There’s little doubt that staying hydrated is essential. Gorgeous skin, improved energy levels, and the ability to fully absorb all the nutrients from the food you consume is thanks to a plentiful supply of H2O. But there’s a lot more to staying hydrated than how much water you drain from your Bkr Water Bottle ($55) on a daily basis. Numerous factors—from the foods you eat to your level of physical activity—can affect your level of hydration. When it comes to potentially dehydrating liquids, those that are high in caffeine are often among the first suspects.
While coffee has been attributed to a host of potential health benefits, it’s well worth asking: Does coffee dehydrate you? Here’s what you need to know.
Is Coffee Dehydrating?
According to Mayo Clinic dietitian Katherine Zeratsky, RDN, “While caffeinated drinks may have a mild diuretic effect—meaning that they may cause the need to urinate—they don’t appear to increase the risk of dehydration.” This is, obviously, great news for those who require 12 ounces of Sumatra to get anything done before noon. “Still,” Zeratsky notes, “caffeinated drinks can cause headaches and insomnia in some people.” To steer clear of these potential risks, it’s important to stay in tune with your body’s reactions and to avoid drinking coffee after 2 p.m.
One of the major reasons that coffee is assumed to be dehydrating is that it can distract from consuming liquids that do in fact help to hydrate the body. If you’re taking in multiple cups of coffee per day, try to abide by cocktail rules: Layer in a glass of water between other beverages. If you’re not a fan of drinking water straight, adding hydrating foods to your diet can also be a valuable strategy.
While coffee may not be dehydrating in and of itself, it’s no substitute for liquids that are actually hydrating. “Water is probably your best bet to stay hydrated,” says Zeratsky. “It’s calorie-free, caffeine-free, inexpensive, and readily available.” One of the added perks of staying hydrated is that it makes the nutritional benefits of coffee easier for your body to reap. The diverse benefits of coffee drinking may include improved heart health, liver health, and increased antioxidant intake.