The Best (and Worst) Drinks to Keep You Hydrated
Sick of water, but still want the best hydration? Here's what you should be drinking.
We all know we’re supposed to drink lots of water. But that can be hard to do when water tastes so… Watery. Luckily, it’s possible to get hydration from a variety of drinks, but we have to be careful that we’re not having too much of the ones that dehydrate.
That’s right: Some liquids actually encourage more water to leave your body. Plus a lot of tasty drinks include too much of things you’re looking to limit or cut out altogether, like sugar, carbs and a bunch of calories. Our list will help you determine which are the best hydration drinks—and which beverages to avoid. (Find out more surprising health benefits of staying hydrated.)
The Best Hydration Drinks
Curious to see which beverages are the best for keeping enough fluid in you? The first three are hands-down your best hydration drink choices; the rest are nice supplements.
Surprised? Plain water is the best way to hydrate, no second guessing necessary. (Here’s what happens when you start drinking eight glasses of water a day.)
Because it’s so much thicker than water, you might think that milk could dehydrate, but studies have repeatedly shown that’s not the case. In addition to calcium and vitamin D, milk contains protein to keep you fueled on even the hottest of days, another thing water can’t do. Milk: It’s not just for kids.
If it’s hard for you to drink plain water all day, infusing your water with fruit is a healthy way to add flavour without adding excess sugar. Our favourite combinations? Try adding lime and basil, or cucumber with mint.
Fruit juice contains about 85 per cent water, which makes it super hydrating (just make sure you’re picking 100 per cent fruit juice). The vitamins within natural fruits are also healthy. Be mindful of the sugar content, though, as juices can be packed with added sugars, which can inhibit hydration. If you’re drinking a lot of fruit juice, water it down.
OK, so this isn’t a drink… But every time you eat watermelon, you’re retaining 92 per cent of the liquid you’re eating. That’s better than fruit juice!
Advertisements rave about the hydrating power of sports drinks, like Gatorade, which made us suspicious… But they’re actually onto something. The electrolytes, a science-y word for salts, in sports drinks can make hydration more effective. (Not to be too gross, but you know how sweat’s kinda salty? You want to add that back into your body.) Sports drinks also taste more flavourful than water, so they’re easier to drink quickly for those who force themselves to hydrate or who need quick hydration, like athletes. Again, watch the sugar and carb content, especially if you’re not working out. Unless you’re running a marathon, one rehydration drink is probably enough.
Caffeine-free teas are great, especially if it’s just an infusion of leaves in hot water. It doesn’t matter whether it’s herbal, black, green or chamomile; hot or cold—tea is just about as hydrating as water. Tea is also packed with antioxidants. While the best option might be to avoid caffeine in general (it’s a diuretic, meaning it dehydrates), drinking even regular tea in moderation will help you reach your daily goal. Check out more incredible health benefits of green tea.
Coconut water boasts 95 per cent water content, which is better than fruit juice. It’s also typically healthier than juices and sports drinks when it comes to sugar content and added ingredients, but be sure to check the label. (Here’s how to read nutrition labels like a pro.)
Photo: Sanina Natasha / Shutterstock.com
The Worst Hydration Drinks
Sneaky fact: Some liquids can actually work against your hydration goals. Make sure you’re not reaching for any of these beverages next time you’re thirsty—they only dehydrate your body!
Soft drinks often contain caffeine, which is a culprit for dehydration; tons of sugar and sodium; and it’s bad for your bones and teeth, too. Although just about anything in moderation is fine, grabbing a diet cola when you’re thirsty might not do much to help. Swap out soda for sparkling water if you love that carbonation while still giving your body the fluids it needs. (Find out exactly how sugar is making you sick.)
Consuming any kind of liquor removes water from your tissues, meaning you have to drink even more water to offset the effects. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the alcohol content, the more dehydrating your drink is. If you want to avoid dehydration, have a low-alcohol light beer.
Wine and hard liquor
Any alcoholic drink over 10 per cent alcohol strength is a dehydrator, which means more of the liquid will leave your system than be absorbed. Most wines have around 12 per cent, so they’re better than hard liquors (37 per cent) but worse than beer (4-5 per cent). Once again, we advise moderation. (Here’s what happens when you drink a glass of wine every night.)
Cocktails with hard liquors, like vodka and rum, can be deceiving, especially if the recipes also include soda or fruit juice. Keep yourself hydrated by always drinking one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you have—and consider switching to something less potent (like beer or wine).
The bad news? One cup of hot chocolate contains more sugar and calories than a can of soda, dehydrating your system. The good news? You’re probably not drinking this in the summer, when it’s most important to consciously hydrate. In the winter, people tend to eat more soups and stews, which offer hydration, so having the occasional hot cocoa isn’t going to hurt.
In moderation, coffee isn’t too bad, but once you go past that second cup, your body really starts to suffer. Drinking more than 200-300 milligrams of caffeine—the amount in two to three cups of coffee—has been shown to lead to dehydration. To keep yourself safe, switch to decaf or limit yourself to a cup or two. Bonus: Less coffee can make you less anxious. Learn to spot the signs you’re drinking too much coffee.
Although the sweet-and-sour flavour can be tempting in the heat, lemonade is packed with sugars that don’t offer much toward your body’s needs. Swap this out for water infused with lemon slices and you’ll feel much healthier.
Sweetened iced tea
This staple screams summer, but when it comes to hydration, it’s not so sweet. The amount of added sugar in this drink cancels out any benefits that come with tea’s antioxidants, so it’s more like a dessert than a drink. That doesn’t mean you can’t drink it… It just means you have to drink plenty of water with it, too.
Packed with caffeine, fake sugars and complicated chemicals, energy drinks are not hydrating. If you’re looking to energize while still getting in more liquids, we suggest tea.
White milk on its own is totally fine, but you start to add unnecessary sugars when you throw flavours in there. Avoid chocolate, strawberry and vanilla milks and stick to good old-fashioned plain until you’re fully hydrated.
Fruit is healthy to eat on its own, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Smoothies pack more fruit (read: more naturally-occurring sugar) into your drinks than you’d think. Add that to the thick consistency and you may have a recipe for dehydration. That’s not to discount the other health benefits of smoothies, though. They’re great to refuel after exercise or kick-starting your day with a dose of vitamins. If you want to up the hydration factor, an easy solution is to double the amount of ice in your recipe. This will water down the drink without changing the taste too much.
Now that you know the worst hydration drinks, find out exactly how much water you should be drinking.