June 16, 2017 Zhou Jia

The Body: What’s Healthier Than Water?

There is simply nothing better than water.

We all know life would be pretty miserable without water. When you are just 1 percent dehydrated you start feeling irritable; at 5 percent, muscle strength and endurance deteriorates; at 10 percent, delirium and blurred vision take over; reach 20 percent and you’re dead. Luckily we have this handy thing called “thirst” which lets us know when we need a drink. If you can’t follow an “eight cups a day” rule—that’s ok, because it’s a completely arbitrary number anyway. Just always listen to your thirst.

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What is less appreciated is that despite all the marketing behind sports drinks and other beverages, there is still no better drink for you than plain old water. That’s why I was particularly pleased when a multimillion dollar Lucozade Sport ad was banned recently for claiming its drink hydrates better than water. Nothing can hydrate you better than water.

What sports drinks can do is load you with sugars. But do you really need them? Let’s suppose you are Dennis Kimetto and you have been running at 20 kilometers per hour for an hour and 45 minutes. By now, your muscle glycogen levels could be starting to get low and you might think about consuming a sports drink at the next refuel station before you power on to try to set a new world marathon record.

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Does the average person doing moderate intensity exercise for an hour need additional carbohydrates? Almost definitely not. Muscle glycogen will naturally be restored through regular eating post exercise. Consuming sugars during your workout will just mean you burn less fat than you would have otherwise.

How about juices? Rich in vitamins, anti-oxidants, and fiber, surely there is a place for them in our diet?

Although fruits are packed with goodness, they are also rich in fructose, which is easily converted to triglycerides and stored as fat. When you turn a solid piece of fruit into a juice, we make this high-fructose problem worse by removing all of the fibrous pulp, basically leaving you with sugary water (the pulp helps slow digestion and lower the fruit’s glycemic index).

But what about all the vitamins and antioxidants, you still get those, right? Yes, but not as much as you would if you were just eating whole pieces of fruit. As soon as you remove juice from its protective cell walls, the process of oxidation begins which will gradually erode the nutritional value of the juice. Processed fruit juices may also have been heat treated to kill bacteria, which means by the time you are drinking it, there may be very little nutritional value left behind at all.

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Unless you are a professional athlete or taking part in ultra endurance events, there is probably no good reason for you to ever touch a sports drink. They offer no benefits in performance over water. And in terms of helping you slim down, they are completely counterproductive. Fruit juices are better, but only if they are consumed fresh, and even then they aren’t as healthy as simply eating whole piece of fruit. When it comes to helping you feel and look your best, there is simply nothing better than water.

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