When it comes to staying hydrated, many people wonder if their morning cup of Joe will contribute to their fluid needs, or if they’ll have to drink extra water to make up for it. Fortunately, studies have shown that caffeinated beverages can indeed be counted toward our daily fluid intake.
Yes, despite what you may have even been told by well-meaning members of the medical community, caffeinated beverages are not dehydrating. Only alcoholic beverages are dehydrating, causing the body to lose more fluid than was taken in. Though caffeine is a weak diuretic, the fluid provided by caffeinated beverages and the body’s ability to adapt to caffeine consumption virtually eliminates any diuretic impact made by the caffeine.
How do we know? Studies that have evaluated urinary markers of hydration have shown that drinking caffeinated beverages does not increase 24-hour urinary output (read: how much you tinkle in 24 hours), even with intake upwards of 500-600 mg per day (equivalent to 4-7 cups of coffee). In individuals unaccustomed to drinking caffeinated beverages, short term urinary output may increase slightly in the hours just following caffeine consumption. The body, however, is quick to adapt to caffeine intake, usually within 3 days.
Of course, not all caffeinated beverages are created equal. Many naturally caffeinated beverages, namely coffee and tea, are rich in antioxidants and have been shown to have health-protective benefits in many cases. Energy drinks, on the other hand, should generally be avoided. Though their caffeine content is typically similar to a cup of coffee, energy drinks often contain other unregulated herbs and supplements that may be unsafe. They are also frequently high in sugar with little in the way of vitamins or minerals.
Certainly it is important to drink a variety of beverages. Water is always an excellent choice. Adding such beverages as milk and 100% juice not only contribute to hydration status, but also provide important nutrients. Sports drinks can provide much needed electrolytes during exercise as well as for those struggling with diarrhea or vomiting.
There are occasions when caffeine should be avoided. Individuals with high blood pressure or who are pregnant should speak with their health care provider before drinking caffeinated beverages. Consuming high levels of caffeine is also associated with feeling shaky, jittery, and anxious as well as interfering with sleep. Some individuals report an increase in headache and migraine activity when caffeine has been consumed and many people have experienced the infamous ‘caffeine withdrawal’ headache when regular caffeine intake is abruptly stopped.
Though caffeinated beverages may contribute to your fluid needs, the decision to drink such beverages is yours. Consider how they make you feel and if they cause any unwanted side effects. There is no need to add these beverages if you have no desire to. Otherwise, enjoy that morning latte knowing you’ll be getting hydration along with that pick-me-up!