At first glance, it's hard to take seriously the idea of drinking liquid that comes straight from a tree in place of a sports drink. After all, most of our experience with maple water is in its most concentrated – and sugary – form, the kind that goes on pancakes and is hardly linked with a healthy diet. It turns out pure maple water is a low-calorie drink that is packed with electrolytes and tons of vitamins and minerals.
Best of all, maple water is super low in sugar, with just 4 grams per 8.5 ounces – about half as much as coconut water, it's top competitor. This might seem surprising given that this is the stuff maple syrup is made from, but the resemblance to maple syrup is distant: It takes a whopping 40 gallons of maple water to boil down to one gallon of syrup, according to Michael Farrell, a maple expert and Cornell University.
The new drink has a few other advantages to coconut water. With both Vertical Water and DRINKmaple (the two companies with offerings in the U.S.), you're getting straight-up maple water, and nothing else. By contrast, some coconut waters – and there are a slew of brands – are doctored up with added sugar, fruit juices, and preservatives. And while coconut water packs in more potassium (a natural electrolyte), maple water trumps it in manganese, iron, and calcium content.
We can't think of a better drink for the casual athlete. Maple water has fewer electrolytes and less sugar than Gatorade and other electric-hued hydration drinks, but those are best used to help recover after hardcore endurance events – not for someone running a slow four miles or playing a game of tennis. "If you've just finished a marathon and need to replenish salt, then Gatorade would likely be a better alternative," says Farrell. "But for everyday use and ordinary physical activity, you don't need all of the sugar and electrolytes added to Gatorade."
Maple water isn't cheap – DRINKmaple fetches $2.49 per 8.5-ounce carton – and it does contain some natural sugar, which you don't necessarily need, especially if you aren't working out. So stick with plain water most of the time, and go for maple water for after your evening jog, or bring some to the beach to keep yourself quenched.