- Flavored water drops are concentrated flavoring and sweetener added to water to make it taste more interesting. They can be used to replace calorie-dense beverages and reduce your calorie intake.
- Most water enhancers contain artificial sweeteners and colors, which could be harmful.
- If you prefer a natural approach, drink plain water or spice it up with a slice of fruit or some crushed herbs.
How can you re-invent water, one of the most basic requirements for sustaining life?
Well, if you’re an unscrupulous, uninformed, and unprincipled marketer, one way would be to collect water from a stream, leave it unfiltered and untreated, call it “raw water,” and claim it has unique health benefits.
Another option is to add some random minerals to water to raise its pH, claim this “alkalized water” reduces inflammation and oxidation in the body, and sell it for oodles of boodle.
Or you could simply add some calorie-free sweeteners and flavors to the water to make it taste better, which brings us to flavored water drops.
These products usually come in a tiny squeeze bottle and contain concentrated sweeteners, dyes, and flavors that you can add to your water, giving it a pleasant taste and appearance.
Best of all, these flavored water drops are calorie-free, so you get to have your cake and eat it, too!
Or do you?
Are these calorie-free flavored water drops as healthy as people think, or could there be long-term risks to adding artificial dyes, sweeteners, and flavors to all of your drinking water?
Let’s dive in and find out.
What Are Flavored Water Drops?
Flavored water drops and water enhancers are products sold to improve the palatability of water. They usually consist of concentrated sweeteners, dyes, and flavorings that often come as a liquid or powder.
The liquid varieties can be squeezed by the drop into a glass of plain water, while powder packets can be emptied into a water bottle, for example.
Crystal Light was one of the first companies to come out with a powdered water enhancer, whereas Mio water drops have become extremely common in the past decade.
There are many different brands of water enhancers, so there’s a variety of products to choose from.
Some are just flavor and sweetener, while others contain caffeine for an energy pick-me-up, or even vitamins and minerals.
Summary: Flavored water drops are made of concentrated sweeteners, dyes, and flavors that you can can add to water to make it taste better. Some contain other ingredients like caffeine and vitamins.
Why Do People Use Flavored Water Drops?
People use water enhancers to “spice up” their water.
Plain H2O can get boring, and sometimes adding a bit of flavor can make all the difference.
Many people use flavored water drops to add sweetness to their beverage, replacing sugary sodas or juice.
Flavored water drops have become seriously popular, too. They’ve truly changed the beverage industry, with Mio bringing in $100 million in their first nine months.
Wander the grocery store aisles, and you can easily find a bevy of brands owned by food and beverage industry giants hoping to profit off of the trend.
Not only do these water enhancers make water taste more interesting and appealing, these little flavor pods are convenient to tuck away in a drawer in your office, in the glove compartment of your car, or in your kitchen cabinet.
So, it’s no surprise that they’re popular.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. Many people don’t drink enough water, so if adding a bit of flavoring can help people increase their hydration levels, that’s a good thing.
That said, some water enhancers market themselves as being healthier than water alone, and that’s where things get hairy.
Summary: People use water enhancers to improve the taste of their water or replace sugary beverages or juices.
What Do Flavored Water Drops Contain?
The ingredients in flavored water drops and water enhancers vary by the brand.
Some of the most common ingredients you’ll find are:
- Citric acid
- Artificial sweeteners
- Artificial dyes
- B vitamins
Though not a common ingredient these days, propylene glycol was prevalent when water enhancers first came out.
Poke around online in search of that ingredient and you’re sure to find articles designed to scare you. They’ll mention that propylene glycol is a preservative also found in antifreeze, e-cigarette vaping fluid, and car batteries.
Some of that’s true, but that doesn’t mean it’s inherently poisonous. After all, many common cleaning products, which would be dangerous to consume, also contain water. Does that mean water is now poisonous?
Luckily, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has dubbed propylene glycol “generally recognized as safe” as a food additive. That means you don’t need to worry too much if you find a flavored water dorp that still contains this ingredient.
Let’s cover a few of the more common water enhancer ingredients individually.
Citric acid is found naturally in citrus fruits. It’s often added to food as a preservative, but it also gives things a sour, tart taste.
Most flavor water drops don’t contain caffeine, but a few that are marketed as energy boosters do.
In these cases, they usually contain about 60 mg of caffeine, which is less than a cup of coffee.
This isn’t enough to boost your strength in the gym, but it could help keep you awake if you’re feeling sleepy.
Most water enhancer products market themselves as zero- or low-calorie foods. So, if you’re trying to avoid drinking your calories, these flavor droplets are a good option.
