Your body runs on water. In fact, over 70% of the material inside your body is composed of this universal liquid. When you exercise and sweat, you can lose a substantial amount of water and electrolytes. In fact, during intensive exercise or heavy labor outdoors, you can shed up to 2 liters of water per hour.
Moreover, even a minor degree of dehydration can impair exercise performance. Research shows being down as little as 2% in body fluids can impact performance and the degree of impairment increases steadily as you lose more fluids beyond this point.
Of course, you also have to worry about the risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke when you don’t hydrate adequately. Plus, lack of hydration decreases blood flow to your kidneys and your kidneys can suffer injury if blood flow remains low for too long. The risk is even higher if you take certain medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. (NSAID)
Now you know why hydration is so important, but what’s the best approach to supplying your body with fluids? If you’re exercising for less than 90 minutes, water is an acceptable hydration beverage. But you can lose a substantial quantity of electrolytes when you work out longer than 90 minutes at a time. That’s when it’s wise to reach for an electrolyte-rich hydration beverage. For most people, that’s a sports drink. In fact, many people sip sports drinks for shorter workouts. There’s no shortage of options to choose from. Some contain copious amounts of sugar while others contain artificial sweeteners to give them a more pleasing taste.
Is There a Better Alternative to a Sports Drinks?
The drawbacks to sports drinks are that many contain artificial additives, colorings, and sweeteners. In addition, these beverages are often high in sugar. Sugar is bad for your oral health and increases the risk of dental caries. Also concerning is the acidity of these popular beverages.
Is there a better alternative? A new study finds that maple water, plant-based water, is an effective hydration beverage that, in its natural state, lacks the downsides of drinking a sports drink. In fact, a recent study looked at the effectiveness of drinking maple water for hydration during and after exercise.
For the study, researchers asked 26 healthy young males and females to cycle on several occasions at 70% of their maximal heart rate in hot conditions. The subjects carried out 30 minutes of cycling on each occasion to the point that they lost 2% of their body weight due to fluid loss. Afterward, they rehydrated with a liter of either maple water or regular water with a maple flavor to serve as a control.
The researchers thought that the electrolytes and antioxidants in maple water might enhance exercise recovery, although they didn’t find a significant difference. All in all, maple water didn’t offer significant benefits over water for rehydration. But, the participants only worked out for 30 minutes and didn’t have the same electrolyte deficit you might have during long periods of sustained exercise.
Maple Water vs. Coconut Water
Another popular, plant-based water you might be familiar with is coconut water. Coconut water is a good source of electrolytes, particularly potassium, although it falls a bit short in sodium. That’s why athletes sometimes add a pinch of salt to coconut water to increase its sodium content. Some versions of coconut water contain added sugar, but natural coconut has around 8 grams of sugar per 8.5 ounces.
You might think that maple water would be high in sugar. If so, you’re probably envisioning the thick, ultra-sweet maple syrup people pour on pancakes. The syrup that goes on pancakes is made by boiling maple water down to a thick liquid so that the sugar is concentrated.
In contrast, maple water is the unprocessed sap from the tree and is composed mostly of water. So, you won’t get the sugar rush from maple water that you get from maple syrup. Maple water is less labor-intensive too since manufacturers don’t have to boil it down to make syrup.
What’s more, maple water is rich in a variety of phenolic compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. While you should focus on getting antioxidants from eating a variety of fruits and vegetables rather than the water you drink, you won’t get phenolics from sipping a sports beverage.
Whenever a new beverage trend comes along, it becomes overhyped. It happened with coconut water and more people are embracing maple water as a trendy way to hydrate. One maple water manufacturer claims that maple water is rich in 46 essential minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and polyphenols. That sounds impressive, but you’d have to drink a lot of maple water to get a significant quantity of these components. In other words, don’t drink maple water for its nutritional value. Get your nutrients from fruits and vegetables instead.
Is Maple Water Better Than Plain Water for Hydration?
The reality is that you don’t need maple water, coconut water, or a sports drink if you’re working out for less than 90 minutes. Where it has the greatest benefits is as a substitute for a sports drink. You can avoid the additives, artificial colorings, flavorings, and sweeteners while still replenishing electrolytes with maple water. But bear in mind, it’s not necessary for most of your workouts. Plain water works fine! You can even enhance the flavor by infusing it with herbs or fruit slices.
The Bottom Line
Maple water is trendy, and it has some antioxidants and nutrients that sports drinks don’t but drinking it instead of plain water can put a strain on your budget with the prices some stores charge for it. However, if you like the taste and don’t mind paying a bit more, it’s a decent alternative for staying hydrated when you work out for a long period. Don’t forget to monitor your hydration status after a workout to make sure you’re rehydrating sufficiently. One way is to look at the color of your urine. It should be no darker than pale yellow. If it is, you have some catching up to do!
· Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Volume 16, Article number: 5 (2019)
· ACE Fitness. “Healthy Hydration”
· Colgate.com. “Study: Prevalence Of Sports Drinks Can Lead To Cavities And Enamel Erosion”