We can all agree that drinking enough water is totally crucial, right? But are certain waters better for you than others? While plenty of people are content to drink plain old H2O, there’s a robust community of folks who swear by functional waters, the most prominent of which is alkaline water, like BODYARMOR SportWater. But what’s really the difference between alkaline water and plain old filtered water? Read on to learn what sets the two apart, plus what health experts think of each.
Alkaline Water vs. Filtered Water: Do You Know the Difference?
What Is Alkaline Water (and How Is It Different from Filtered Water)?
Here’s a quick science lesson: Every food and drink has a pH level, from 0 (very acidic) to 14 (very basic, or alkaline). Normal drinking water, for its part, usually has a pH of 7. Alkaline water typically has a pH between 7.5 and 9. Proponents of eating and drinking more alkaline things believe that doing so will help keep your blood pH level as alkaline as possible. In turn, having more alkaline levels is thought to reduce your risk of developing a number of diseases, including cancer and arthritis, as well as increase energy levels, reduce inflammation and a host of other health benefits.
As for the taste of alkaline water, Carissa Galloway, RDN, tells us, “Overall I love the taste of BODYARMOR SportWater. It’s my go-to for the times when I crave refreshing, crisp water and want to boost my electrolytes after a workout.”
What Are the Potential Benefits of Alkaline Water?
Some folks believe that the more alkaline the body is, the less likely you are to contract certain illnesses and diseases. One 2016 study at Italy’s University of Padua found that mice who consumed alkaline water lived longer than mice that didn’t, though researchers admitted that more research would be necessary. Another study published in The Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology found that drinking naturally carbonated artesian-well alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 might help deactivate pepsin, an enzyme that causes acid reflux.
What Are the Potential Downsides to Alkaline Water?
It’s important to note that overall, your body does well at keeping its pH within a narrow range to maintain the acid-base balance. Your kidneys and lungs work together to do this and even the acid in your stomach can neutralize the more alkaline substances you ingest.
In terms of downsides, Galloway tells us, “My only caution against completely changing to an alkaline water would be for those who have kidney disease.” (For reference, your kidneys are your body’s built-in filtration system, so if you have kidney issues, consult your doctor before trying alkaline water.) Other experts say that while drinking alkaline water won’t hurt you (any kind of hydration is good hydration), it might not have all the benefits its proponents suggest it has. Nutritionist Jennifer Blow says, “There isn’t any credible scientific evidence that backs this claim up, nor is it particularly useful to balance your body’s pH levels as your body will do that all by itself.” Melissa Kelly, MS, RD, CDN, adds “Overall, the body tightly regulates blood pH levels, and it is not possible to affect it via diet. While the alkaline diet encourages fruits and veggies through a plant-based plan and restricts highly processed foods, the research is lacking.”
But Wait. How Much Water (Alkaline or Filtered) Should I Be Drinking Each Day?
Although there’s no consensus on how much water people should drink each day, the CDC and the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) say each person’s guide should be their own thirst. If you’re feeling parched, drink some water—simple as that. As a very general guideline, the FNB suggests women should drink around 2.7 liters (or 2/3 gallon) of water daily and men around 3.7 liters (about 1 gallon). (Note that those amounts include the water you get from eating, which estimates show make up to 20 percent of daily intake.)
Is Either Type of Water Better for Active People?
Galloway tells us that she picks alkaline water like BODYARMOR SportWater for all-day hydration, because of how active she is. “The reason it’s effective for those really active lifestyles takes us back to science class,” she notes. “Alkaline water has a higher pH than other waters, which results in it having more hydrogen. (Remember it’s H2O after all and the H stands for hydrogen.) The hydrogen can help your body rehydrate quicker, especially after a tough workout.” On top of that, she tells us that many alkaline waters have added electrolytes. Because electrolytes are lost through sweat as we exercise, and they’re key for muscle contraction, she likes to pick a drink that supplies electrolytes after exercise.
Is Alkaline Water Related to the Alkaline Diet?
Yes, though many folks drink alkaline water without following a strict alkaline diet. The general gist is that dieters replace more acidic foods with ingredients that have an alkaline pH of 7 or higher. (High school science flashback: a pH of 7 is neutral. Anything lower is acidic. Anything higher is basic.) Proponents of the diet believe that eating mostly alkaline foods will help keep your blood pH level as alkaline as possible. In turn, a higher blood pH level is thought to reduce your risk of developing a number of diseases, including cancer and arthritis, as well as increase energy levels and reduce inflammation. But, as with alkaline water, more studies are needed to prove the efficacy of the alkaline diet.
What’s the Bottom Line?
At the end of the day, we know that drinking water has loads of health benefits, from speeding up our metabolisms and preventing headaches to keeping us regular and flushing toxins from our bodies. While more research is necessary to confirm the supposed benefits of alkaline water, it’s still water, meaning it’ll do your body a whole lot of good regardless.