However, most use artificial sweeteners to get their sweet taste without adding calories. These include sucralose (often referred to as Splenda), acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), and aspartame.
Artificial sweeteners are man made chemicals that taste like sugar but contain little to no calories.
While artificial sweeteners may not be as dangerous as some people claim, studies suggest that regular consumption of these chemicals may be more harmful to our health than is generally recognized. In fact, aspartame may interfere with healthy gut enzymes.
Stevia, on the other hand, is a natural sweetener made from the leaves of the plant Stevia rebaudiana.
Research shows that not only is it safe, but it can also confer several health benefits, including a lower bad cholesterol level, improved blood glucose control, potential anti-cancer effects, lower blood pressure and inflammation levels, and more.
This is why we only uses natural sweeteners in our supplements.
Artificial food dyes are chemical substances added to many foods to enhance their appearance or add bright colors.
Artificial dyes, known as “azo dyes,” such as FD&C Yellow #5 (also known as tartrazine), FD&C Blue #1 (also known as Brilliant Blue), and FD&C Red No. 40 (also known as Allura Red AC), are some of the most common.
As with artificial sweeteners, the consumption of azo dyes might not be as harmful as some would have you believe, but there is evidence that these chemicals can cause various negative effects in the body.
B vitamins are involved in hundreds of biological processes in the body, mostly related to the metabolism of food and the production of hormones and red blood cells.
Marketers often claim that these vitamins can provide an energy boost. While it’s true that B vitamins are involved in the process of converting carbs and fat into energy, there’s no evidence that consuming extra amounts confers such a boost.
In other words, while B vitamins are required by the body to process food and turn it into energy, increasing the amount of B vitamins you get on a daily basis is not a way to magically boost your metabolism or increase energy levels beyond normal.
It’s true that a vitamin B deficiency could cause issues, but deficiencies are rare.
Many B vitamins in flavored water drops are included at around 10% of your recommended daily intake. While that could be enough to alleviate a serious deficiency, most people get plenty of these vitamins from their normal food intake anyway.
At bottom, any positive effects from such small amounts of B vitamin supplementation are likely due to the placebo effect.
Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electrical charge.
Some of the most important electrolytes in our bodies are sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, and phosphate. We get these minerals from the food and beverages we consume.
They’re essential in many processes in the body, including regulating hydration levels, transmitting nerve impulses, contracting muscles, and regulating pH levels.
When levels of one or more of these electrolytes in our body get too low, problems arise. Severe imbalances can cause fatigue, headaches, or even irregular heartbeat.
One way we lose electrolytes is through sweating, but true imbalances are usually a result of dehydration, not eating enough, or spells of diarrhea or vomiting.
If you work out for more than a couple of hours at a time, particularly in the heat, you can lose a significant amount of electrolytes, especially sodium and chloride.
That’s one reason why electrolytes are a common ingredient in sports drinks like Gatorade.
The reality is most people get more than enough sodium from their diet to cover the tiny amount lost through sweating, though. That’s especially true if you’re sedentary.
However, it’s not too surprising that some water enhancer brands would jump on the electrolyte bandwagon and include these cheap minerals for marketing purposes.
For most gym-goers, an electrolyte drink is unnecessary. If you’re an endurance athlete working out in the hot sun for 2 hours or more, additional electrolytes could be worth considering.
If you’re mostly sedentary, or just working at your desk in an office, you definitely don’t need a boost of electrolytes in your cup of H2O.
Summary: Water enhancers contain a variety of ingredients depending on the brand. Most flavored water drops include artificial sweeteners, though. While these chemicals may not be especially dangerous, there’s some evidence they could be harmful in large amounts over time.
What’s a Safe Amount of Flavored Water Drops?
If you want to use flavored water drops, you should follow the directions on the package in terms of mixing the concentration in water.
There are dozens of videos posted to YouTube where people—typically teenagers and younger children—are drinking entire bottles, pouring them into small shot glasses and downing them in one swallow.
Don’t do this.
If you drink the whole bottle, you might be ingesting dangerous amounts of certain ingredients, like caffeine.
The fact that people are not educated about the potential danger of doing this is worrisome, yes. However, these are extreme cases, and we live in the age of people eating Tide Pods.
Ultimately, there are countless products on the market that when consumed in orders of magnitude greater than recommended serving size, can pose serious health risks.
If you’re going to use flavored water drops, follow the guidelines for serving sizes and how many times a day you should use them. The same concept should also apply to just about every other food or beverage you consume in your daily life.
