Nearly half of Americans consume far less than the recommended amount of water per day. According to Civic Science, 47% of Americans drink less than three 16-ounce glasses of water per day.
That’s not enough water.
It’s recommended that men drink at least 13 cups of water each day while women should drink nine cups, per Harvard School of Public Health. In an effort to drink more water, a new TikTok trend has started up — #WaterTok.
#WaterTok brings to mind memories from the sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” when Leslie Knope wanted to put fluoride in the water and Tom came up with #TDazzle — a fancier way of referring to the same thing. But that’s not #WaterTok.
#WaterTok has over 145 million views and features videos of people putting water into reusable cups along with syrups and powders. According to CNBC, the mixers of these drinks will sometimes say they are making water for hydration. There are flavored waters such as orange creamsicle or mixing fruit punch with caffeinated grape drink powder.
In other words, #WaterTok isn’t about drinking plain water. It’s typically about adding syrups and powdered flavoring to water.
There are flavors of water you likely haven’t even heard of, like birthday cake. Rolling Stone said some of the flavor combinations require mixing different flavor packets. Remember Crystal Light? Or Skinny Mix? These water recipe videos (yes — they require a recipe sometimes) are becoming trendier on social media.
Sometimes, containers like the famous Stanley cup or Yetis will have different kind of ice clinking in them along with the flavored water. In a day and age where the famous dirty soda (soda mixed with coconut, fresh lime and half-and-half) served on pebble ice is a popular drink of choice, water with flavorings may not seem too bad.
But not everyone agrees.
Origins of #WaterTok
Tonya Spanglo is one of the #WaterTok creators. She told Forbes the trend started when bariatric patients needed to drink more water and drink a liquid diet.
Spanglo is a batriatric patient who received her surgery three years ago. Forbes reported she said both her dietician and surgeon approved of her drinking flavored water, and she still drinks it to meet her water intake goals.
While the trend may have originated for that purpose, #WaterTok has become something bigger — it’s a group of people who are using syrups and flavorings to drink more water.
Sometimes, according to Forbes, #WaterTok videos are targeted towards people who are trying to lose weight. This has caused concerns to arise over whether or not drinking flavored water to lose weight can be seen as a disordered eating habit. The concerns and controversy around flavored water stretch further than that.
While some are seeing this as a way to drink more water and become more hydrated, others are saying drinking water with flavored powder and syrups doesn’t actually contribute to water intake and that it’s potentially damaging to your teeth.
Harvard trained nutritional psychiatrist Dr. Uma Naidoo told CNBC even though water is water, “The current trend really isn’t that different from drinking Kool Aid.” She said it’s not “real hydration” even if the syrup or flavoring is advertised as having zero calories — she said that doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you.
Artificial sweeteners aren’t a risk-free way of having something sweeter without consuming some calories. And flavored drink mixes and syrups often rely on artificial sweeteners to get that sweet taste people are chasing in their water.
As it turns out, artificial sweeteners may be worse for your health than real sugar.
The Cleveland Clinic said, “Artificial sweeteners also give you that sweet taste your body is wired to crave. The issue is that artificial sweeteners can be up to 700 times sweeter than sugar. The result is that they completely bombard your nervous system with that dopamine-releasing sweetness.” This means that you end up consuming more calories in the long run than if you were to have just eaten something naturally sweet.
John Hopkins University said artificial sweeteners are safe to consume in FDA limited amounts, and some preliminary research shows they may be a culprit behind weight gain. They also said more research needs to be done in this area to confirm. Still they said it’s better to get your sugars from fruits and grain instead of eating artificial or added sweeteners.
Another concern is the enamel on your teeth.
Even though these drinks are sugar-free, they typically have citric acid. Citric acid has some negative impacts on your teeth.
While consuming some citric acid from time to time (and brushing your teeth afterwards) may be fine, drinking flavored water all day won’t help your teeth. Gordon Dental Clinic said, “The citric acid in the flavored water eats away at your tooth enamel, which can cause stains, sensitivity, decay, and cavities. It also makes the water’s PH particularly acidic which is not good for your teeth either.”
Is flavored water good for you?
While it’s generally safe to consume, it’s better to consume it in moderation and drink plain water instead.
There are gray areas such as long-term impact of artificial sweeteners on metabolism, according to Very Well Fit. It’s better to consume plain water or to slowly ration the amount of flavoring you add to your until you drink it plain.
If you have to have something in your water, there are natural ways to flavor it that avoid some of the pitfalls of the #WaterTok trend. Adding cucumber and mint or cantaloupe or strawberries and mint to your water is a great way to get fruit infused flavoring without artificial sweeteners.
Herbal tea without added sweetener is also a good option and a bright herbal tea like hibiscus, enjoyed hot or cold, can have a great flavor.
How to drink more water
There are ways to drink more water without adding powdered flavoring or syrups to it.
Add fresh fruit or vegetables to your water for an added natural flavor.
Find a cup you like and use that to only drink water.
Fill up your cup with water and set a timer to drink it.
Try drinking more herbal tea along with plain water.
Put a water at your desk, by your bed and by your couch, so when you go to sit down there, you always have a water by your side.