“Water is not just water.”
If someone were to ask you about the one thing you absolutely can’t live without, how would you answer? Don’t worry, we won’t judge you if your answer is your phone, your miraculous go-to mascara, or your AM oat milk latte. But the real answer is water.
Humans can only survive without water for about three days, and with the blazing hot days of summer upon us, staying hydrated is more than just another self-care task, it’s essential to our well-being. (It’s estimated that around 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated, which can lead to a whole host of complications.) But you’ll want to think twice before you reach for a sugary sports drink or sparkling seltzer when thirst strikes, because not all waters are created equal, nor do they taste the same.
Martin Riese is a water sommelier (yes, they exist) who’s as passionate about water, and where it comes from, as a wine sommelier is about grape varietals and tannins. “A lot of people will say, ‘Martin, come on. It’s water, and it’s all the same.’ I call them the non-believers,” says Riese. “But when I do water tastings with them, I open a door for them, because water is not just water.”
We asked this H2O connoisseur for tips on quenching thirst (especially in the sizzling summer heat), his favorite bottled water brand, and to explain why we’re nothing without water.
Katie Couric Media: What is our body trying to tell us when we feel thirsty?
Martin Riese: Your body is very sophisticated and it’ll give you a signal when you’re starting to get dehydrated. When you’re extremely thirsty, that means you’re probably dehydrated and you really need to drink water. But it doesn’t help to chug down a gallon at once, because your body can’t absorb all of it. That’ll dilute your blood’s sodium levels, which can be very dangerous and cause you to pass out. It’s healthier to eat something sweet and drink some water when you’re completely dehydrated. And anytime you’re even slightly thirsty, always drink water. If you don’t have water right next to you, eat something that has a lot of water in it, like lettuce or an orange.
I’d be very careful in thinking, “I need electrolytes, therefore I need a sports drink.” Sports drinks typically have added electrolytes, along with calories, artificial colors and flavors and other man-made ingredients. Mother Nature, however, crafts her own amazing beverage: Water always has zero calories and is unflavored. FIJI Water, for example, has more than double the electrolytes of the other two top premium bottled water brands for a soft, smooth taste. While sports drinks have added electrolytes, FIJI Water’s occur naturally from slowly filtering through volcanic rock.
There’s no perfect scenario on how much you should drink, because we’re all individuals. The idea of drinking eight glasses per day is a myth: A person who exercises outside needs to drink way more water than someone who sits all day in a climate-controlled environment.
How much water you should drink depends on your lifestyle. If you’re struggling and don’t know how to stay hydrated, try setting a timer or using an app that reminds you when to take a sip.
We all learned that H2O is water’s chemical formula, but just H2O doesn’t exist naturally on this planet because there are always minerals and electrolytes dissolved in water in nature. These minerals, like calcium, potassium, and silica, are beneficial, but they also change the flavor profile of the water.
People who don’t like the taste of water might only be drinking tap water or a certain brand, so they think all water tastes the same. But they might just not like that one particular taste. So I always recommend people buy four or five different brands of spring water and do a taste test at room temperature. You’ll start to realize they all taste different.
It’s kind of like when you’re cooking a soup: When you have no salt, it’s tasteless. When you add a little salt, all the flavors suddenly appear. But if you add too much salt, it becomes inedible. It’s the same with water.
All water on this planet is created equally. At one point, it starts as rainwater. For example, ocean water evaporates into the clouds and then drips down as rainwater. The moment the rainwater hits the ground, it will start to dissolve minerals and electrolytes, depending on the location. And eventually, it will come up into a naturally occurring spring source by gravity, which gives you spring water, or it trickles down mountains or volcanic rock into an artesian aquifer, which gives you artesian spring water.
All of the minerals the water collects along the way are what give it its taste profile. That’s why I love spring waters, because I get the benefits of electrolytes and minerals from Mother Nature, which provides a unique taste. The taste profile is created by nature, not by a factory.
A recent online survey found that FIJI Water is America’s favorite bottled water brand. What do you enjoy most about FIJI Water?
FIJI Water is so smooth on the palate — almost creamy, with a bit of a sweet aftertaste. The smooth taste comes from the naturally-occurring mineral silica. FIJI Water comes from the Fiji Islands, where it passes through volcanic rock formations and pulls out silica. It’s actually one of the highest silica-content waters you can find in stores.
It’s almost like when you compare non-fat milk to whole milk; FIJI Water is like whole milk. There’s “volume” to the water that you can feel, and it lingers long on the palette. Tap waters tend to dry out your palate, because they don’t have the same types or amounts of minerals.
Some companies wanted to bottle water, but wanted to cut out the hassle of the naturally occurring spring source. So they use municipal source tap water, filter everything out, and then add in small amounts of electrolytes and minerals, and call it purified water.
In America, even when a bottled-water company says “electrolytes added,” that doesn’t mean the water has a lot of electrolytes, because a brand is generally not required to disclose how much mineral content is actually present, or what the key minerals are. And that’s the reason I love FIJI Water: its unique taste comes from a natural mineral profile.
For people who don’t like to drink bottled water for environmental reasons, what’s the best way to stay hydrated?
There are filtration systems you can use on your faucet to filter out impurities. I always filter my tap water, because I don’t like the taste of chlorinated tap water. You can obviously hydrate yourself with tap water, but from a taste perspective, that’s a different story.