Summary: If you use flavored water drops, following the serving size directions. Don’t drink the whole bottle in one gulp.
Do Flavored Water Drops Hydrate You?
No, but the water they’re added to, does.
Many people fear that anything added to water somehow makes it less hydrating. This isn’t true.
Even a cup of coffee, which is made from water and coffee beans, is hydrating. Many people claim it will dehydrate you due to caffeine, but it’s not going to dehydrate you more than the water that’s part of the beverage.
In fact, caffeine isn’t a potent diuretic, so even if you use a water enhancer product that contains caffeine, it will still help hydrate you.
Summary: Water that’s had flavored water drops added to it is still just as hydrating as plain water. That’s true even if it contains caffeine.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
How much water you should drink depends primarily on your weight and how much you sweat.
For a baseline, the Institute of Medicine recommends drinking between 3/4 and 1 gallon of water per day for adult men and women.
If you’re a regular here at Legion, you probably do quite a bit of exercise, and this increases the amount of water your body needs.
Specifically, you want to replace all water lost through sweating.
When we’re talking exercise, the amount of water lost can range anywhere from 3/4 to 2 liters per hour depending on the intensity of your workouts, the climate, and how much your body generally tends to sweat.
So, if you start with a baseline water intake of about 3/4 to 1 gallon per day, add 3/4 to 2 liters per hour of exercise, plus a bit more for additional sweating, you’ll be good.
Summary: Drink around 1 gallon of water per day, with a bit more to account for sweating from exercise.
Find the Best Diet for You in Just 60 Seconds
How many calories should you eat? What about "macros?" What foods should you eat? Take our 60-second quiz to get science-based answers to these questions and more.Take the Quiz
What Does the Science Say About Flavored Water Drops?
There haven’t been any peer-reviewed scientific studies on flavored water drops.
The truth is, there’s hardly any evidence at all to suggest water enhancers do anything other than add flavor.
Unless you’re consuming them in huge amounts, you’re unlikely to get any dangerous doses of chemicals inside them – an obvious fact that applies to a huge range of substances we consume every day.
And there aren’t really any special health benefits, other than keeping you hydrated and helping you avoid sugary beverages.
Summary: There aren’t any scientific studies on flavored water drops.
Can Flavored Water Drops Help You Lose Weight?
Water that’s been “enhanced” won’t help you lose weight by default.
However, if you replace calorie-laden, sugary beverages with zero or low-calorie drinks, like water with a drop of flavoring, you can reduce your total calorie intake.
And if you reduce your calorie intake enough, to the point you’re burning more energy than you’re consuming, you’ll lose weight.
In other words, if using flavored water drops helps create a calorie deficit over a sustained period of time, you’ll lose body fat.
Just be aware that artificial sweeteners can cause an uptick in hunger for some people.
Summary: Water enhancers can be used to lose weight by helping you drink fewer sugary beverages and reduce your calorie intake.
Should You Use Flavored Water Drops?
Choosing whether you should use water enhancers or not comes down to a few key points.
While I generally shy away from artificial sweeteners and colors, it’s very unlikely that a serving of these products every now and then will cause any real harm.
That said, if you want to avoid those ingredients outright, I understand. Stay away from artificially sweetened and colored water enhancers.
However, will flavored water drops help you drink fewer sugary beverages?
Will they help you consume more water in general?
If so, I say go for it. Just don’t replace all of the water in your diet with flavored versions.
Summary: If you want to avoid artificial sweeteners and colors, find a natural flavored water drop or skip them entirely.
Other Ways to Enhance the Flavor of Your Water
Ideally, you should learn to enjoy unflavored, all-natural H2O as your drink of choice. It’s a good habit to develop. You don’t want to live the rest of your life unable to enjoy water unless it’s been flavored and sweetened.
You can add a bit of zest to your water in many other ways, though:
- Add a wedge of lemon or lime, or add a bit of juice
- Add a cinnamon stick
- Add crushed mint or basil
- Add carbonation or drink seltzer water
If you really want to get fancy, you could buy a water bottle with a fruit infuser and add your favorite flavors, like orange slices, cucumber, or strawberries.
Summary: Try adding a wedge of fruit or crushed herb to make your water taste more interesting.
Some Nutritionists Charge Hundreds of Dollars for This Diet "Hack" . . .
. . . and it's yours for free. Take our 60-second quiz and learn exactly how many calories you should eat, what your "macros" should be, what foods are best for you, and more.Take the Quiz
The Bottom Line on Flavored Water Drops
Water enhancers are products used to add flavor to water.
This is a good thing for people who find water boring. Many people don’t drink enough water, so making it more appealing can help these people stay properly hydrated.
