Advertisement

For several years, many people have believed that national enhanced water brands and sports drink companies like Gatorade, Powerade, and Propel are necessary for refueling after a grueling workout or major sports event. But is this the case? Are these drinks beneficial to an athlete’s recovery?

Propel water can be good for people who work out as the beverage is particularly high in sodium, replacing much-needed electrolytes lost in sweat. It has zero calories, sugars, and carbohydrates. In addition, it contains vitamins that can better aid muscle recovery and performance.

What Is Propel Water?

Propel is a sports drink, but more specifically, water that has been enhanced with electrolytes and other flavors. These electrolytes are meant to replace what a person loses in sweat during a workout, sporting event, or fitness class. These flavored waters are not only packed with electrolytes but the daily recommended dose of vitamins B3, B5, B6, C, and E. 

Propel water and any electrolyte water are mainly aimed at people who work out. It’s essentially a workout drink rather than a casual drink. 

When we workout, we sweat, and with sweat, one of the major electrolytes of our system, i.e., sodium, is also lost. Then, when you drink plain water, it further dilutes the already depleted sodium levels in your body. That’s why you must replace both the lost fluid and electrolytes to maintain the optimum functioning of your body. Dehydration is linked with poor workout performance. And sodium plays a significant role in functioning nerves and muscles, maintaining blood pressure, and maintaining our body’s fluid balance.

Excessive loss of sodium (hyponatremia) can result in symptoms like nausea and vomiting, confusion, headache, drowsiness, irritability, muscle weakness/spasm/cramps, seizures, and even coma in very severe cases.

Do I Need Propel Water If I Workout?

The answer is no; not everyone who does a workout needs electrolyte water. Workouts of less than 30 minutes duration, even if high intensity, do not need electrolyte water. The sodium loss in short-duration high-intensity workouts or long-duration mild workouts (say, walking for an hour) is not enough to cause significant electrolyte loss. Electrolytes lost in these cases can be quickly recovered from your next meal’s salt content. 

But, if you are a professional or train for several hours a day, you will be losing a lot of sodium from your system. And this is the category of people electrolyte water will benefit the most.

A Look at Propel Nutrition & Ingredient

The label of the bottle says it contains:

  • No fruit juice
  • Calories 0
  • Total fat o grams
  • Sodium 150-210 mg (water/powdered form)- 10% of RDA
  • Potassium 40-65 mg- 2% of RDA
  • Total carbohydrate 0 g
  • Sugar 0 gm
  • Protein 0 gm
  • Vitamin C 40% of RDA
  • Vit B3 50%
  • Vitamin E 20%
  • Vitamin B6 50%
  • Pantothenic acid 50% of RDA

The label also acknowledges that it’s NOT a significant source of calories from fat, saturated or trans fat, cholesterol, dietary fiber, vitamin A, calcium, or iron. It makes sense, as it is essentially tap water enhanced with vitamins.

Apart from the nutritional content, certain other ingredients are present in this product.

  • Citric acid- (flavoring and preserving)
  • Sodium hexametaphosphate (to protect flavor)
  • Natural flavor
  • Salt: An good source of sodium, plus it also acts as a preservative. 
  • Potassium sorbate (preservative): This is pretty safe to use. Put under the “generally safe for use” (GRAS/FS) category by the FDA. Up to 300 mg/kg of potassium sorbate has been shown to cause no side effects in animal models.
  • Potassium citrate: This is another preservative, with not many known side effects when used as a preservative.
  • Sodium citrate: Acidity regulator and emulsifier. Again, not many known side effects.
  • Sucralose,
  • Acesulfame potassium,
  • calcium disodium EDTA (to protect flavor)
  • calcium pantothenate (vitamin B5)

It is a sugar-free product, but it does have artificial sweeteners.

Propel water is rich in vitamin B, which is a good thing. Vitamin B plays a vital role in the proper functioning of our body while performing high-intensity workouts and is also required for cell repair post-workout phase. 

Looks good so far.

Sodium Hexametaphosphate

Sodium hexametaphosphate is an additive that the FDA puts under the tag of “generally safe with limited standard use (GRAS-FS) and good manufacturing practices i.e., not greater than required use (GMP)” category. This means that it is okay to use it in low concentrations because it could cause health issues at very high concentrations.

Certain studies with a high concentration (~10%) of this compound report side effects, like kidney damage, liver damage, parathyroid issues, decalcification of bones, and severe skin irritation.

Sodium hexametaphosphate is typically used in less than 1% concentration, which is most likely for this beverage.

Acesulfame Potassium

Although a controversial artificial sweetener in the ’70s, the FDA now considers it safe for general purposes. Acesulfame is 200 times sweeter than regular sugar and is quite popularly used as a sweetening agent.

Earlier, acesulfame potassium was believed to be carcinogenic. However, the FDA countered that the studies demonstrated no increased cancer risk in low to moderate doses. This is true as the risk of leukemia in the control group (aka the low and medium doses) was 1%, the same risk with the general population.

