Water is known to be the source of life. Whenever we’re feeling under the weather, the number one tip that’s repeated to us is to keep our bodies hydrated. Well, according to a study completed by St. Andrew’s University in Scotland, water isn’t even the most hydrating beverage compared to other drinks hydration responses in the human body.
The research showed that beverages that contain a little bit of sugar, fat, or protein do a better job than water at keeping us hydrated for longer periods of time. It’s all about the bodies natural response to certain drinks compared to others. The volume of the drink, for example, is a major factor. Obviously with water, and drinks in general, the more you drink, the faster it empties from your stomach and into your bladder, and the faster our bloodstream absorbs the hydration.
Nutritional composition is the main factor that determines how hydrating a beverage is. For example, the study found that milk contains little amounts of sugar, protein and fat, these three components make milk even more hydrating than plain water because it causes it to stay in your system for a longer period of time, prolonging the length of time your body is being hydrated. The protein, sugar, and fat found in milk has a more complex molecular composition, which causes our bodies to process and digest it for a longer period of time. Water is simply hydrogen and oxygen, hence why it goes through our body so easily. It’s simple composition quickly tells our body what to absorb into our bloodstream and what to send out. The official research from St. Andrews University came to the official conclusion below, which is provided by CNN.
“The research team at St. Andrews University tested 13 common beverages to see how they impact hydration. Here’s what they found, ranked from most hydrating over a four-hour period to least.
- Skim milk
- Oral re-hydration solutions (like Pedialyte or Liquid I.V.)
- Full fat milk
- Orange juice
- Diet Cola
- Cold tea
- Sports drink
- Still water
- Sparkling water
“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 and personal trainer, also to CNN.
However, don’t let these results fool you, just because certain beverages are more “hydrating” for a fixed amount of time compared to water, that doesn’t mean that they’re better for you. For example, some of the beverages listed above water, such as Cola, sports drinks, and orange juice, contain concentrated sugars that actually take longer for the body to process. Once these sugars enter into our intestines, the water that was absorbed from the same beverage the sugars came from, is used to dilute and break down the sugar molecules to be absorbed. So your body is essentially dehydrating through hydration.
It’s important to point out that the list above does not mean that things like juice and soda are better for your body to absorb when you need hydration. The hydration process is a lot more intense and prolonged with the beverages listed above water, but it’s a give and take. The fact is these beverages can help ASSIST with hydration and keeping your body consistently hydrated through the day, but water is always going to be your best bet.
It’s the same thing with the coffee and alcoholic beverages on the list. Alcohol and caffeine both are diuretics, which means it will cause you to pass more urine more often. So both of these drinks work the same way that a juice would. In moderation, they can help your body sufficiently and slowly absorb the water components in them, but in excess, you’ll be expelling liquids so often from your body that you’re actually going to lose hydration through the dilution process your body will go through from digesting so many complex beverage molecules.
To conclude – water is your best friend and will always keep your body properly hydrated and functioning. However, if you’re tired of having to drink eight glasses a day, thus leading to an endless cycle of going to the bathroom every 45 minutes, there are definitely hydrating alternatives that you should feel free to treat yourself to, without feeling so guilty about the extra sugar.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.