The Best and Worst Drinks to Keep You Hydrated

Sick of water? But still want the best hydration? Drink one of these beverages. We spill the truth about tea, coffee, juice and more.

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We all know we’re supposed to drink lots of water. But that can be hard to do when water tastes so…watery. Luckily, it’s possible to get hydration from a variety of drinks, but we have to be careful that we’re not having too much of the ones that dehydrate.

That’s right: Some liquids actually encourage more water to leave your body. Plus a lot of tasty drinks include too much of things you’re looking to limit or cut out altogether, like sugar, carbs and a bunch of calories. Our list will help you determine which beverages are best for hydrating—and which to avoid.

Do you really need 8 glasses of water a day? Find out what happens when one writer upped her intake.

The Best Hydration Drinks

best hydration drinks,Home made healthy vitamin-fortified waterRoman Juchimcuk/Shutterstock

Curious to see which beverages are the best for keeping enough fluid in you? The first three are hands-down your best hydrating choices; the rest are nice supplements.

Water

Surprised? Plain water is the best way to hydrate, no second guessing necessary. And this stylish water bottle makes it easy to drink enough.

Milk

Because it’s so much thicker than water, you might think that milk could dehydrate, but that’s not the case. In addition to calcium and vitamin D, milk contains protein to keep you fueled on even the hottest of days, another thing water can’t do. Milk: It’s not just for kids. Should you be buying organic milk? We found out.

Fruit-infused water

If it’s hard for you to drink plain water all day, infusing your water with fruit is a healthy way to add flavor without adding sugar. Our favorite combinations? Try adding lime and basil, cucumber with mint or any of these other infused water ideas. Bonus: You can flavor your own water with this handy infuser water bottle.

Fruit juice

Fruit juice contains about 85 percent water, which makes it super hydrating (just make sure you’re picking 100 percent fruit juice). The vitamins within natural fruits are also healthy. Be mindful of the sugar content, though, as juices can be packed with added sugars, which can inhibit hydration. If you’re drinking a lot of fruit juice, water it down. And for a special treat, why not freeze juice pops? Here’s a cantaloupe ice pop recipe with minimal sugar.

Watermelon

OK, so this isn’t a drink…but every time you eat watermelon, you’re retaining 92 percent of the liquid you’re eating. That’s better than fruit juice! You can try these other hydrating foods, too.

Sports drinks

Advertisements rave about the hydrating power of sports drinks, like Gatorade, which made us suspicious…but they’re actually onto something. The electrolytes, a science-y word for salts, in sports drinks can make hydration more effective. (Not to be too gross, but you know how sweat’s kinda salty? You want to add that back into your body.) Sports drinks also taste more flavorful than water, so they’re easier to drink quickly for those who force themselves to hydrate or who need quick hydration, like athletes. Again, watch the sugar and carb content, especially if you’re not working out. Unless you’re running a marathon, one rehydration drink is probably enough.

Tea

Caffeine-free teas are great, especially if it’s just an infusion of leaves in hot water. It doesn’t matter whether it’s herbal, black, green or chamomile; hot or cold—tea is just about as hydrating as water. Tea is also packed with antioxidants. While the best option might be to avoid caffeine in general (it’s a diuretic, meaning it dehydrates!), drinking even regular tea in moderation will help you reach your daily goal.

Coconut water

Coconut water boasts 95 percent water content, which is better than fruit juice. It’s also typically healthier than juices and sports drinks when it comes to sugar content and added ingredients, but be sure to check the label! (Our best coconut recipes might not hydrate, but they’re good.)

Milk alternatives

The studies that found milk to be hydrating didn’t test other “milks,” like soy, coconut or almond, but the Cleveland Clinic recommended the unsweetened ones for kids as a way to keep hydrated in summer. So they’re a safe bet for adults, too. Here’s our ranking of dairy-free milks.

The Worst Hydration Drinks

worst hydration drinks, Soft drinkssuccesso images/Shutterstock

Sneaky fact: Some liquids can actually work against your hydration goals. Make sure you’re not reaching for any of these beverages next time you’re thirsty—they only dehydrate your body!

Soda

Soft drinks often contain caffeine, which is a culprit for dehydration; tons of sugar and sodium; and it’s bad for your bones and teeth, too. Although just about anything in moderation is fine, grabbing a Diet Coke when you’re thirsty might not do much to help. (Here’s the truth about diet soda.) Swap out soda for sparkling water if you love that carbonation while still giving your body the fluids it needs!

Beer

Consuming any kind of liquor removes water from your tissues, meaning you have to drink even more water to offset the effects. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the alcohol content, the more dehydrating your drink is. If you want to avoid dehydration, have a low-alcohol light beer.

Wine and hard liquor

Any alcoholic drink over 10 percent alcohol strength is a dehydrator, which means more of the liquid will leave your system than be absorbed. Most wines have around 12 percent, so they’re better than hard liquors (37 percent) but worse than beer (4-5 percent). Once again, we advise moderation. (How about a mocktail recipe instead?)

Cocktails with hard liquors, like vodka and rum, can be deceiving, especially if the recipes also include soda or fruit juice. Keep yourself hydrated by always drinking one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you have—and consider switching to something less potent (like beer or wine)!

Hot cocoa

The bad news? One cup of hot chocolate contains more sugar and calories than a can of soda, dehydrating your system. The good news? You’re probably not drinking this in the summer, when it’s most important to consciously hydrate. In the winter, people tend to eat more soups and stews, which offer hydration, so having the occasional hot cocoa isn’t going to hurt.

Coffee

In moderation, coffee isn’t too bad, but once you go past that second cup, your body really starts to suffer. Drinking more than 200-300 milligrams of caffeine—the amount in two to three cups of coffee—has been shown to lead to dehydration. To keep yourself safe, switch to decaf or limit yourself to a cup or two. Bonus: Less coffee can make you less anxious.

Lemonade

Although the sweet-and-sour flavor can be tempting in the heat, lemonade is packed with sugars that don’t offer much toward your body’s needs. Swap this out for water infused with lemon slices and you’ll feel much healthier!

Sweet tea

This Southern staple screams summer, but when it comes to hydration, it’s not so sweet. The amount of added sugar in this drink cancels out any benefits that come with tea’s antioxidants, so it’s more like a dessert than a drink. That doesn’t mean you can’t drink it…it just means you have to drink plenty of water with it, too!

Energy drinks

Packed with caffeine, fake sugars and complicated chemicals, energy drinks are not hydrating. If you’re looking to energize while still getting in more liquids, we suggest tea.

Flavored milk

White milk on its own is totally fine, but you start to add unnecessary sugars when you throw flavors in there. Avoid chocolate, strawberry and vanilla milks and stick to good ol’ plain until you’re fully hydrated.

Smoothies

Fruit is healthy to eat on its own, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing! Smoothies pack more fruit (read: more sugar) into your drinks than you’d think. Add that to the thick consistency and you may have a recipe for dehydration. That’s not to discount the other health benefits of smoothies, though. They’re great to refuel after exercise or kick-starting your day with a dose of vitamins. If you want to up the hydration factor, an easy solution is to double the amount of ice in your recipe. This will water down the drink without changing the taste too much. Try this trick on our amazing smoothie recipes.

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