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Home > Learn > Nutrition > >What Hydrates Better Than Water?

What Hydrates Better Than Water?

Apr 26, 23 8 min

By Dr. Kenosha Gleaton, OBGYN

Water is necessary for all life, and drinking plenty of water is necessary for staying adequately hydrated. Are there other fluids that are more hydrating than water? Let’s discuss.

Why hydration is so important

Staying hydrated is often the first piece of advice given to help prevent or manage various conditions, including hangovers, headaches, acne, the common cold, and so on. It’s true that drinking enough water is vital for the health of our cells and organs and can provide many other benefits. We know that water helps us regulate body temperature, prevents infections, keeps our joints lubricated, and some data even suggests that being well hydrated can lead to a healthier, longer life. [1-2]

A study found that well-hydrated people tend to develop fewer chronic conditions and are less likely to show signs of advanced biological aging than those with higher serum sodium levels. [2] Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance have also been shown to negatively impact fertility and pregnancy outcomes. [3-4] This goes to show that hydration really does play a huge role in our health and wellness, and it’s not just about how much water you drink. Read about the Importance of Hydration During Pregnancy and Staying Hydrated While Breastfeeding.

The role of water and electrolytes 

Proper hydration is about more than just water; electrolytes are also an important part of the conversation. When minerals such as potassium, magnesium, sodium, and others are dissolved, they become electrolytes. [5] These are necessary for the body to be able to use water properly as they play an important role in chemical reactions and balancing fluid levels throughout the different cells, tissues, and organs in the body. [5-6]

It’s possible to have an electrolyte imbalance, which is when there is either too many or not enough minerals in the body. This is most likely to happen from a loss of bodily fluids, but can also be caused by drinking too much water and not replacing electrolytes quickly enough. [7]  To support electrolyte balance, make sure you’re eating a balanced diet and replenishing fluids regularly, especially when exercising or experiencing vomiting or diarrhea. Taking a multivitamin regularly is another great way to ensure you’re getting an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals. 

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6 hydrating drinks that aren’t water

The addition of drinks such as juice, teas, and sports drinks can be a great way to support hydration and electrolyte balance. Whether you’re sick of drinking plain water or wanting some healthier alternatives to sodas, here are a few hydrating drink options. 

Sports drinks

There are mixed feelings about sports drinks being used for hydration, primarily because some brands tend to have high sugar content. Data does show that some sports drinks can be especially beneficial for athletes and others exercising or otherwise losing large amounts of bodily fluids. [8] When used by the target audience, sports drinks can be a great way to quickly replenish fluids, electrolytes, and carbohydrates. These may be a good option from time to time when you’re looking for an alternative to water, but it’s not recommended that sports drinks be consumed regularly. [8]

Electrolyte mixes

Electrolyte drinks can vary widely. Some may think of sports drinks, but there are a lot of other electrolyte options available that don’t include a lot of added sugars and are specifically designed to add electrolytes to your water. Hydration & Energy Electrolyte Drink Mix contains vital electrolytes including sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and hyaluronic acid to support hydration. This drink mix is also sugar free, pregnancy safe, and caffeine free, supporting energy levels through B12.

Coconut water

Coconut water is an excellent source of natural electrolytes like potassium, sodium, chloride, and carbohydrates. [9] Be sure you’re looking for added ingredients and aren’t choosing a product with a lot of added sugars. Not only is coconut water a great source of electrolytes, but it has antioxidant properties that protect cells against free radicals (which can appear as a result of long duration exercise). [9]

Herbal teas

Another great option for hydration is herbal tea. Not only does tea have a high water content, but different types of tea can provide benefits such as supporting gut health, supporting energy levels, and even protecting against heart disease. [10] Tea consumption has also been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, and antiviral properties. [11]

Smoothies and juice

Fruit juices and smoothies (especially when all natural) have high water contents and are great sources of vitamins and minerals. It’s important to keep an eye out for any added sugars which can take away from their high nutritional value. Drinks such as orange juice, green juices, citrus fruits, berries, and more contain antioxidants, minerals such as potassium, and plenty of vitamins as well. [12]

Milk and dairy alternatives

Many of us know that milk is a great source of calcium, vitamin D, protein, and other nutrients. There are also some fortified milk alternatives that can provide essential nutrients, such as soy milk, oat milk, or almond milk. Research shows that milk (particularly skim milk) aids in hydration as well. [13] This is because of the protein, sodium, lactose, and fat in milk that help aid in water retention. 

Hydrating foods

Another great way to support hydration levels is by consuming foods with a high water content. Some great examples include citrus fruits, zucchini, soup, cucumbers, melons, and more. 

