The common belief is that water is the best thirst quencher. But drinks like milk, oral rehydration solutions, and even some fruit juices can help you stay hydrated for longer periods, finds a new study.
When you’re thirsty, reaching for a refreshing drink is usually the first thing on your mind. But what beverages are best at keeping you hydrated? As it turns out, plain water may not be your best bet as most of us came to believe particularly when weaning ourselves away from colas.
According to a new study from Scotland’s St. Andrews University that compared the hydration responses of different drinks, beverages with a little bit of sugar, fat, or protein are better at keeping you hydrated for longer. Although water, plain or sparkling, does a pretty good job of quickly hydrating the body, drinks like milk, oral rehydration solutions, and even some fruit juices can help you stay hydrated longer.
Ronald Maughan, a professor at St. Andrews’ School of Medicine and the author of the study, explains that two factors affect how well a drink hydrates your body. The volume of the drink plays a role, with larger amounts emptying from the stomach faster and getting absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly. The nutrient composition of a drink also matters, with milk being more hydrating than water due to its sugar, protein, and fat content. Milk also contains sodium, which helps retain water in the body and reduces urine production.
But what about other drinks? The researchers in this study tested 13 common beverages to see how they impacted hydration, and here are the results, ranked from most hydrating over a four-hour period to least:
Best to worst thirst quenchers
Oral rehydration solutions (like Pedialyte or Liquid I.V.)
While you might assume that sugary drinks like fruit juices or colas would be hydrating, they’re not necessarily the best choice. These drinks may empty more slowly from the stomach than plain water, but their high sugar concentration gets diluted during a process called osmosis, which can pull water from your body into your small intestine and reduce overall hydration. Plus, these drinks can be high in calories, making them less filling than solid foods.
While most people don’t need to worry too much about how hydrating their drinks are, athletes training in hot conditions or people working long hours without beverage breaks should pay close attention to their hydration levels. For these situations, the right drink can make all the difference.
As for alcoholic beverages, beer is a better choice for hydration than whiskey since it contains more fluid. Coffee, on the other hand, can be hydrating if consumed in moderation. A regular coffee with about 80 mg of caffeine is about as hydrating as water, but drinking more than 300 mg of caffeine could have a mild, short-term diuretic effect, causing you to lose excess fluid. Adding a little bit of milk to your coffee can help offset this effect.
Staying hydrated is crucial for our overall health, helping to keep our joints lubricated, prevent infections, and deliver nutrients to our cells. So, next time you’re thirsty, consider reaching for a hydrating drink like milk, oral rehydration solutions, or even a refreshing glass of orange juice. Your body will thank you for it!
Photo courtesy Nicole Calmet for Unspalsh