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No, water is not the most hydrating drink

First choice is usually a glass of water but is it the most hydrating drink, as we have known so far? According to a study, it's not.

Health No water is not the most hydrating drink
New Delhi, First Published May 27, 2022, 4:10 AM IST

Heatwaves are unforgiving and one thing that we just cannot miss keeping with us at all times is a drink. No, I am not talking about a can of beer but any beverage that keeps you hydrated at all times. So which is the best drink to take when feeling thirsty and exhausted? The first choice is usually a glass of water but is it the most hydrating drink, as we have known so far? According to a study, it's not.

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The researchers, according to a CNN report, from Scotland's St. Andrews University compared the hydration responses of several different drinks and found that while water does a pretty decent job of hydrating the body fast but it doesn’t keep it hydrated for long. So what are the options? Beverages with a little bit of sugar, salt, fat or protein keep your body hydrated for a longer period.

Why water can't compensate for loaded beverages

One factor is the volume, according to Ronald Maughan, a professor at St Andrews' School of Medicine, who conducted this study. The more you drink, he said, the faster the drink empties from your stomach and gets absorbed into the bloodstream. There can dilute the body's fluids and hydrate you. A drink's nutrient composition is another factor that affects how well the beverage hydrates.

Which drinks hydrate you better?

Milk hydrates you far more than plain water because it contains sugar, sodium, lactose, some protein and some fat. All these nutrients help in slowing the emptying of fluid from the stomach and keep you hydrated for a longer period. The sodium in milk acts like a sponge and holds onto the water in the body resulting in less urination, the study said.

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Similarly, oral rehydration solutions that are used to treat diarrhoea also contain small amounts of sugar, sodium and potassium, which can also help promote water retention in the body.

Thumbs up for colas and fruit juices? Big NO

The study clearly says that beverages with more concentrated sugars, such as fruit juices or colas, are not as helpful as the ones with low sugar. 

These drinks may spend a little more time in the stomach and empty more slowly compared to plain water, but once these beverages enter the small intestine, the report says, a high concentration of sugars gets diluted during a physiological process called osmosis, and this process leads to ‘pulling’ of water from the body into the small intestine to dilute the extreme sugary drinks. 

Anything inside the intestine is outside your body, technically. Therefore, when there's a choice among colas, juice, and water, go for water because the first two are not only less hydrating but full of calories too. 

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What about alcohol?

Alcohol, according to the study, acts as a diuretic, which causes you to pass more urine. "Beer would result in less water loss than whiskey because you are ingesting more fluid with beer," Maughan said, adding that "Strong alcoholic drinks will dehydrate, dilute alcoholic drinks will not."

Can coffee help?

It depends on the amount of caffeine you consume. Regular coffee with about 80 milligrams of caffeine would hydrate you as good as water, according to the research. However, consuming more than 300mg of caffeine, roughly 2-4 cups could lead to loss of excess fluid as the caffeine causes a mild, short-term diuretic effect. 

Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 103, Issue 3, March 2016, Pages 717--723

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