Healthier Living

What Is The Best Way To Hydrate? (Mini Series Part 2)

Miriam Alter, RDN July 31, 2023

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Drinking enough water is important. We got that.

However, outside of water there are plenty of other fluids. What is the best way to hydrate?

We will review some (but not all) categories of drinks, and ask: Does this drink provide hydration? Does this drink provide energy? Does this drink provide nutrients?

Since my focus in this mini-series is on hydration and how to best hydrate, that will be the main focus as we answer these questions.

Category #1: Plain Water

Just plain water definitely provides hydration to the body. Your body can basically use it as you drink it for different body functions, making it a very efficient source of hydration. When you drink water, you are not increasing energy intake. Thus, water is the optimal way to hydrate for the general population. I advise my clients to aim for at least half of fluid intake to be plain water, if drinking enough with only water is too challenging.

Category #2: No-Calorie Drinks

These are drinks that are similar to plain water in that they do not provide energy (calories) to the body, however they are sweetened or flavored with different additives. Examples include but are not limited to diet sodas, diet sports drinks, coffees without sugar/creamer, teas. In all fairness, these drinks should not be all in one category as they behave differently in your body. In addition, no one can argue that diet soda can provide health benefits, but many argue that coffee/tea do provide health benefits. In terms of hydration for the general population, however, all these drinks can provide necessary fluids for your body to function, though not as well or efficiently as water does.

Category #3: Drinks That Do Provide Energy

Drinks in this category include milk, juice, and sweetened beverages. Again, it is not a fair characterization as milk is qualitatively different to juice or soda. Oh, the pitfalls of stereotyping! To milk drinkers, I would say- milk is a great meal. Treat is as a delicious, healthy, food, not as a drink. Other sweetened drinks are not offering you very much at all in terms of nutrients, and overconsumption can lead to deleterious health effects. For the healthy population, they are not worth drinking for hydration purposes.

Category #4: Alcoholic Beverages

Alcoholic beverages are very energy-dense. People are surprised to learn that actual alcohol contains more calories per gram than sugar, and many alcoholic beverages contains large amounts of both. In addition, the metabolism of alcohol is toxic to the body and so the body prioritizes digesting and ridding the body of the substance, which can lead to malnutrition. Thus, alcohol is a treat food but not a hydrating drink.

There you have it! As we get closer to Tisha B’Av, make sure to keep drinking hydrating liquids.