drinking to thirst and all you need is water.

    Link below for those interested. (First part of the Podcast is Q&A, interview is towards the tail end.)


  • Holley says:

    August 8, 2011 at 3:38 PM -

    I like to drink coconut water post WOD when it’s a tough one and I’m feeling shaky. I find it to be a good recovery drink when my blood sugar is low. Vita Coco is my brand of choice as well.

    After seeing today’s WOD, I’m definitely regretting my decision to do the NLI snatch WOD yesterday. :(

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