Keeping up with the surge of "cure-all" wellness fads is a job in and of itself. In our column Wellness Inspector, we do the work for you, closely examining these trends to see if they're worth your hard-earned pennies—or whether they're just hype.
Remember when Crystal Light On-the-Go Drink Mixes were all the rage? The idea of being able to sprinkle delectable flavors into plain bottles of water while going about your daily errands and tasks felt so innovative. And now, 30-some years after the brand's big debut, dissolvable water enhancers are once again a major topic of conversation. That's because now, in addition to offering tasty flavors, brands are delivering anti-aging collagen, stress-reducing CBD, hydration-leveling electrolytes, and energy-boosting caffeine in convenient tablets, powders, and drops. As exciting as all of these new concoctions are, however, we couldn't help but wonder: Do water enhancers really work?
To find out, we chatted with two registered dietitians about everything there is to know about the products that are transforming plain water into eye-opening health and wellness possibilities. Keep reading to find out whether the trendy water add-ins are worth shopping and adding to your routine.
Do water enhancers work?
As with any food, drink, or wellness supplement, it entirely depends on what the mix-in product is.
When it comes to collagen powders, registered dietitian Jennifer Maeng says to be wary. "Although there is research that suggests that collagen consumption may improve joint pain, reduce wrinkles, and promote muscle growth, many of these studies are funded by collagen supplement companies," she explains, pointing out a potential bias. "It is also unclear in the studies that collagen, in particular, is beneficial or it's just the increased protein intake that is beneficial."
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Electrolyte mix-ins, on the other hand, can be extremely effective, according to Maeng. "Electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium bicarbonate) play a role in the nervous system and muscular system as well as keeping the body hydrated and regulating the body's pH levels," she explains, noting that electrolytes are the essential minerals found in the body's blood, sweat, and urine. "Electrolyte products can be effective in hydrating when insufficient water is consumed or when excess caffeine or alcohol is consumed."
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CBD tincture and powder:
Then there's CBD (and its cousin Delta-8). Over the past five years, CBD has exploded into popularity in the beauty and wellness space thanks to its soothing nature and pain-relieving effects, while Delta-8 is a newer player in the wellness sphere, offering less psychoactive effects than THC but more noticeable effects than CBD. Now, both CBD and Delta-8 are being infused into tinctures and powders to create on-the-go stress-relieving drinks (think: Recess Sparkling Water but Crystal Light version).
The problem is, according to Maeng, CBD and Delta-8 aren't regulated supplements, therefore, their most effective strengths aren't well known. Does this mean that CBD and D-8 mix-ins aren't worthwhile? Not exactly. It just means that their effects aren't rigorously studied, so it's difficult to say whether or not they'll work for every single person who consumes them across the board.
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Caffeine tablet and power:
Another major player in the water mix-in game is caffeine. Unlike cult-favorite chemical energy drinks, energy tablets and powders are most often made with green tea extract at the helm, offering a non-jittery energy boost that lasts for hours on end. Best of all, they often include a lot less (if any) sugars than traditional energy drinks. But, again, do they work?
According to a 2012 review, authors touted green tea as a beneficial source of caffeine thanks to its ability to reduce fatigue, lower blood pressure, and prevent illness by strengthening the immune system. With that in mind—and so long as you're not consuming an entire tube of caffeine-infused drink tablets a day—it's safe to assume that green tea-based caffeine mix-ins are one of the most beneficial mix-ins, alongside electrolytes.
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Are water enhancers bad?
At the end of the day, Premier Protein registered dietitian Carissa Galloway says that there are plenty of legitimate mix-ins on the market that support overall health and wellness, but it's important to do your research before adding mix-ins to your daily water intake. "Check out the nutritional information," she suggests. "How many calories, or how many grams of sodium and fat, does the mix-in add? We tend to not scrutinize mix-ins as much as we would other foods, so make sure any mix-in you're adding to your diet fits into your health and wellness goals, as you would evaluate with any other food."