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Sunday Musings: Which Bev Would You Hydrate With?

The current heatwaves affecting most of the world have raised a pressing question: Which beverage is best for replacing your water and electrolytes? Hint: It’s not what you think. And it’s probably not your second choice, either…

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The medical community and dieticians have been telling us for years to make Water our drink of choice. There are lots of reasons to accept that recommendation. And it’s become a common belief that water is your best choice to stay hydrated in the heat. But the last decade or so has raised doubts about that. But folks who champion sports drinks like Gatorade have always disputed the supremacy of water as a hydrator.

Think again…

Dr. Ronald Maughan, a professor at St. Andrews’ School of Medicine, says they’re both wrong. After a study of more than a dozen common beverages, Maughan and his colleagues came to an different conclusion.

While Sports Drinks may be a great choice for active athletes, they’re hydration overkill for the average person. And they cost a lot.

What they did

Maughan and his team considered the hydration value of a variety of beverages including: plain Water, Coffee, Stronger Alcoholic drinks, Beer, Fruit Juice and Soda. They offer the following observations:

  • Drink a lot to optimize hydration. The more you drink, the faster it moves out of the stomach and down the digestive tract and can be absorbed.
  • Beverages with a little sugar and protein, along with vital minerals and vitamins are ideal for hydration.
  • Drinks with higher concentrations of sugar, like soda and juices, are less effective hydrators.
  • Alcohol, Tea and Coffee (all types) are dehydrators. They cause you to produce more urine, which purges water from your system.
  • If you must drink alcohol, stick to beer. It makes you lose less through urination and provides a greater volume of water. Still not a great hydration solution.
  • “If you’re thirsty, your body will tell you to drink more,” Maughan says. Simple as that. No need to wonder if you’re sufficiently hydrated or not.

But what’s the best hydrator?

What do you get when you add vitamins and minerals, a little fat and a little sugar to water? Milk.

Milk contains ingredients that help keep you hydrated longer. It also contains sodium, which ‘acts like a sponge’ keeping water in your system longer.

The takeaway

“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,” says Melissa Majumdar, a registered dietitian not connected to the study.

My take

I have one complaint about taking Milk as a hydrator: The chalky taste. For me to stomach a lot of Milk, it has to be literally ice cold. But I’ll default to water after I’ve had all the milk I can take. Nothing refreshes me like a slug of ice cold water…

How about you?

Muse on that…

~ Maggie J.