Some use flavored water drops to replace sugary drinks, which can drastically reduce their calorie intake.
In these instances, flavored water drops could help people lose weight by putting them in a calorie deficit.
On the other hand, most flavored water drops contain artificial sweeteners and colors. While these are generally regarded as safe, there’s some evidence these substances could be harmful in the long-run.
If you want to avoid these chemicals, just drink plain water or enhance your water with a fruit infusion or crushed herbs.
What’s your take on flavored water enhancers? Have anything else you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!
+ Scientific References
- Sawka, M. N., Cheuvront, S. N., & Carter, R. (2005). Human Water Needs. Nutrition Reviews, 63(6 Pt 2), S30–S39. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2005.tb00152.x
- Convertino, A. V., Armstrong, L. E., Coyle, E. F., Mack, G. W., Sawka, M. N., Senay, J., Sherman, W. M., Costill, D. L., Greenleaf, J. E., Montain, S. J., & Noakes, T. D. (2000). ACSM position stand: Exercise and fluid replacement. In Geneeskunde en Sport (Vol. 33, Issue 1, pp. 36–40). Med Sci Sports Exerc. https://doi.org/10.1097/00005768-199610000-00045
- Zhang, Y., Coca, A., Casa, D. J., Antonio, J., Green, J. M., & Bishop, P. A. (2015). Caffeine and diuresis during rest and exercise: A meta-analysis. In Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (Vol. 18, Issue 5, pp. 569–574). Elsevier Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2014.07.017
- Killer, S. C., Blannin, A. K., & Jeukendrup, A. E. (2014). No evidence of dehydration with moderate daily coffee intake: A counterbalanced cross-over study in a free-living population. PLoS ONE, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0084154
- Williams, M. H. (2004). Dietary Supplements and Sports Performance: Introduction and Vitamins. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 1(2), 1. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-1-2-1
- Arnold, L. E., Lofthouse, N., & Hurt, E. (2012). Artificial Food Colors and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Symptoms: Conclusions to Dye for. Neurotherapeutics, 9(3), 599–609. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-012-0133-x
- Feng, J. (2012). Toxicological significance of azo dye metabolism by human intestinal microbiota. Frontiers in Bioscience, E4(1), 568. https://doi.org/10.2741/400
- Sixty-ninth meeting of the Joint FAO/WHO, & Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). (2009). Safety evaluation of certain food additives Prepared by the Sixty-ninth meeting of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) WHO FOOD ADDITIVES SERIES: 60 IPCS-International Programme on Chemical Safety. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/44063/9789241660600_eng.pdf;jsessionid=AE880C94D20A21F3AEEE2611A89DD971?sequence=1
- Yadav, S. K., & Guleria, P. (2012). Steviol Glycosides from Stevia: Biosynthesis Pathway Review and their Application in Foods and Medicine. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 52(11), 988–998. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2010.519447
- Shivanna, N., Naika, M., Khanum, F., & Kaul, V. K. (2013). Antioxidant, anti-diabetic and renal protective properties of Stevia rebaudiana. Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications, 27(2), 103–113. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdiacomp.2012.10.001
- Geuns, J. M. C. (2003). Stevioside. Phytochemistry, 64(5), 913–921. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0031-9422(03)00426-6
- Gul, S. S., Hamilton, A. R. L., Munoz, A. R., Phupitakphol, T., Liu, W., Hyoju, S. K., Economopoulos, K. P., Morrison, S., Hu, D., Zhang, W., Gharedaghi, M. H., Huo, H., Hamarneh, S. R., & Hodin, R. A. (2017). Inhibition of the gut enzyme intestinal alkaline phosphatase may explain how aspartame promotes glucose intolerance and obesity in mice. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, 42(1), 77–83. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2016-0346
- Nehlig, A. (2010). Is caffeine a cognitive enhancer? Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 20(SUPPL.1). https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-2010-091315
- Jacobson, B. H., Weber, M. D., Claypool, L., & Hunt, L. E. (1992). Effect of caffeine on maximal strength and power in élite male athletes. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 26(4), 276–280. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.26.4.276
- Warren, G. L., Park, N. D., Maresca, R. D., McKibans, K. I., & Millard-Stafford, M. L. (2010). Effect of caffeine ingestion on muscular strength and endurance: A meta-analysis. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 42(7), 1375–1387. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181cabbd8
- A Astrup 1, E Vrist, F. Q. (n.d.). Dietary fibre added to very low calorie diet reduces hunger and alleviates constipation - PubMed. Retrieved July 13, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2160441/