Does water carry any calories?

Water is an essential nutrient that makes up about 60% of our body weight. It is critical for many body functions including temperature regulation, nutrient transportation, waste removal, and more. But one question that often comes up is whether water contains any calories. The quick answer is no, pure water does not contain any calories or macronutrients like protein, carbs or fat. However, there are some exceptions that we’ll cover in more detail below.

The Basics of Water and Calories

First, let’s review some basic information about water and calories:

  • Calories are a measure of energy found in food and beverages.
  • The main sources of calories are carbohydrates, protein, fat, and alcohol.
  • Pure, plain water contains no carbohydrates, protein, fat or alcohol and therefore has zero calories.
  • One gram of carbohydrates or protein contains 4 calories. One gram of fat contains 9 calories.
  • Calories in food and drinks come from ingredients other than pure water.

So in its pure form, water does not contain calories or macronutrients. The USDA National Nutrient Database lists the calorie content of water as zero.1 Whether it’s tap water, filtered water, or mineral water, as long as no other ingredients are added, the water itself provides no calories.

Does Sparkling Water Have Calories?

What about seltzer, sparkling water, tonic water, club soda, or mineral water? Do those carbonated waters contain calories?

The answer again is no. These types of waters contain carbon dioxide bubbles but no additional sweeteners, flavorings, or nutrients. Therefore, plain carbonated water is also calorie-free.

Some people find the sensation of carbonation filling. But the carbon dioxide itself does not contain any calories, so sparkling waters are still a zero-calorie option.

Flavored & Vitamin Waters

Flavored waters and vitamin waters do contain additional ingredients, so they may also contain calories.

Flavored waters have extra natural or artificial flavors added like fruit juices, extracts, or sweeteners. These flavorings add taste but also additional calories. For example, a bottle of fruit-flavored water could have 80-120 calories.

Vitamin waters include added vitamins, minerals, supplements, and sometimes sweeteners. These enhanced ingredients mean vitamin waters will have some calories, but less than juice or soda. A typical 20oz vitamin water may have 50-100 calories.

The calorie content of flavored or vitamin waters varies by brand. Be sure to read nutrition labels to get the full calorie profile.

Sports Drinks

What about sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade? Do they contain calories?

Yes, typical sports drinks do provide calories, but they are lower in calories than soda. The calories come from the carbohydrates added to sports drinks.

Here are some typical calorie counts for popular sports drink brands:2

Sports Drink Serving Size Calories
Gatorade 20 oz 130
Gatorade G2 20 oz 45
Powerade 20 oz 125
Powerade Zero 20 oz 0

Sports drinks provide a way to hydrate and replace electrolytes lost through sweating during exercise. But the standard versions also add extra carbohydrate calories for energy. There are lower-calorie or zero-calorie options if you want to avoid the extra calories while still getting electrolytes.

Juice and Soda

For comparison, let’s look at the calorie content of some other common beverages besides water:

  • Fruit juice – 110-210 calories per 8oz
  • Vegetable juice – 45-110 calories per 8oz
  • Soda – 90-150 calories per 12oz can
  • Sweet tea – 135 calories per 12oz glass
  • Lemonade – 120-180 calories per 12oz glass

These beverages get their calories from natural sugars or added sweeteners. Even natural fruit juices are high in calories because of their carbohydrate and sugar content.

So if you’re aiming to cut calories, plain or sparkling waters are always the lowest calorie options.

Exceptions Where Water May Have Calories

Up until now we’ve established that pure, plain water does not contain calories. However, there are some rare exceptions where water may provide calories:

Mineral Water with Carbs/Protein

In some parts of the world, mineral water may naturally contain small amounts of carbohydrates and protein, leading to 2-3 calories per liter. These come from traces of minerals absorbed from the surrounding rock.

A bottle with 2.5mg of carbohydrates and 125mg of calcium for example might have 11kJ (3 calories) of energy.3

However, these trace levels are negligible. Essentially, mineral water can still be considered zero calories for all practical purposes.

