How nutritious is Vitaminwater?
Vitaminwater was on sale at my local grocery store this week, 10 20-ounce bottles for $10, which made me wonder whether anybody really needs that much of the stuff.
The major player in the "vitamin-enhanced water" market, Glaceau -- maker of Vitaminwater, Smartwater and Vitaminwater Zero -- sold 142 million cases in the United States in 2009, according to John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, which tracks beverage sales by the case, not the dollar.
Introduced in 1996, Vitaminwater, owned by Coca-Cola, has built a strong identity in the bottled beverage world. Part of its allure is its hip-looking packaging and its engaging product names, such as Revive, Focus and Connect.
Vitaminwater tastes okay, if you like fruity flavor without the fruit. There is almost no actual fruit, even in the Fruit Punch variety, and what little there is mostly provides color.
But it's the added vitamins and electrolytes that define Vitaminwater (and its competitors, including SoBe Life Water and Propel).
Do the drinks deliver?
Nancy Rodriguez, a professor of nutrition and a sports nutritionist at the University of Connecticut, says that drinking bottled water can help you track how much water you drink. Your body needs one milliliter -- that's a thousandth of a liter -- of water for every calorie you consume, Rodriguez explains, so a daily diet of 1,800 to 2,000 calories requires about 1.8 to two liters of H2O. That's close to the commonly recommended six to eight eight-ounce glasses.
But tap water works just fine, Rodriguez says. Unless, of course, you live in the District, where lead may linger in some residents' water. (People who are concerned about this can have their supply tested by D.C. Water.)
As for electrolytes, only people dedicated to exercising need to replenish them, she says, and then it's necessary only if they work out vigorously for more than an hour.
"Vitaminwater," she concludes, "is a marketing ploy."
The folks from Vitaminwater were invited to comment but didn't get back to me before press time.
Tap water has the added benefits of being all but free, and free of calories. Critics have bashed Vitaminwater for being a calorie trap. While a single eight-ounce serving has just 50 calories, a bottle contains 2.5 servings, so you could easily drink 125 calories -- just 15 shy of the calories in a can of Coca-Cola -- at once.