What Are the Benefits of Alkaline Water?

Is alkaline water better for you?

Woman drinking water from bottle
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Alkaline water is water that is more basic, with a pH of about 8. Normal drinking water is neutral with a pH of about 7. Many artisanal bottled waters are alkalinized, or made more basic, by naturally passing over rocks in springs and picking up minerals. Alternatively, drinking water can be alkalinized using chemical processes, then bottled and sold.

Alkaline water has generated much buzz as a means to better hydrate, detoxify, lose weight, and counter chronic, or long-term, illness.

But does it really work?

Hydration Status

Water is essential to life, and plays a critical role in physical performance and prevention of disease. Because water is so critical to life, athletes as well as people who work physically active jobs must constantly hydrate to remain healthy.

During exercise and strenuous physical activity, water is lost through sweating. Reductions in body mass of 2 percent or more due to sweating can interfere with aerobic functioning and physiologic performance. Dehydration results in altered metabolic function, impaired neurologic function, and heat strain.

The main way that dehydration impairs exercise is through cardiac drift. Cardiac drift involves a rise in heart rate and a decrease in stroke volume, or the volume of blood pumped out by the heart, during a period of exercise. Cardiac drift decreases oxygen uptake thus reducing performance and power output.

In a 2016 study titled the “Effect of electrolyzed high-pH alkaline water on blood viscosity in healthy adults,” Weidman and colleagues assessed hydration status in 100 participants who performed mild exercise that resulted in a reduction in body mass of 2 percent.

The participants hydrated by drinking either alkaline water or standard water.

The researchers found that the blood viscosity, or blood “thickness,” of participants who drank alkaline water after exercise was lower than those who drank standard water thus indicating that those who drank alkaline water were more effectively hydrated.

More specifically, the blood viscosity of those who drank alkaline water dropped by 6.30 percent compared with a drop of 3.36 percent in those who drank standard purified water.

In other words, in exercisers, alkaline water drank during the recovery phase made the blood more watery, which is an indicator of hydration status. These results lend support to the claim that alkaline water helps you hydrate better after exercise.

Notably, the authors did list conflicts of interest—including consulting fees from Essentia Water, the alkaline water that they were testing. Furthermore, alkaline showed no significant benefit with respect to other indicators of hydration status, including electrolyte-water balance in the blood (i.e., plasma osmolality) and body mass.

Acid-Base Balance

Body salts must be properly balanced resulting in acid-base balance. People who consume a typical Western diet, which is light in fruits and vegetables and heavy in meats, cheeses, and processed grains, can experience metabolic acidosis.

This metabolic acidosis results from increased production of acid in the body and has been linked to heart disease, osteoporosis, and more.

In a 2010 article titled “Acid-base balance and hydration status following consumption of mineral-based alkaline bottled water,” Heil followed 38 participants (matched by gender and levels of physical activity) for a month under “free-living conditions.” He split these participants into two groups: One group drank alkaline water and the other drank Aquafina, a PepsiCo brand in which minerals are filtered out.

Blood and urine samples were collected three times a week, and acid-base measures and urine volume were recorded.

Heil found that participants who consumed alkaline water experienced increased alkalinization of the blood and urine, resulting in better acid-base status than those who drank Aquafina. Furthermore, urine output decreased, which suggests better hydration. Of note, it took about a week for these effects to set in, which means that people needed to drink for some time before benefits were observed.

In sum, according to Heil, the results “indicate that the habitual consumption of AK [alkaline] water may be a valuable nutritional vector for influencing both acid-base balance and hydration status in healthy adults.”

A Word From Verywell

Hydration is a critical aspect of any exercise regimen. Limited research suggests that regularly hydrating with alkaline water after exercise or strenuous physical activity may improve the acid-base balance in your body and more efficiently hydrate you. More research needs to be done to flesh out this hypothesis. In the meantime, feel free to hydrate with alkaline water—we do know that it can’t hurt you.

Sources:

Heil, DP. Acid-base balance and hydration status following consumption of mineral-based alkaline bottled water. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2010;7:29.

Koufman, JA, Johnston, N. Potential benefits of pH 8.8 alkaline drinking water as an adjunct in the treatment of reflux disease. The Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology. 2012;121(7):431-4

Weidman, J, et al.  Effect of electrolyzed high-pH alkaline water on blood viscosity in healthy adults. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2016;13:45.

Wingo, JE, Ganio, M, Cureton, KJ. Cardiovascular Drift During Heat Stress: Implications for Exercise Prescription. Exercise and Sports Sciences Reviews. 2012;40(2):88-94

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