You already know how important hydration is, but what you might not know is that there are drinks out there that can dehydrate you. It turns out not all liquids are created equal when it comes to getting quenched. Find out how caffeinated beverages, like coffee, alcohol and enhanced water measure up.
First Up, Coffee and Caffeinated Beverages
If you’re like most people, a warm cup of freshly brewed coffee is just what you need to get your day started. And, you’re in luck. Recent studies show that coffee consumed in moderation is just as hydrating as water. But don’t trade your water bottle for a hot cup of joe just yet.
According to Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert and author of Eating in Color, “If you drank only caffeinated beverages all day long, you would likely feel dehydrated by the end of the day.”
While coffee, tea and other caffeinated drinks (looking at you, Red Bull) do provide hydration, they’re not your best bet for staying hydrated. Because of their mild diuretic effect, you’ll urinate more, and your body is forced to get rid of water.
Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, and founder of Nutritious Life, advises to limit your caffeine intake to moderate amounts — about one to two cups per day to avoid dehydration. If you’re feeling irritable, shaky or having trouble sleeping or focusing, you’re likely downing too much caffeine.
What About Alcohol?
While a cold beer or fruity sangria might seem like a refreshing choice on a hot day, alcoholic drinks actually have the opposite effect. Like caffeinated beverages, alcohol is also a diuretic. So if you drink alcohol the night before a workout, it can affect your sports performance.
Largeman-Roth suggests limiting your alcoholic intake to one [drink] per day for women and two per day for men. You should also drink a glass of water in between drinks to stay hydrated and prevent a hangover. If you’ve had a few too many, some experts recommend drinking Pedialyte or another beverage with electrolytes to help replenish minerals and nutrients lost from vomiting and diarrhea.
You Can’t Beat Plain H20
When basic water gets old, going fruit-infused can be another good way to stay hydrated. You can also consider enhanced waters, like maple water, alkaline water and cactus water. But you’ll want to check the sugar content since those calories can add up (plus the verdict’s still out on the benefits of these sips). Coconut water, which is high in potassium, is also extremely hydrating, and skips the added sugar and mysterious ingredients in sports drinks. Glassman says, “A little bit goes a long way. You don’t need it every day, but if you just finished a serious sweat sesh, coconut water can be a good way to rehydrate.”
Still, nothing beats plain old H20 — especially when you consider cost and accessibility, Glassman says. For A+ hydration, Largeman-Roth recommends drinking eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses of water daily. Bonus points if you pack in plenty of water-rich foods, too.