On Shelby Hobbs’ dresser sits a Lazy Susan filled every flavor of liquid syrup you can imagine, from raspberry to peach Bellini. Beside the syrups is a container packed to the brim with water flavoring packets including Strawberry Nerds and Crush Orange.
Next to the supplies is an empty space for Hobbs’ water bottle. So, whenever she’s thirsty, all she has to do is grab her cup, dump in her flavoring of choice and fill up the bottle with ice and water.
Hobbs’ inspiration for her “Hydration Station” came from WaterTok, a new trend on TikTok whose hashtag has garnered over 100 million views. Across the app, creators are sharing themselves adding liquid and powdered flavorings to their water with the shared goal of drinking more water.
“I’ve been drinking this for about a month now,” the 21-year-old tells TODAY.com. “It definitely helps that everyone else on TikTok is making them, so it helps me think of new flavor ideas. But honestly, I haven’t made a bad one yet. I can mix whatever I want, and it still tastes good.”
But while WaterTok might be helping people like Hobbs stay hydrated, some people are questioning just how healthy the trend really is, as these flavorings can contain large amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners, and it could be just another diet culture fad masquerading as a hydration aid.
TODAY.com talked to creators and experts to unpack everything you need to know about WaterTok (aka HydrationTok). Here’s what they said.
Breaking down #WaterTok
Many people participating in the trend say WaterTok is putting the fun back into drinking water. This community of hydration enthusiasts shares “water recipes” with various flavoring packets and liquids to create the optimal water-drinking experience.
Haley Staggs, 21, tells TODAY.com that WaterTok has helped her stay hydrated throughout the day.
Staggs first discovered the trend from a TikToker named Tonya, who goes by @takingmylifebackat42 on the app and has “recipes” for piña colada water, Starbucks Pink Drink water, bubble gum water and more, and shares her weight-loss journey.
“Watching her videos, I thought, ‘I should try that,'” Staggs says. “I went and got the packets and different water flavors and just started making waters. Now I drink over 100 ounces of water a day.”
And she’s not alone. Jaycie Adamson, 24, also stumbled upon the trend on TikTok — and hasn’t looked back since.
Adamson had never been a big water drinker, she tells TODAY.com. When she saw the trend, she thought, “Hm, this could help me drink water but not have to add sugar or calories.” (Many of the popular flavorings are sugar- and calorie-free.) She drove 30 minutes to the closest Dollar General and bought flavoring packets to put in her Stanley tumbler.
“I’m usually so bad at drinking water but this has been so nice to just fill it up at my own house and make water flavor combination I want for the day,” she says. “Honestly, I haven’t made any that taste bad. They all taste wonderful.”
The best “recipe” she’s found so far is a combo of the Pink Starburst and Pink Nerds powdered drink mixes.
Through posting her own WaterTok videos, she says she’s also found a community. People will comment on her TikToks asking her to share more of her favorite flavor combinations.
“I can tell when a trend’s taken over and it definitely feels like that’s happening,” she says. “When a lot of people on Amazon start buying something, the price will change. I bought the cotton candy syrup on Amazon for $10 and now on Amazon it’s over $20.
For Hobbs, WaterTok has helped her cut back on sugary drinks. She would turn to drinks like loaded tea over plain water.
“I don’t even realize how much (water) I’m drinking now. And I feel so much better,” she says. “I haven’t had much caffeine since I’ve started drinking water because I think it just gives me like natural caffeine and just makes me feel better.”
A registered dietitian’s take on #WaterTok
Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, tells TODAY.com that, in general, anything that helps people drink more water is a positive thing — but there are a few caveats to that.
She loves that people are taking their hydration to the next level with this trend. But her No. 1 piece of advice is to stay away from artificially flavored and colored syrups.
“Since these TikToks feature sugar-free syrups, the influencers don’t seem to be adding sugar to their water,” she says. “However, I do think that making your water super sweet isn’t great in the long run as it may put you in the mindset that all beverages need to be overly sweet and flavored to be enjoyed.”
The first thing that Largeman-Roth thought of when she heard about WaterTok, she says, is Crystal Light.
She says that she remembers how popular it was in the ‘80s and ‘90s for moms looking to lose weight to add Pink Lemonade Crytal Light packets to their water — which is why this trend may reek of toxic diet culture.
“I feel like #WaterTok might be the 2023 answer to Crystal Light with people trying to have a pleasurable flavor experience without any calories or carbs (or very few),” she says.
“I think it’s gaining in popularity because lots of people know they should be drinking more water and fewer sweetened drinks like soda, but plain water feels boring to them.
“Plus, it’s a fun thing to make and drink! We went through a coffee phase and a mocktail phase, so it makes sense that as we head toward the summer, we’ll be going through a water phase.”
But while drinking water is important, so is monitoring the amount you consume.
Largeman-Roth says when you drink more water than your kidneys can process, it can lead to hyponatremia, or low sodium levels.
“Sodium is a mineral that is important for the functioning of our heart, so it needs to stay in balance,” she explains. “When we flood our systems with excessive amounts of water, low sodium levels can lead to low heart rate, confusion, drowsiness and headaches.”
The U.S. National Academy of Medicine suggests an adequate intake of daily fluids of about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) for men and about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) for women.
Largeman-Roth also warns that if an individual is dealing with disordered eating, they may lean in too drastically to this trend, using excessive water-drinking as a weight-loss tool to trick themselves into thinking they’re not hungry. Instead of allowing themselves to enjoy a banana split now and then, they’ll turn to “banana split water.”
“People definitely use coffee as a replacement for breakfast. Coffee is a beverage, not a meal. The same is true for flavored waters,” she says.
At the end of the day, Largeman-Roth will always encourage people to just drink plain water when they’re looking to hydrate. But, she says, adding ice — either plain or cubes of frozen lemon or watermelon juice — definitely helps to perk it up.
“Or go the au naturel route and make (water) with fresh fruit and herbs,” she says. “And if you’re working out a lot or just sweat a ton, adding a flavored hydration mix can be helpful in staying hydrated.”