Which Beverages Are Best For Hydration? (It’s Not Just Water)

According to a study from Scotland’s St. Andrews University that compared the hydration responses of several different drinks, water isn’t the most hydrating beverage you can consume.

The researchers agreed that water does a great job of hydrating your body quickly, but beverages with a little bit of sugar, fat or protein do an even better job of keeping us hydrated for a longer period of time.

According to Ronald Maughan, a professor at St. Andrews’ School of Medicine and the study’s author, the more you drink, the faster the drink empties from your stomach and gets absorbed into the bloodstream, so it can hydrate you. Another factor is how well a beverage hydrates in relation to a its nutrient composition.

Milk is even more hydrating than plain water because it contains sugar lactose, some protein and some fat, all of which help to slow the emptying of fluid from the stomach and keep hydration over a longer period of time. The sodium in milk also acts as a sponge to hold onto water in the body.

“This study tells us much of what we already knew: Electrolytes — like sodium and potassium — contribute to better hydration, while calories in beverages result in slower gastric emptying and therefore slower release of urination,” said Melissa Majumdar, a registered dietitian, personal trainer and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Juice and soda are less hydrating and also contain empty calories and a plethora of sugar explained Majumdar. If the choice is between soda and water for hydration, go with water every time. Our kidneys and liver depend on water to get rid of toxins in our bodies, and water also plays a key role in keeping skin clear and supple.

“If you’re thirsty, your body will tell you to drink more,” Maughan said.

Alcohol is one of the worst drinks when it comes to hydration.

“Beer would result in less water loss than whiskey, because you are ingesting more fluid with beer,” Maughan said. “Strong alcoholic drinks will dehydrate, dilute alcoholic drinks will not.”

A regular coffee with about 80 milligrams of caffeine — roughly what you would find in 12 oz. of Folgers’ house blend — would be pretty much as hydrating as water, according to Maughan’s research. 2-4 cups of coffee would result in a diuretic effect.

Next time you are thirsty, consider the fact that there are actually more options than just H2O.