You drink it at work. You drink it at home. Maybe you’re even be drinking it now. Seltzer water has become so popular that it’s basically formed its own cult following—we’re looking at you La Croix drinkers. But, the fizzy water trend seems to be more than a flash—or should we say, pop— in the pan. And for good reason!
True seltzer is calorie free, sugar free, and sodium free. It has quickly become a go-to for health nuts looking to get the taste of soda without all the unhealthy side effects. But is sparkling water all that it’s cracked up to be? It might be a tasty alternative at lunch time, but can it really replace that water bottle during gym time? We chatted with two pros to find out.
Seltzer vs. Normal Water
To start, it’s good to know which kind of water you’re actually drinking. Often times these different kinds of bubbly waters are interchanged when really, they have subtle but important differences. If you’re drinking sparkling mineral water, this contains various minerals and salts, explains Niket Sonpal MD, Assistant Clinical Professor at Touro College of Medicine. Club soda, on the other hand, will have mineral-like ingredients added to enhance the flavor. “If you look on the list of ingredients, you’ll likely see potassium bicarbonate and potassium sulfate listed,” he says. Lastly, good old seltzer water (like the zero-calorie kind you’ve been sipping!) is simply plain water that is carbonated to give that fizz, he explains.
Why does seltzer taste better?
If you’ve ever had a sip of seltzer on a hot day (especially after logging in some serious miles outside!), you know that it’s strangely more satisfying than normal water. Turns out, there’s some science behind it. “This is primarily a behavioral change and not something from the byproduct of the water itself,” explains Dr. Sonpal. “The gaseous filling and then ‘catharsis’ or burp is very soothing to many people—causing us to want to drink more seltzer.” Additionally, he says our frontal cortex (a big player in you decision-making game) actually likes that you are drinking water and gives positive reinforcement to drink more. Who knew?
Yeah, but is it healthy?
When it comes to giving you the same hydration benefits as plain water, is seltzer an equal competitor? Yep! According to Brooke Alpert, M.S., R.D., C.D.N. and founder of B Nutritious, seltzer is just as hydrating as regular water and can count toward your daily water and fluid intake.
But here’s where it gets tricky.
Sparkling water fills your stomach with air and water, rather than just water, explains Dr. Sonpal. That feeling of being full might come in handy, if you’re looking to lose weight and avoid overeating, he says. But it’s that “full feeling” that just might trick you into drinking less water, which for anyone who’s sweating and losing water during a workout, isn’t quite a good thing.
“The carbonation in seltzer can cause you to feel full faster than if you drank water and could prevent you from hydrating as much as your body needs,” explains Alpert. So, there might not be any evidence that sparkling water dehydrates you, but it definitely doesn’t mean it’s a great option for refueling during or immediately after your workouts either.
And, if you suffer from stomach issues at all, don’t even think about reaching for the seltzer! Both experts caution that carbonation can be really rough on the stomach, especially for those with IBS. They explain that sipping on seltzer can only exacerbate IBS flare ups and lead to bloating and gas i.e. making your workout miserable.
Although seltzer is just as hydrating as normal water and can fill you up quickly, it’s probably best left for lunch time instead of gym time. Dr. Sonpal recommends avoiding seltzer while working out because it stretches your stomach out with gas and air and thus potentially leading you to drink less fluid than you really need. “Plus, it does not contain the sodium and glucose needed by high-intensity athletes to replenish what is lost in sweat,” he adds.
So when it comes to breaking a sweat with you favorite Aaptiv class, it’s best to stick to regular old H2O or these foods to hydrate!