Many people hear the name “Vitamin Water” and automatically assume that it is healthy, possibly even healthier than plain water! But is this true?
Glaceau VitaminWater Zero is a spinoff of the original Vitamin Water, which is reverse osmosis water combined with flavorings, vitamins, and minerals. The difference is that VitaminWater Zero uses artificial sweeteners instead of normal sugar.
Like most things in life, there are pros and cons to drinking Vitamin Zero Water.
Pro: Negligible Calories
There are technically 0 calories in Vitamin Water Zero. You may be confused by the nutrition label, which claims 4 grams of carbohydrate per serving, while also listing 0 calories. We are accustomed to thinking that carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram. What gives?
The explanation for this is that Vitamin Water Zero uses non-nutrient sweeteners such as erythritol, which is metabolized differently by the body and therefore results in negligible amounts of calories actually being absorbed.
Why is a zero-calorie beverage generally a good thing? Because for the average person, drinking sugary drinks is one of the major culprits in over-consumption of calories and therefore, in unnecessary weight gain. The majority of people who are trying to control their weight would be much better served to follow a simple nutritional rule: chew your calories, don’t drink them.
For this reason, Vitamin Water Zero is a step above regular Vitamin Water, which uses various forms of sugar (such as crystalline fructose and cane sugar) and therefore carries considerable calories.
Pro: Nutritional Content
Vitamin Water Zero is a concentrated source of vitamins and minerals. For example, a bottle of Vitamin Water Zero Rise contains vitamin C (120% DV), Vitamin B6 (80% DV), Vitamin B12 (80% DV), and Vitamin E (20% DV), among other nutrients.
For reasons we will further discuss below, this may be more of a pro for some people, and more of a con for others. The group of people for whom it may be beneficial to drink Vitamin Water Zero is the one whose overall diets are not very nutrient-dense.
These people may be deficient in some vitamins or minerals because they eat more processed foods and less whole foods. In their case, drinking a large bolus of vitamins and minerals in the form of Vitamin Water may be a net win for their health by preventing deficiencies.
Pro: Tastes Good!
Vitamin Water Zero tastes good and comes in such a variety of flavors that nearly everyone will be satisfied, especially if you are the type of person who is more likely to reach for a sweet drink than plain water.
If you really enjoy Vitamin Water Zero, you can use this to your advantage. For example, you could drink a bottle of your favorite flavor after every workout. This gives you a reward and a potential motivator to actually follow through on your commitment to do your workout, and therefore positively reinforces that habit.
Con: Contains Minimal Electrolytes
One of the health claims that you’ll see on the label of Vitamin Water is that it replenishes electrolytes.
But is this true?
The primary electrolytes that people need to concern themselves with are sodium, potassium, and magnesium, as these are the ones that most people are likely deficient in. To be healthy, most people (especially people who exercise) need at least 5,000 mg of sodium, 4700 mg of potassium, and 300-400 mg of magnesium (needs may be even higher in people with health conditions, pregnant women, or people who exercise vigorously).
Now let’s see how Vitamin Water Zero stacks up against these daily needs. Vitamin Water Zero: Rise contains a paltry 140 mg of potassium, absolutely NO sodium, and is listed as “not a significant source” of magnesium. If you simply trust the claim on the nutrition label that Vitamin Water Zero is a good source of electrolytes, you will have serious problems. The electrolytes in Vitamin Water are simply not anywhere near high enough to provide a benefit.
Interestingly though, there is still a way you can “hack” Vitamin Water Zero to make it serve your electrolyte needs: add your own salt! If you need a pre-gym drink, add at least a quarter teaspoon of high-quality sea salt to the bottle and sip this throughout your workout. It may add a salty flavor to your drink, but the extreme sweetness of the beverage will largely mask the salty flavor.
The video above explains why you need to consume sodium and potassium during your workouts, even for lower-intensity weightlifting sessions, and even when you aren’t sweating much. The end of the video recommends coconut water for replenishing electrolytes, but keep in mind that even here, you’ll have to add your own salt in order to boost sodium content to optimal levels.
Con: Overpromises Health Benefits
Some people may automatically assume that Vitamin Water — ESPECIALLY the zero sugar variety — confers health benefits that counteract all the poor nutritional choices they make throughout their day. This is similar to how many people view daily vitamin supplements as a “get-out-of-jail-free” card that excuses them from making healthy dietary choices.
This could actually make Vitamin Water Zero a negative thing for some people. If you’re prone to looking for magic bullets or quick fixes, avoid things like Vitamin Water Zero (and even most supplements), and instead focus on changing your daily eating habits.
Getting your nutrients from whole foods, in their original form, is generally preferable to consuming a drink that has had synthetic vitamins added to it. If you’re deficient in vitamin C, for example, your best bet is to eat some citrus fruit or bell peppers instead of reaching for Vitamin Water.
As usual, it all depends on individual context and goals. If you already have a healthy diet and just want to enjoy a zero-calorie sweet drink, go ahead and drink that Vitamin Water Zero. Similarly, if you crave sweet drinks and have a habit of drinking hyper-caloric beverages like soft drinks or smoothies, drinking a Vitamin Water Zero would be a better choice.
But if your normal diet and lifestyle are generally poor and you find yourself drinking Vitamin Water based on the purported health benefits, you would be better off focusing your energy on making small, incremental changes to boost the nutrient content of your everyday meals (I.e., eating more meat, veggies, and fruit and less pizza and baked goods).
The bottom line is that while Vitamin Water Zero is a step above sugary, caloric drinks, it is likely not a magic bullet for health. In the end, we would all be much better served by a healthy dose of cynicism toward marketing hype, and by working hard to cultivate a healthy lifestyle on a daily basis.