Liquid Water Enhancers

Some liquid water enhancers, which are squirted into water to add flavor, do contain calories. For example, Mio Liquid Enhancer provides about 5 calories per 1 tsp serving.

Check the labels on these products to see if they contribute anything other than flavor.

Hard Water

Hard water has high mineral content including calcium and magnesium. Research has found that hard water may provide up to 9mg per liter of absorbed calcium and magnesium.4

So in a 2 liter bottle, hard water could theoretically provide around 18 calories. However again, this trace calorie amount is negligible.

High Mineral Ice

In rare cases, ice made from water high in dissolved minerals may also contain traces of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. For example, some ice derived from glacial water or icebergs could provide a few calories per serving.5

But for standard ice cubes made from tap or filtered water, it can be considered calorie-free.

Weight Loss Benefits of Water

Drinking more water, especially in place of sweetened beverages, can provide many benefits for weight loss and overall health. Some reasons to drink water for weight loss include:

  • Zero calories – unlike juice, soda, alcohol which add lots of empty calories
  • Increases metabolism and fat burning – especially cold water
  • Suppresses appetite – helps you feel full
  • Aids digestion and elimination – prevents constipation
  • Improves workout performance – keeps you hydrated
  • Healthier skin, hair, nails – keeps your body functioning properly

Replacing even one sugary drink with water each day can lead to substantial calorie savings over time. Drinking water, whether plain, sparkling, or mineral provides the most hydration with the least amount of calories.

Should You Drink Water Before Meals?

One frequently asked question is whether drinking water before meals can aid in weight loss. Research shows it may help:

  • Drinking water before a meal can help you eat less overall at that meal. One study found drinking 500mL of water before each meal led to 44% greater weight loss over 12 weeks.6
  • Drinking cold water raises your resting energy expenditure. One study found that drinking 500mL of cold water increased resting metabolism by up to 30% for 60 minutes afterward.7
  • Cold water and other zero calorie beverages may also lead to burning slightly more calories, although the effect is small. One study found drinking 500mL of water increased calorie expenditure by just 4.5 calories.8

Overall, research shows pre-meal water consumption can aid weight loss, especially when combined with an overall healthy diet and exercise regimen.

Tips to Drink More Water

Here are some tips to help you drink more water throughout the day:

Carry a Reusable Water Bottle

Having water readily available makes you much more likely to drink it. Carry a BPA-free reusable water bottle with you whenever you leave home.

Set Hourly Reminders

Set a reminder on your phone, watch, or calendar to drink water at regular intervals, say every 1-2 hours.

Infuse Fruit Flavors

Add sliced fruit like lemon, lime, orange or watermelon to your water for a hint of flavor.

Try Sparkling Water

The bubbles can make plain water more interesting. Just avoid heavily sweetened varieties.

Replace Sugary Drinks

Swap out soda, juice or coffee with water whenever possible to avoid excess calories.

Drink Before Meals

Have 1-2 glasses of water 30 minutes before meals to aid digestion and weight loss.

Set Daily Goals

Aim to drink 8 glasses or 2 liters of water per day as a goal.

Risks of Drinking Too Much Water

Consuming adequate water each day is essential for health. However, it is possible to overdo it. Drinking an excessive amount can negatively affect sodium levels in the blood leading to a dangerous condition called hyponatremia.

Health experts recommend getting around 2 liters (68oz) of total fluids per day from water, other beverages and food.9 Intakes above 3-4 liters per day could be dangerous.

Sticking to recommended guidelines for total water intake is the safest approach for most people.


In summary, plain drinking water contains zero calories and is an excellent no-calorie beverage choice. Sparkling mineral water, seltzer and unsweetened coffee and tea are also virtually calorie-free.

Flavored waters, vitamin waters, juices and sodas contain more calories, so water is the best option for hydration without extra calories. Drinking water, especially before meals, can aid in weight loss and provide many health benefits.

While water itself doesn’t provide calories, getting enough fluid intake from water and other beverages is a key part of any healthy diet.

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