Three pitchers of various flavored water.Share on Pinterest
Flavored water recipes are gaining popularity on TikTok, but experts warn many of these trendy infused beverages can contribute to weight gain and other health risks. Oleksandr Yurchak/Getty Images
  • Sharing water recipes has become a viral trend known as WaterTok on the social media platform TikTok.
  • The DIY flavored water beverages are often promoted as healthy drinks, but experts warn many popular water recipes can add unwanted sugar and calories to your daily intake.
  • Health experts say the best way to stay hydrated is to drink plain water, but some water recipes can offer health benefits.

A trend called “Watertok” is making waves on TikTok, promising to help people stay hydrated.

What is WaterTok?

The trend basically boils down to sharing “water recipes” for DIY flavored water.

In the videos shared on the social media platform, people fill up tumblers with water, then add flavorings with everything ranging from fresh fruit to candy brands like Skittles and Nerds.

“The idea is to make water more appealing and ultimately increase your water intake throughout the day,” says Stephanie Coburn, MS, RD, a registered dietician.

Many of the most popular water recipes such as “pina colada” and “birthday cake” do appear bright, fun, and tasty, but that’s part of why many health experts are raising concerns.

Despite being promoted as a healthy trend with descriptions like no-sugar, low-sugar, artificial sweetener, and zero-calorie, many popular water recipes aren’t the healthy hydrating beverages they appear to be.

In fact, some may be adding unwanted calories and sugar to your daily intake, contributing to weight gain.

Here’s what nutrition experts say you should consider before diving into the WaterTok trend.

The name “WaterTok” is a hybrid of “water” and “TikTok,” where the trend has exploded. The name may be new, but the idea isn’t. It actually began as medical guidance for specific populations.

“WaterTok originally started with bariatric patients who needed to help with their water intake while on five-day liquid diets pre-surgery to help with weight loss and post-surgery because the diet progresses from liquid to solid over a certain amount of time due to changes in stomach functionality,” explains Vanessa Rissetto, registered dietitian and CEO of Culina Health.

How did it drift over to TikTok?

“It quickly gained traction and resonated with a broader audience interested in health, wellness, and hydration,” says Mary Sabat, MS, RDN, LD, a nutritionist.

Some TikTok trends, like the All-McDonald’s diet, generally get two thumbs down from nutrition experts. But WaterTok might have some benefits, primarily increasing hydration — and the positive ripple effect that can trigger.

“I find that most of my clients would benefit from increasing their hydration throughout the day,” Coburn says. “It would be ideal to drink regular water, but some people just don’t like it. Artificially flavoring, coloring, or sweetening water could be options if it means increasing the appeal of water intake.”

Coburn adds that flavored waters may continue to have added benefits for bariatric patients, whose bodies need the fluids before and after surgery.

“I’ve also worked with many bariatric patients who report that water simply doesn’t taste good after surgery,” she says. “Crystal Light has often been an initial recommendation to enhance the taste (or at least mask the taste of plain water) to help ensure they are staying hydrated.”

Drink more water” is a common health goal. But why?

According to the CDC, H2O can help you:

  • maintain a normal body temperature
  • protect the joints, spinal cord, and sensitive tissues
  • regulate internal plumbing system (urination, sweat, and bowel movements)

A 2019 review on hydration suggested that:

  • evidence that remaining hydrated helped the skin barrier function remained unclear
  • dehydration harmed cognitive performance, including attention, executive function, and motor coordination
  • increased water intake could reduce body weight and fat in obese adults
  • data on high water intake and lower risks of kidney stones is limited

An older 2016 review indicated that increased hydration might help with weight loss.

Though WaterTok has its benefits, experts believe people should consider some potential drawbacks before raising a tumbler, including:

Water may have benefits, but there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing — and it applies here.

“The risks of overhydration or consuming too much water can lead to water intoxication, which can cause seizures, coma, and even death in severe cases,” says Trista Best, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements.

What’s more, a 2019 review indicated that too much hydration led to negative emotions like anger, depression, and fatigue.

WaterTok beverages also aren’t simply straight water. They are flavored with powders and syrups, some of which are artificially sweetened, including with sucralose.

“Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that removes the water molecules from the sugar molecule and adds chlorine as its base,” says Rissetto.

Rissetto points to 2021 research that indicates that some sweeteners, such as sucralose, can alter the microbiota and cause weight gain.

Complicating matters, Sabat is concerned that the trend may increase a person’s cravings for sweet foods.

“Our cravings for sweet food and beverages increase with more and more intake of sweeteners, regular or artificial,” Sabat says. “This could turn some individuals off from the natural sweetness in some foods like fruits and vegetables.”

Sabat also says the powders may contain ingredients that can cause dental issues.

Citric acid, a common additive in artificial water enhancers, can wear away at teeth enamel,” Sabat says. “Food dye can stain teeth.”

But one of the most significant fears among experts is that the trend may spur disordered eating behavior.

“WaterTok can affect disordered eating by triggering the urge to restrict or overconsume fluids, which can be a symptom of certain eating disorders,” Best says.

Sabat shares this concern about WaterTok.

“For someone with eating disorder behavior, they have fear about taking in calories and gaining weight,” Sabat says. “They can minimize this by filling up on fluids as a way to ignore hunger cues and reduce the amount of calories they consume.”

Best generally recommends the traditional 64 oz. (or 8 cups) of water per day.

In 2004, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggested::

  • About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men
  • About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women

Coburn says eight glasses daily is a good place to start. But she says many factors play into an individual’s fluid needs, including:

  • Health. “The body loses fluids when you experience a fever, vomiting, and diarrhea,” Coburn says.
  • Activity level. “Sweating increases fluid needs,” she says.
  • Where you live. “Warmer climates and higher altitude will increase fluid needs,” she says.
  • Pregnant/lactating. Pregnant or lactating people need more fluids.

Coburn shares that some safe, natural ways to get more water include:

  • Using water bottles with milliliter or ounce markings
  • Goal setting (Such as 32 oz. by noon and 32 oz. by bedtime to hit the 64-oz. benchmark)
  • Using apps and setting reminders in a smartwatch or phone

If a standard glass of plain water simply isn’t your taste, Best notes that there are some ways to make it a little more interesting.

Making it more interesting (all Trista)

“Add flavor to water, including using fresh fruit, herbs, or infusing water with natural flavors like lemon or cucumber,” Best says. “These options are good because they do not add calories or artificial ingredients.”