If you happen to be an elite athlete — or you're thirsty for something different — there is a plethora of hydration products. Here are some of what's offered this summer, including several with less than the traditional amount of sweeteners.
Inspired by nature
A new product found in specialty stores throughout Southern California is Cactus Water (www.drinkcaliwater.com, 11 ounces, $3.29). The drink, made from the fruit of wild prickly pear cactus, has an earthy, refreshing flavor that's reminiscent of hibiscus tea. It's lightly sweetened with stevia and has 32 calories per bottle. Prickly pear, with a long history of medicinal use in Latin America, is rich in antioxidants, minerals, electrolytes and flavanoids.
FOR THE RECORD:
Thirst quenchers: In the May 24 Saturday section, an article about hydration products said that the Bai brand of beverages has nine flavors. There are 10 flavors. Also, they are sweetened with stevia and erythritol; the article mentioned only erythritol. —
"Seed your soul" is the motto of Mamma Chia (www.mammachia.com, 10 ounces, $3.49), a line of beverages made with hydrated chia seeds, agave and fruit juices. For the chia novice, the texture is little strange at first, akin to half-set gelatin. But after a few sips, it's refreshing — and the consistency fills you up more than plain water. Of the nine flavors, my favorites were Guava Mama and Cherry Lime. The biggest draw to Mamma Chia is likely to be its nutritional benefits: One bottle contains 2,500 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acids, 6 grams of fiber and a variety of antioxidants and minerals.
Bai (www.drinkbai.com, 18 ounces, $2.50) is made from coffee fruit, the antioxidant-packed fleshy layer that surrounds a coffee bean. Sweetened with erythritol (a sugar alcohol), each Bai bottle contains 10 calories. Each serving also has 35 mg of caffeine, which is about the same as a cup of green tea. Bai's nine tropically inspired flavors are surprisingly sweet for their calorie count yet still refreshing.
Within the category of "functional" waters is Neuro (www.drinkneuro.com, 14 ounces, $2.39), a line of lightly carbonated drinks designed to support different brain functions. Bliss contains L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea that may have mood-boosting properties. Daily contains a dose of vitamins, including 1,000 IUs of D, while Sonic, the line's energy drink, contains as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, as well as B vitamins. The non-carbonated Sleep contains melatonin, and it does elicit drowsiness — though the dosage is not labeled on the bottle. (A phone call to the company revealed that each bottle contains 3 mg of melatonin.)
Hydrive Energy Water (hydriveenergy.com, 15.5 ounces, $1.49) is a low-calorie energy drink containing the caffeine equivalent of a cup of coffee, along with a variety of vitamins, herbal extracts and nutritional supplements. The new flavors for summer include honey lemonade, an "immunity formula" containing vitamin C and B-complex, and mango peach, a "vitality formula" containing B vitamins, ginger and green tea extract.
Many athletes have moved away from premixed sports drinks in favor of powders, tablets and gels that, combined with water, allow them to tailor their hydration needs to their carbohydrate and electrolyte consumption.
Skratch Labs (www.skratchlabs.com) offers powdered carbohydrate and electrolyte mixes designed for activities of varying intensity. Hyper Hydration Mix (single packet $2.95) is designed for extreme activities such as competing in an Ironman triathlon or fighting a wildfire. With 1,700 mg of sodium, one serving contains more salt than a bag of potato chips. Exercise Hydration Mix (single packet, $1.95) is designed for endurance or high-intensity athletes, with 21 grams of carbohydrates, 360 mg of sodium and natural fruit flavors that impart a subtle sweetness.
For athletes who want to add electrolytes to their water without carbs or sugar, Nuun (www.nuun.com, 12 tablets, $6.50) provides the perfect solution. These tablets dissolve in liquid to create a slightly fizzy drink that tastes great and is filled with sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Nuun also makes energy tablets that contain caffeine as well as an "all-day" formula that's akin to a multivitamin.
Clif Shot products (www.clifbar.com/food/products_shot_gel) come in a variety of delivery options, with organic ingredients. Clif Shot Electrolyte Hydration Drink Mix (single pack, $1.99) creates a 4% carbohydrate solution plus electrolytes when mixed with water. Clif Shot Bloks Energy Chews ($1.99 per packet) come in bite-sized pieces for a quick dose of carbohydrates, electrolytes and even caffeine. Clif Shot Energy Gel ($1.99 per pack) is similar to Shot Bloks but delivered in an easy-to-digest syrup form. The mocha flavor is delicious enough to pour over ice cream.
As soda drinkers shy away from high-fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients, Veri Soda (www.verisoda.com, four-pack, $4.99) offers a low-calorie, caffeine-free, organic alternative. Less carbonated than traditional soda, Veri comes in four classic flavors: cola, lemon lime, orange and ginger ale. Sweetened with stevia and sugar, these 60-calorie sodas are slightly less sweet than other sodas.
Dry Soda (www.drysoda.com, four-pack, $5.99) is another low-calorie option. The beauty of this soda is that four simple ingredients have created an abundance of flavors, with variations on classics like wild lime and blood orange alongside unusual offerings such as lavender, cucumber, rhubarb and juniper berry. Ranging in calories from 45 to 70 per drink, each flavor has a hint of sweetness. Dry Sodas even have recommended food pairings: Vanilla bean goes well with roasted chicken, and cherry is a good match for dark chocolate.