1960 Put glass under spigot. Turn on tap. Fill glass. Turn off tap. Drink.

2014 Enter store. Proceed to water aisle. Scratch head.

What do you want in your water: Powder or drops? Sugar or no cal sweeteners? Natural or artificial colors and sweeteners? Vitamins and minerals? Herbs? Electrolytes? Caffeine? If it’s legal, someone’s probably selling it mixed with water in a trendy bottle.

If there’s no tap within reach, here’s how to stay afloat in the water aisle.

Safely Flavored or Sweetened

Looking for flavor in your water? If a fresh squeeze of lemon or lime isn't handy, some brands offer natural flavors and/or safe sweeteners like stevia or erythritol, or just a little sugar.

Carbonated. Stores are stocked with unsweetened, naturally flavored carbonated waters like Dasani Sparkling and La Croix. For diet-soda-like sweetness, R. W. Knudsen Spritzer Zero Calorie uses erythritol and rebiana (stevia), while Something Natural Sparkling Water (30 calories in an 11 oz. Bottle) contains stevia and about 1. Teaspoons of sugar.

Non-carbonated. Looking for flavor but no sweetness? Take a Hint.Hint water, that is. If you like exotic flavors like Ginger Lemon Peel or Lemongrass Mint Vanilla, try Ayalafs Herbal Water. (Hint and Ayala also make carbonated waters.)

Drops. Like MiO, most brands use artificial food dyes and the questionable artificial sweeteners acesulfame potassium and/or sucralose. Two that donft: SweetLeaf Sweet Drops Water Enhancer (stevia) and Skinnygirl Water Enhancer (stevia plus 5 caloriesf worth of sugar in a half-teaspoon squeeze). Both add a subtle sweetness to the water.

Powders. True Citrusfs line of citrus-flavored sweetened and unsweetened powders delivers no more than 10 calories per packet. We liked the refreshingly tart True Lemon Original Lemonade (stevia and about half a teaspoon of sugar). Crystal Lightfs Pure line of flavored powders (30 calories per packet) also uses rebiana and about 1. Teaspoons of sugar.


“Stay balanced with our electrolyte water!” says the Whole Foods 365 Electrolyte Water bottle. “Electrolytenment starts here,” quips Resource Natural Spring Water.

Should we all be guzzling water with electrolytes?

“Most people get all they need from their diets,” says Robert Kenefick, who studies hydration at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Massachusetts. “For recreational activities, most people don’t need more.”1

Among those who may: very heavy sweaters, “salty” sweaters (their sweat leaves a whitish residue on their clothing), and people working or competing strenu ously for more than an hour (running a marathon, for example), especially in hot or humid weather.

Electrolytes help keep water in the bloodstream and in cells for a longer time before it’s excreted by the kidneys, Kenefick explains. That could help keep those people from becoming dehydrated.

The catch: waters may not have enough electrolytes to matter. The electrolytes in Whole Foods 365, Resource, and Glacéau Smartwater, for example, are there just “for taste,” as the small print on the label notes. If you need electrolytes, you’re probably better off with a sports drink.

Vitamins & Minerals

Adding vitamins or minerals is an easy, dirt-cheap strategy to make water appear healthier. A ten-year supply of a day’s worth of vitamin C from China, for example, runs only about $1 wholesale.

B vitamins are especially popular. Just about every 20 oz. Bottle of Glacéau Vitaminwater and Vitaminwater Zero, for example, delivers the Daily Value for B-5 (pantothenic acid), B-6, and B-12. Yet in dozens of studies, people who took B vitamins—or high doses of other vitamins— every day for years were typically no better off than people who took a placebo.1


Helps reduce stress.h Enhances mood.h Provides focused concentration.h Youfd expect nothing less from an enhanced water called Neuro Bliss.

Bliss's combination of chamomile and L-theanine works with the body's natural chemistry to help you relax and feel good,h notes the bottle. The company wouldn't tell us how much of each is in its proprietary blend,h but that's okay, since there's little evidence that even high doses will give you a bliss boost.

Chamomile. People have been drinking chamomile tea to relax for centuries. But concentrated doses of chamomile.Neuro Bliss uses whole leaf powder.bombed when researchers tested them on people with insomnia or anxiety disorder.1,2 No good studies have tested chamomile extracts or powder in people who just want to take the edge off.

L-theanine. Supplement manufacturers claim that the amino acid, which is found primarily in tea leaves, is a relaxant. That's because large amounts increase alpha wave activity in the brain, which could signal a more relaxed mental state.

"Marketing folks want a simple story to give to the public, but it's terribly simplistic to say that you will feel relaxed and stress-free from taking theanine,h notes John J. Foxe, professor of pediatrics and neuroscience at Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

Theanine studies are small, donft all look at the same kinds of people, and donft always measure the same things. But studies that give people theanine or a placebo and then ask how relaxed they feel typically come up empty.

For example, when researchers gave 250 mg of theanine (probably far more than Bliss contains) mixed into iced tea to 24 college students, the students reported feeling no more or less alert, content, calm, relaxed, jittery, tired, tense, or mentally fatigued 1. Hours later than they did after drinking an iced tea without theanine. They also scored no better on 26 of 27 cognitive tests. (The theanine takers scored worse on one.subtracting 7 sequentially from a large number.) And they were more likely to report getting a headache.3

Foxe's bottom line: "I don't think we can say right now that theanine promotes relaxation."


Want to drop a few pounds? Fuze Slenderize is spiked with vitamins plus three popular weight-loss supplements.

Never mind that Slenderize delivers just a tiny fraction of the amounts that have been tested. And never mind that two of the three—chromium and L-carnitine— haven’t helped people lose weight in the eight studies that looked.1,2

Only three studies have tested the third ingredient—Super Citrimax, an extract of the fruit of the Garcinia cambogia plant. Among 35 overweight Mexican women, those who took 1,500 mg a day of Garcinia cambogia (six times what’s in Slenderize) for eight weeks lost six more pounds than those who took a placebo.3 But in two other studies, on a total of 90 people in India, those who got 11 times the Garcinia in Slenderize lost no more weight than those who got a placebo.3 However, the researchers reported otherwise.4,5


Hi-Ball Energy Sparkling Energy Water, MiO Energy, Neuro Sonic, Vitaminwater Energy. Some “energy” waters (or powders or drops) list green coffee extract or guarana extract on their labels, but any “lift” you get from those ingredients comes from their caffeine. Some also add unproven energy boosters like taurine, B vitamins, and ginseng.

The caffeine in most products ranges from about 50 milligrams (Starbucks VIA Refreshers), which some people would barely feel, to 160 mg (Hi-Ball Sparkling Energy Water), about what’s in a “short” (8 oz.) Coffee or two shots of espresso at Starbucks. Most labels list caffeine, often in small print.


The “tasty blend of good night nutrients like melatonin and magnesium” in Neuro Sleep is “specially formulated to give you the most golden of slumbers,” promises the bottle.

The amount of magnesium in Neuro Sleep (50 milligrams) has never been tested, but a larger dose (320 mg) didn’t help older people who had sleep problems.1

And in 19 studies on a total of 1,683 healthy adults and children with insomnia, those who took 2 to 5 milligrams of melatonin shortly before bedtime fell asleep seven minutes faster and slept a total of eight minutes longer than those who took a placebo.2 A bottle of Sleep contains 3 mg of melatonin. (Neuro told us. The number isn’t on the label.)

Would you drink 14½ ounces of liquid just before bedtime in exchange for the promise of an extra eight minutes sleep?