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The Buzz: Caffeine and Hydration

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What’s the buzz? Caffeinated beverages hinder hydration — or do they? What does the science say?

Water makes up a significant part of our body weight (50 to 75 percent, depending on your age), so maintaining proper hydration is essential. Inadequate fluid intake can affect our mental and physical performance as well as our bowels. (Oh my!) We can get about 30 percent of our water needs from foods such as fruits and vegetables, which means we’re required to drink 6 to 8 cups of fluid per day to make up the remainder. However, frequent trips to the restroom after consuming caffeinated beverages may have you questioning whether these drinks are actually helping you meet your daily fluid goals. A fair hypothesis, Watson, now let’s do some sleuthing.

Various studies have analyzed the effects of caffeine pills and caffeinated beverages on hydration. Studies looked at ranges of caffeine intake from 114 to 500 milligrams (the high end is 8 cups of tea or 4 cups of brewed coffee) and found that they did not lead to dehydration when consumed throughout the day. Additionally, studies that measured the amount of urine produced from drinking caffeinated beverages verses drinking water showed no difference in total urine production — indicating caffeinated beverages add to our daily fluid intake the same way water does. On the opposite end, a concentrated intake of caffeine — such as a caffeine pill — showed mild dehydrating effects when consumed without proper hydration.

What’s the takeaway?

Although caffeinated beverages are not wreaking havoc on your body’s fluid balance, these uppers may come along with some downers for your overall wellness. Caffeine can make people feel jittery, affect their sleep patterns, and often contain large amounts of added sugar. If you have a regular soda, energy drink, or sweetened coffee beverage habit, check the label for added sugar. The American Heart Association recommends fewer than 9 teaspoons (37.5 grams) of added sugar per day for men and fewer than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women. One energy drink or soda will often exceed these guidelines. It’s easy to hydrate the healthy way with water, unsweetened tea, and fruit or herb infusions. (Elementary, my dear Watson!)

 

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