Water is perhaps the most important liquid for life. It certainly is for humans. We must hydrate for our body to keep working but we have many ways to do it. As many as drinks we can find, either in the market, in our taps or in the town fountain. However, Which of these drinks hydrates us the most?
The answer might seem like a truism: the best way to hydrate ourselves, to give our body water, should be… drink water, right? Well no. The first thing to keep in mind is that we tend to know by “water” two slightly different things.
Chemically, by water we mean dihydrogen oxide, H20, although this liquid is often called distilled water. The water we drink often contains minerals and other compoundsbe it tap water, bottled mineral water, etc.
It’s not that distilled water isn’t drinkable (contrary to urban legend), but mineral water in its various forms is better. Partly because we are used to its taste and partly because the consumption of distilled water has a diuretic effect that causes a loss of balance in our electrolytes.
Electrolytes are substances that, when attached to water, maintain an electrical charge (positive or negative). They regulate some of the chemical reactions within our body such as those that maintain the fluid balance in our cells. Magnesium and potassium are some of our body’s best-known electrolytes, although magnesium and calcium are also in this category.
The drinks we consume are usually liquids made up of water and other dissolved chemical compounds. For example, milk is a compound made up of about 85% water; and for proteins, fats and carbohydrates mainly. So, if when it comes to hydration, purer water is not better, can there be better options even than tap water? Yeah.
For many the first answer can easily come to mind: oral serums. The base of these compounds is water, but they have a series of salts and other compounds that help to compensate not only for the loss of water but also for electrolytes and some nutrients.
However, a study analyzed various drinks to understand which was the drink that hydrated us the most. According to their results, the water was not even on the podium. The researchers created the Beverage Hydration Index (BHI) based on the mass of the mass urinated in the four hours following the ingestion of the beverage, and on the value of this variable associated with water consumption.
The researchers tested this test in an experiment conducted on 72 participants. The drink with the highest BHI was skimmed milk, followed by oral rehydration solution and whole milk. These three beverages performed significantly better (99% confidence), while orange juice also performed significantly better than water, albeit at a lower level (95%).
So do we have to replace our isotonic drink with a carton of milk when going to the gym? No. Under normal conditions, dehydration is not easy. In general, drinking water and eating foods rich in this compound, such as fruit, may be enough to keep us hydrated. We must even remember that excessive water consumption can be harmful.
When we analyze a drink we must take other factors into account, not just what hydrates us. Factors such as its content in sugars and carbohydrates, fats and other nutrients. Milk can provide us with some nutrients, although other of its compounds, such as lactose, are not digestible for many people.
Some soft drinks and isotonic drinks, for example, have hydration rates similar to water, but their high sugar and sweetener content may make them less appropriate in certain circumstances. In the end, the key is in the balanceeither within our cells or in what we consume.
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