Dear Cindy, I am dieting and need to lose about 15 pounds. How do you feel about drinking protein and vitamin water? Can they help? - Sheila Dear Sheila, I suppose it is reasonable to assume that if water is good for us, why not infuse it with other things we need so it is easier to become stronger, faster and thinner? Besides, it tastes better than boring old water and it's more attractive, too! Actually, I have received an excessive amount of questions surrounding the surge of new "enhanced" waters flooding the market, so it's obviously time to dive right into it. These redesigned waters are making a splash with consumers - most of whom are desperate to lose weight and improve health. The water makeovers include vitamin water, protein water, flavored waters and seem to fit right in with the concept of multitasking our nutrition and hydration. Let me distinguish the difference between these enhanced waters and sports drinks. Sports drinks have been part of an endurance athlete's hydration for a long time. They have proven to supply necessary carbohydrates when exercising for extended periods of time. The added electrolytes in these sports drinks are valuable. Sodium, the electrolyte lost in sweat during intense activity, helps maintain a fluid balance in your body. This promotes the uptake of fluid into the intestines, which improves hydration. While sports drinks have earned high marks in proper hydration, they are not necessary to everyone and certainly should not be the choice of hydration for nonexercisers or those exercising for short periods at a low intensity. Now since you asked, I refuse to give you a watered-down version of how I feel. I think they are a waste of your money and are, in fact, just one more reason why the obesity epidemic in this country isn't going away anytime soon. The idea of improving water is absurd! Oh sure, we want it pure, but that is all we should want of our water. We should not expect to get our vitamins and protein in our water. Vitamin water is fortified with various vitamins and other additives, including a sweetener that adds calories to your drink. If you're trying to lose weight, these calories (50 to 150 per drink) will only work against you. Furthermore, vitamin water gives you limited vitamins, which are not as effective the same ones eaten in fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Even advertising suggests that it is not a substitute for a multivitamin so obviously it is not the answer to your nutritional needs let alone your weight-loss desires. Protein water won't find its way into my shopping cart either. While it may have added protein to the water, it has also added sugar or artificial sweeteners and other additives including dyes. Both vitamin water and protein water are expensive, starting at $1.99 for 16-ounce bottle and going up. But aggressive advertising and product placement is trying very hard to make these waters a necessary part of your life. With their great distribution power, they have been successful at positioning these waters in the pharmacy aisles of grocery stores and the diet/nutrition aisle of drugstores. Here is a comparison of a protein water, regular old water and skim milk. Note that some protein waters contain even more sugar - up to 30 grams. -- Protein water has 50 calories, 5 grams of protein, 8 grams of sugar, 30 milligrams of sodium, zero grams of calcium and more than 10 ingredients. -- Regular old water has zero calories, zero grams of protein, zero grams of sugar, zero grams of sodium and one ingredient. -- Skim milk has 90 calories, 9 grams of protein, 12 grams of sugar, 130 milligrams of sodium, 306 grams of calcium and three ingredients (milk, vitamin A and D). Clearly, I think you will see it is impossible to improve upon water. Weight loss comes from eating a healthy diet and regular exercise. Now on to another concern I have with these enhanced waters. Does everything we drink need to have flavor? Does everything we drink have to be sweet? Whatever happened to adding a spritz of lemon to water? Why are we allowing the food industry to change the purpose of water and how it should taste? Why, indeed, when buying into this marketing campaign is shaping our children's tastes and teaching them that everything they drink must have a fruity flavor? Obesity is on the rise and it will continue to rise until we begin to understand that acquiring a craving for sweets is making us fat. There it is - my undiluted opinion. Enhanced water is a prime example of opportunistic sales marketing aimed at consumers, who have shown they will buy anything claiming to shortcut their way to weight loss or to better health especially if it is sweet! The fact that these enhanced waters are touted as shape-management tools targeting weight loss is all wet. I contend a better shape-management tool might be found in a good pair of shoes, a tennis racket, a basketball, a bicycle, a gym membership, a yoga DVD or even a Zumba class. I can guarantee these might actually manage to change the way your shape will look and feel. Seriously, the only way enhanced water is going to help you reach your weight-loss goals is when chlorine is added to it so you can jump in and swim a few laps. Cindy Boggs, fitness consultant, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified coordinator/instructor since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for her fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World" on her Web site www.cindysays.com or contact the YMCA at 340-3527.