In ordinary circumstances, you are most likely never going to consume high doses of acesulfame potassium. But if you are consuming a lot of different things (including propel water) that contain this sweetener every day for a long time, you might be at risk. 

Sucralose

Acesulfame potassium is a bitter sweetener, and that’s why it’s usually not used alone as a sweetener. It is mixed with either sucralose or aspartame, and hence, sucralose in propel water.

It’s a pretty well-known sweetener and is not free of controversy either. It is 600 times sweeter than sugar, and FDA says more than 110 studies confirm it’s safe for general use.

Sucralose is known to alter the gut flora with prolonged use. So, if you are someone who already has gut flora-related issues/imbalances, you might want to avoid products containing sucralose. Apart from that, as per studies conducted by WHO and FDA, sucralose is weakly mutagenic in mice lymphoma assay, causing DNA damage in the GI tract. 

Studies in mice also suggest that it causes an increase in blood sugar levels within two hours of its consumption. For this reason, this may not be the best sweetener for people with diabetes.

All the studies associated with the above three ingredients were done in animal models and not on humans, and so it is possible that the observations don’t translate. But we don’t have any human studies done so far to say anything conclusively. More research is needed to understand these ingredients even further. But until then, it’s best to use these agents in moderation. They are safe in low to moderate dosages, and that’s why they have the approval of the FDA.

Is Propel Better than Regular Water?

If you don’t work out at all or do mild workouts, you don’t need any electrolyte water, let alone Propel water. Electrolytes coming from your diet will cover for the lost electrolytes in the sweat.

If you drink propel water all day long for months and or years on end, you flood your system with sodium and risk getting Hypernatremia (what happens when your body has an excess amount of salt). The symptoms can include muscle weakness, restlessness, extreme thirst, confusion, seizure, and in rare cases, coma.

If, on the other hand, you are someone who has an extreme workout routine, then Propel water would be a good option for you, but only during the workout sessions.

Sodium aside, there are other ingredients in Propel water that are a bit controversial. Sucralose, acesulfame potassium, and SHMP are some of these said ingredients. Some research out there makes compelling reasons as to why these should be ingested in limited quantities.

Gatorade or Propel? Is One Better than the Other?

Gatorade is another sports drink with some significant differences. The most crucial difference between propel water and Gatorade is the sodium content. The sodium content of Propel water is 150 to 210 mg, while that of Gatorade is 270 mg.

Apart from the sodium content, Gatorade also contains a good amount of sugar and dextrose (36 g) as an energy source. For this reason, unlike propel water, Gatorade contains calories, 140 of them to be exact. These calories are good for intense workout sessions where you need a little extra glucose to function well.

Unlike Propel water, there is no vitamin content in Gatorade, which is okay as long as you get a good amount of vitamin B from your diet. With a good, balanced diet, you don’t need to worry about the vitamin content in drinks.

Gatorade does not contain artificial sweeteners but contains a coloring agent, Red 40, and caramel color. The FDA approves both Red 40 and caramel colors, so Gatorade in moderate amounts won’t hurt.

There is no specific dosage mentioned by these companies, as the intake will depend on how much you are sweating. Keep a maximum of 1 bottle per session for an average session since we do not have any set dose standards. You can do more if your workout session is of longer duration and higher intensity.

Are There Any Natural and Organic Alternatives to Propel?

An ideal sports drink would contain sodium, potassium, and maybe glucose to cover the losses and the energy source. You can make a sports drink at home using simple ingredients.

You will need:

  • Salt- for sodium- 1 dash (0.4 g) of salt contains 155 mg of sodium in it.
  • Lemon juice- for potassium- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice contain 31.4 mg of potassium.
  • Glucose- for energy source- use as per instructions in the pack. You can skip this if you pre-load with carbs or if your exercise routine is not of long duration.
  • Regular water- you can choose filter or tap

Mix the above ingredients, and there you have it– your homemade sports drink containing both the essential electrolyte as well as the energy source.

Alternatively, you can also use coconut water as it contains various electrolytes, including both sodium and potassium. It is naturally low in sugar, but it’s a very healthy alternative provided that you have access to fresh or unsweetened coconut water in the market.

Additionally, you can check out the 10 Best Drinks Post Workout drinks for a better post-workout recovery and do not contain artificial sweeteners.

So Is Propel Water Good for You?

Whether you need, propel water or not will most likely depend on your workout routine. No one rule fits all when it comes to choosing a sports drink.

Propel electrolyte water has zero calories, zero sugars, and zero carbohydrates and may or may not be a good thing depending upon what kind of workout you do. Adding vitamin B is a good thing as this will help you get better performance and recover.

However, we must remember that it’s a sports drink, and it is not for everyone. Propel water is okay to be used in moderation but should never replace water completely.