This Unexpected Drink Can Actually Decrease Hydration

Most people will reach for their preferred beverage when they're thirsty, but keeping your body hydrated goes well beyond thirst. Hydration plays a key role in your digestion, so you might notice your system is out of whack when you're dehydrated. Water lubricates your joints and keeps your body temperature cool in the heat. A dehydrated body is often tired because it needs to work harder to move oxygen to your brain and the rest of your body. Being slightly dehydrated can cause your brain to struggle with concentration and memory (per the National Council on Aging).

While the common recommendation is to drink eight glasses of water each day, some people need more and others need less according to how much you exercise, whether you live in a hot or humid climate, or if you have a certain health condition, according to the Mayo Clinic. Men need more than 15 cups of fluid a day, and women need about 11. Remember that 20% of your hydration can come from food.

Most fluids can meet your hydration needs, but some ingredients in your favorite drinks increase the production of urine in your system and dehydrate you. According to Medical News Today, fruit juices may give you necessary vitamins and antioxidants, but fruit juices with added sugar shift the water in your cells and could lead to dehydration.

Sugar can dehydrate your cells

Sciencing says your cells respond similarly to sugar as they do to sodium. When there's an imbalance of sugar outside your cells, the water from your cells moves outside to bring down the high concentration of sugar. This means your cells can become dehydrated and lose some of their proper functioning. On top of this, your pancreas releases insulin to respond to the high amount of glucose in your bloodstream. This glucose is used by the cells for energy, but the cells also need more water to process this glucose.

If you have kidney issues and are dehydrated, drinking sugary drinks can make dehydration worse, according to a 2016 study in the American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology. This study focused on whether drinks with sugars (like those in soft drinks) might make this kidney damage worse. Rats were dehydrated regularly and then given plain water, a sugary solution similar to soft drinks, or water sweetened with stevia. After four weeks, the rats given the sugary solution had more severe dehydration and kidney damage compared to those given plain water or stevia-sweetened water.

Water is best for hydration

Drinking plain water might work to hydrate you and satisfy your thirst, but sugary drinks probably won't quench your thirst as well (per Health). The added sugar in your drink will spike your blood sugar, and your brain signals your thirst as the water leaves your cells. This process will have you reaching for another drink in as quickly as five minutes. You could get stuck in a thirst cycle, or you can satisfy your thirst by just sticking to water.

If you're thirsty, it's a good indication you have some degree of dehydration, according to Sciencing. It's probably not a good idea to guzzle a ton of water all at once because that could make you vomit. Instead, drink small amounts at a time. It's a good idea to hydrate well before a hard workout or race to top up your hydration levels. Try drinking at least two or three cups of water within two hours and another cup 15 minutes before the start. While water is the best choice for hydration, any workout lasting longer than an hour might need a drink with electrolytes.