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What hydrates better than water?

So out of all the different hydration options, do any actually hydrate better than water? There isn’t enough evidence to suggest that any beverage, including milk, is more hydrating than water. [14] We do know that electrolytes are necessary for proper hydration, so eating a balanced diet, taking a multivitamin, and occasionally adding in drinks such as fruit juices, milk, electrolyte drinks, and more can all help with electrolyte balance and overall hydration. For specific recommendations on hydration, water intake, or diet (especially when pregnant or breastfeeding), speak to your healthcare provider. 

The best way to prevent dehydration

Dehydration can have severe negative effects on your health, so it’s important to stay on top of your water and electrolyte intake to prevent it from happening. The best way to treat and prevent dehydration is by regularly consuming hydrating drinks and foods and knowing the early signs and symptoms of dehydration. Look out for strong smelling or dark urine, constipation, and feelings of thirst. Severe dehydration can also cause symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, abnormal pulse, and decreased urine output. [15] 

Some people may be at a higher risk of dehydration, including the elderly, babies and infants, athletes, and anyone with diabetes, kidney or liver disease, or alcoholism. 

Key takeaways

  • Proper water intake helps regulate body temperature, prevents infections, lubricates joints, and some data even suggests that being well hydrated can lead to a healthier, longer life. 
  • When minerals such as potassium, magnesium, sodium, and others are dissolved, they become electrolytes.
  • Electrolytes play an important role in chemical reactions and balancing fluid levels.
  • A few hydrating drinks outside of water include electrolyte drinks, sports drinks, fruit juices, tea, coconut water, and milk.
  • There is not enough evidence to support any fluid being more hydrating than water, but we do know that some drinks such as milk can aid in water retention.
  • It’s important to prioritize water as your main source of fluids, but it can be helpful to add in fruit juices, coconut water, electrolyte mixes, and more for hydrating alternatives. 

 

References:

  1. The importance of hydration. Harvard School of Public Health. Accessed April 17 2023. URL
  2. Dmitrieva NI, Gagarin A, Liu D, Wu CO, Boehm M. Middle-age high normal serum sodium as a risk factor for accelerated biological aging, chronic diseases, and premature mortality. EBioMedicine. 2023;87:104404. doi:10.1016/j.ebiom.2022.104404
  3. Gałęska E, Wrzecińska M, Kowalczyk A, Araujo JP. Reproductive Consequences of Electrolyte Disturbances in Domestic Animals. Biology (Basel). 2022;11(7):1006. Published 2022 Jul 3. doi:10.3390/biology11071006
  4. Mulyani EY, Hardinsyah, Briawan D, Santoso BI, Jus'at I. Effect of dehydration during pregnancy on birth weight and length in West Jakarta. J Nutr Sci. 2021;10:e70. Published 2021 Aug 27. doi:10.1017/jns.2021.59
  5. National Research Council (US) Committee on Diet and Health. Diet and Health: Implications for Reducing Chronic Disease Risk. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1989. 15, Electrolytes. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK218740/
  6. Popkin BM, D'Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration, and health. Nutr Rev. 2010;68(8):439-458. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
  7. Peechakara BV, Gupta M. Water Toxicity. [Updated 2022 Jun 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537231/
  8. Sports Drinks. Harvard. The Nutrition Source. Accessed April 2023. URL
  9. Kalman DS, Feldman S, Krieger DR, Bloomer RJ. Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012;9(1):1. Published 2012 Jan 18. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-1
  10. Healthy Beverage Guidelines. Harvard. The Nutrition Source. Accessed April 17 2023. URL
  11. Serafini M, Del Rio D, Yao DN, et al. Health Benefits of Tea. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 12. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92768/
  12. Gutierrez E, Metcalfe JJ, Prescott MP. The Relationship between Fluid Milk, Water, and 100% Juice and Health Outcomes among Children and Adolescents. Nutrients. 2022;14(9):1892. Published 2022 Apr 30. doi:10.3390/nu14091892
  13. Ronald J Maughan, Phillip Watson, Philip AA Cordery, Neil P Walsh, Samuel J Oliver, Alberto Dolci, Nidia Rodriguez-Sanchez, Stuart DR Galloway, A randomized trial to assess the potential of different beverages to affect hydration status: development of a beverage hydration index, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 103, Issue 3, March 2016, Pages 717–723, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.115.114769
  14. Shmerling R. When replenishing fluids, does milk beat water? Harvard Health Publishing. November 14 2022. URL
  15. Dehydration. NHS Inform. Updated Feb 13 2023. URL

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