Choosing Healthy Beverages

Choosing Healthy Beverages

As discussed in other chapters, it’s important to stay hydrated at all times, but especially when you are exercising. Too little water intake can leave you feeling fatigued, reduce your body’s performance, and leave you vulnerable to heat-related sicknesses in hot weather. But what you drink is as significant as how much you drink, both when you are exercising and when you are going about your normal routine.

The Great Water Controversy

Wherever you see people exercising, you will see bottled water in abundance. For several years, a debate has been raging about the quality and safety of commercially bottled water. Recently, evidence has emerged showing that most bottled waters are no better for you than regular tap water, and some bottled waters may actually be bad for you. To make matters worse, bottled water costs up to 1900 times more than tap water.

In a 2011 analysis of 173 bottled water products, the Environmental Working Group found 38 different contaminants in ten popular brands of bottled water. Contaminants included heavy metals such as arsenic, pharmaceutical residues and other pollutants commonly found in urban wastewater, and a variety of industrial chemicals. Bottled-water companies are notoriously secretive about their products. Overall, 18% of bottled waters failed to list the location of their source, and 32% disclosed nothing about the treatment or purity of the water.
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Many commercially bottled water products are, in fact, tap water drawn from municipal water systems. Such revelations have caused the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require bottlers to put statements on their products’ labels, identifying them as having been drawn from a standard water supply. These products, priced many times higher than water from a residential tap, provide no benefit over standard tap water.

An even bigger issue is that plastic water bottles have become a huge environmental problem: Billions of bottles now pile up in landfills and float in the world’s oceans. Some types of plastic take years to biodegrade, and many kinds of plastic bottles will never decompose at all. Newer types of plastic bottles can decompose significantly faster than older bottles, but fast-degrading plastics have not yet come into widespread use in the bottled-water industry.

Experts say that when you’re exercising, the cheapest and safest way to stay hydrated is to drink filtered tap water. If you need to carry water with you, buy a reusable container (preferably made of stainless steel) that you can clean after each use. If you drink from plastic bottles, be sure they are recyclable and dispose of them by recycling.

Other Choices

Instead of water, many people choose to drink sodas, juice, tea, or flavored water.

While these kinds of beverages have their place, it’s important not to drink them too often or in large amounts, especially if they are high in sugar or caffeine. Sugary drinks add empty calories to your diet, and caffeine is a psychoactive drug with a variety of side effects.

Regular (nondiet) sodas are now the leading source of calories in the American diet; most people don’t count the calories from beverages as part of their daily caloric intake, leading them to underestimate their total intake. For this reason and others, many experts believe that soda consumption is a major factor in the increasing levels of obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and other chronic diseases among Americans. If you’re concerned that the liquid portion of your diet is not as healthy as it should be, choose water, fat-free milk, or unsweetened herbal tea more often. Avoid regular soda, sweetened bottled iced tea, flavored water, and fruit beverages made with little fruit juice. To make water more appealing, try adding slices of citrus fruit with sparkling water. With some imagination, you can make sure you stay hydrated without consuming excess calories, spending money unnecessarily, or hurting the environment. source: Leiba, N., et. al. 2011. The Environmental Working Group’s 2011 Bottled Water Scorecard (http://www.ewg.org/bottled-water-2011-home; retrieved April 23, 2013).

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