What Is Maple Water—and Should You Be Drinking It?
The water industry has tapped, quite literally, into new territory: maple water. Touted for boosting exercise performance, rehydrating twice as fast as plain water, and curing hangovers, does maple water live up to the hype? Read on to find out what it is, where it comes from, how it stacks up nutritionally and if you should be drinking it.
Related: Health Benefits of Coconut
What is maple water?
You're probably more familiar with maple syrup than maple water, but both come from the same source: the maple tree. Sugar maple trees are tapped in early spring to collect maple sap, which is a thin, clear liquid also known as maple water. It comes from groundwater mixing with sugar from the trees, but it is only about 2% sugar. The maple sap is boiled to produce maple syrup: it takes 40 to 60 gallons of maple sap to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup. But in recent years, companies such as Drink Simple have started to sell the maple sap itself commercially as a maple water beverage.
Kate Weiler, co-founder of Drink Simple, created maple water in the U.S. after racing an Ironman triathlon in Canada. "We loved how super-hydrated it made us for our race," she said. "When we traveled back home, we couldn't find maple water anywhere, despite having maple trees all over New England." So she and her co-founder, Jeff Rose, started Drink Simple. In contrast to coconut water, they say, which involves shipping coconuts here from elsewhere in the world, the U.S. has an abundance of maple trees that can be tapped, literally, for water.
How is it made?
Temps have to be freezing at night but above freezing during the day to collect maple sap. During that time (usually around March and early April), maple trees pull water up from the ground and filter it through their roots. As the water is being pulled up, it absorbs nutrients that have been stored in the tree throughout the winter. Once maple sap is collected, it's sterilized to kill any potentially harmful bacteria, but it retains nutrients.
Maple water nutrition
Twelve ounces of maple water has:
- 30 calories
- 7 grams of sugars (0 g added sugars)
- 4% of the Daily Value of calcium
- 40% DV of manganese
- 0 grams of fiber, protein or sodium
Maple water also has phenolic compounds with antioxidant activity, and while some of these compounds are also present in maple syrup, maple water has a number of antioxidants that maple syrup does not retain.
Health benefits of maple water
Maple water lovers boast its ability to boost exercise performance, hydrate and even cure hangovers. And while only a few studies have been done on maple water, there is some evidence to back these claims. David Bellar, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist, and his team found that people had higher aerobic capacity and lower inflammation after drinking maple water before an exercise test compared to a placebo.
In a separate study conducted by Bellar, after people drank maple water for four weeks as their primary beverage, they had lower levels of oxidative stress. And people with prediabetes saw improved blood sugar control (learn more about prediabetes and how to know if you're at risk).
Researchers at the University of North Texas found that maple water hydrated twice as fast as plain water. People in the study became dehydrated after a strenuous workout and then drank maple water or plain water. Those who drank maple water rehydrated in 30 minutes compared to 60 minutes for those who drank plain water. However, a 2019 study of healthy men and women found that while maple water had antioxidants, it didn't rehydrate any better than a maple-flavored water after exercise.
And what about helping your hangover? It might. A 2011 study in rats found that alcohol was metabolized more quickly in rats who were given maple water before the alcohol. More studies are needed to confirm whether maple water can really help stave off hangovers, but staying hydrated while drinking alcohol is always a good idea.
Maple water vs. coconut water
Maple water is lower in calories and sugar than coconut water. Twelve ounces of maple water has 30 calories and 7 grams of sugars, while 12 ounces of 100% coconut water has 65 calories and 15 grams of sugar. Coconut water has more potassium and has 40% DV of vitamin C (compared to none in maple water). Maple water has more manganese.
More studies are needed to determine which type of water has the most post-exercise hydration potential. A 2012 study found neither maple water nor coconut water to be more hydrating than plain water post-exercise.
Maple water is low in sugar and contains electrolytes and antioxidants. If you're choosing between maple water and plain water to quench your thirst, you're better off with plain water, which has zero calories and zero grams of sugar. But if you don't like the taste of water, maple water may help you get your water in for the day. Just don't forget to factor in the added sugar. Maple water may be more hydrating than plain water before, during and after exercise and might boost exercise performance. More studies are needed, but in the meantime, give maple water a try. You might tolerate it better than sugar-laden sports drinks.