Funny enough, the latest trend seems to be in the water. It appears that we have traded in our bottles of Evian® for "better water" but are these enhanced water products all they're cracked up to be?
Do They Work?
Fitness waters have become a huge market claiming a variety of benefits targeted at enhancing performance including providing adequate hydration and an alternative to plain water. For example, Gatorade has released Propel Fitness Water® for healthy, active adults in order to meet the 10 to 12 servings of water necessary per day since it is their belief that consumers are more likely to drink a lightly flavored beverage over plain water.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, adequate fluid replacement helps to maintain hydration therefore optimizing and enhancing performance of those participating in regular exercise (Convertino et al., 1996). They recommend flavored waters to promote hydration and to increase palatability (Convertino et al., 1996). For this reason, products such as Gatorade's Propel Fitness Water are a great alternative to plain water to increase fluid consumption and meet the optimum amount of water consumption per day, thereby, enhancing performance and decreasing the risk of dehydration.
Other benefits claimed by some of the fitness waters include increased thermogenesis and enhanced fat loss. One particular ingredient that is common in many of the fitness waters and a key ingredient in Rescue, a member of Glaceau's Vitamin Water series, is green tea extract which has replaced ephedra as the key compound in the new non-ephedra fat burners and thermogenic aids.
Green tea contains a subclass of flavonoids that are pharmacologically active compounds called catechin-polyphenols and it is the epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) isoform of green tea that is hypothesized to be the most thermogenically active tea catechin (Dulloo et al., 2000). Hypothetically, green tea possesses thermogenic properties by inhibiting specific enzymes that degrade norepinephrine at the synaptic junction therefore prolonging its fat-burning effects (Dulloo et al., 2000).
A study by Dulloo et al., in 1999 showed a positive effect of 90mg green tea extract and 50mg caffeine taken at breakfast, lunch and dinner in increasing 24-hour energy expenditure by 4% (P<.01) in 10 healthy men as opposed to 50 mg caffeine alone or placebo. The same combination also decreased the respiratory quotient (RQ) significantly (.88 to .85 P<.001) suggesting an increased shift towards fat oxidation in response to green tea ingestion. Another study by Chantre et al., in 2002 showed a decrease in weight by 4.6% and a decrease in waist circumference by 4.48% in moderately obese patients with the use of green tea extract suggesting it as an effective treatment for obesity.
It clearly appears promising in the use of diet and fitness water but some products neglect to include how much of the extract is used in the product making it's efficacy sketchy. Other products include unknown amounts and claim thermogenic benefits such as Revive and yet others such as American Bodybuilding's Diet Force include three times the amount hypothesized to be effective without any research warranting such large amounts effective at one time. More research is definitely needed especially by the supplement companies touting these products as the next magic bullet. Until then, their efficacy is still just speculation, optimal amounts remain unknown and the same results can be obtained through the ingestion of regular green tea with less impact on the wallet.
Fitness Waters As A Water Replacement?
Fitness waters as a water replacement such as Gatorade's Propel Fitness Water are beneficial for those who don't drink enough water. The companies manufacturing their water replacements are not promising anything but a better tasting alternative to plain water which is a promise they make good on. Fitness waters and sports drinks as a thermogenic aid may or may not be beneficial. Green tea extracts are a promising avenue for fat-burning but do not necessarily need to be obtained through over-priced sports supplements.
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And similar to when ephedra was hot on the market, no thermogenic aid is going to perform miracles without the addition of proper diet and exercise. Clearly, there is no concrete answer to whether or not these products stand up to all the claims made on their behalf. Their efficacy is still unknown yet supplement companies use kitschy marketing campaigns and fancy advertising and packaging to sell the products manipulating the consumer to believe that their product is just what they need in order to succeed. At that point you might as well stick to regular water. After all, that is what the fountain of youth consisted of in the end anyway.
Chantre P and Lairon D. Recent findings of green tea extract AR25 (Exolise) and its activity for the treatment of obesity. Phytomedicine. 9(1):3-8, Jan 2002.
Convertino VA, Armstrong LE, Coyle EF, Mack GW, Sawka MN, Senay LC and Sherman WM. Position Stand of the American College of Sports Medicine on Exercise and Fluid Replacement. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Vol. 28, Number 1. Jan 1996.
Daly PA, Krieger DR, Dulloo AG, Young JB and Landsberg L. Ephedrine, caffeine and aspirin: safety and efficacy for treatment of human obesity. Int J Obes. 17(suppl 1):S73-S78, 1993.
Dulloo AG, Seydoux J, Girardier L, Chantre P and Vandermander J. Green tea and thermogenesis: interactions between catechin-polyphenols, caffeine and sympathetic activity. Int J Obes. 24:252-258, 2000.
Dulloo AG, Duret C, Rohrer D, Girardier L, Mensi N, Fathi M, Chantre P and Vandermander J. Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin-polyphenols and caffeine in increasing energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 70:1040-1045, 1999.