Does tea make you thirsty? Or is it a good way to stay hydrated? Two Rivers finds out the truth.
It wasn’t so long ago that any article about hydration would recommend you cut down on tea and coffee. The accepted wisdom was that the caffeine in these beverages had a diuretic effect (cause you to urinate more) and were therefore dehydrating.
Not only is that not true for most tea drinkers, the issue of hydration is quite a complex one that relies heavily on the individual, including your body shape as well as the health of your renal system.
The initial study that linked caffeine to the diuretic effect was conducted under a couple of conditions that you wouldn’t consider normal consumption. Firstly, the scientists gave the test subjects a beverage of water and pure caffeine instead of tea or coffee like you or I would drink, which means the other nutrients in tea that would offset any effect were not present.
Secondly, the test subjects abstained from tea and coffee for several days prior to the test. Subsequent tests on regular tea drinkers show caffeine has a diminished effect when the drinker has built a tolerance. Regularly drinking tea makes you less susceptible to the diuretic effect, if it ever did affect you that way.
It turns out caffeine is a mild diuretic in some people—but it’s coffee that’s the culprit. For regular tea drinkers, tea has a hydrating effect equivalent to water according to a study that compared people who drank nothing but tea for the 12-hour trial with those who drank an equivalent amount of boiled water. There was no difference in hydration levels between them.
Tea’s advantage over water
Tea does have a few advantages over water as a source of hydration, however.
1. It tastes good
If it tastes good, we drink it. Some people don’t like water because of the taste; tea can help make water palatable. If people find tea easier to drink than water, they will drink more of it and stay hydrated.
2. It has additional nutrients
In addition to providing you with water for hydration, tea has a whole lot of other nutrients such as antioxidants and polyphenols that boost immunity and help you maintain physical and mental health.
3. It increases your intake of warm water
We don’t often drink warm water, but we will often drink hot tea. Warm water has a stimulating effect on your body, reducing congestion and aiding digestion, but many people find it hard to drink water at a higher temperature—but what about hot tea?
When it’s cold, such as in the early morning, at night and during the cooler months, we don’t get thirsty as often as when it’s hot, so the triggers for rehydrating aren’t as frequent. Because it’s easy to drink tea even when you’re not thirsty, for warmth and time out, this can help you stay hydrated.