There's no doubt about it: There are many reasons why drinking water every single day is essential for your holistic health, with brain function and skincare chiefly among them. But new research from St. Andrews University in Scotland suggests that swapping one or two glasses of water a day for a richer beverage may actually quench your thirst better, especially if you sweat it out at the gym on a regular basis.
Researchers at the School of Medicine have published the results of their sweeping study in this month's American Journal of Critical Nutrition; their results confirm that both flat and sparkling water can sufficiently hydrate you if you drink enough of it everyday. But what if you're finding yourself knocking back bottles of water to no relief? If you've just had a particularly hard work out, or are outside in hot summer temperatures, it seems that beverages with a certain trio of nutrients may help your body hydrate better than just plain water.
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Drinks that contain a small amount of sugar, fat, or protein may keep you hydrated for longer, as our bodies process these kinds of beverages differently than plain water. Per the published report, the body processes liquid and dilutes it into the bloodstream, helping to make you feel properly hydrated; but drinks that contain nutrients like protein and fat will slow the process considerably, keeping you hydrated over a longer period of time. In the study, researchers found that milk's combination of sugar lactose, protein, fat, and low levels of sodium was best for keeping the body hydrated, as less urine was produced compared to similar levels of water consumption.
"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," Melissa Majumdar, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told CNN. But Majumdar clarified that not all sugar-containing beverages are as hydrating: drinks like processed fruit juices or soda may spend more time in your system, but the higher amounts of sugars is often diluted during a process called osmosis. But the small intestine pulls in water from elsewhere in the body to dilute these sugars, and then is pushed out through urination rather than recirculated inside your veins.
Clearly, you'll need to continue drinking water regularly as kidneys depend on proper hydration to purge toxins, and avoiding sugary drinks will help you also cut back on empty calories that aren't as satisfying as wholesome ingredients. But those who are hitting the gym regularly or working overtime on an intensive project will find that opting for a glass of milk over a sports drink may provide the performance boost they so desperately need.
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