We get this question a lot.
Coffee is officially a dieuretic, meaning that it promotes the formation of urine by the kidney. So, coffee was seen as a cause of the body losing water, and that was the established view for a long time.
But, that view is changing and, in moderation, coffee can actually be counted as part of your hydration for the day.
Indeed, the latest U.S. dietary guidelines increased the limit on caffeine to 400 mg a day in adults and it’s now noted as an excellent source of potassium and magnesium, as well as one of the top sources of daily intake of antioxidants – for both decaf and regular coffee
A recent study carried out by researchers from the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Birmingham went as follows:
- 50 healthy men (aged 18 to 46) with stable weight, diet and fluid intake were chosen. Women were said to be excluded due to possible fluid balance changes caused by the menstrual cycle.
- All participants in the study were described as moderate coffee drinkers consuming between three and six cups per day (300 to 600mg/day caffeine).
- As part of the study, on two separate occasions, each man drank four, 200ml cups of black coffee per day for three days (providing 4mg/kg of caffeine per day), or three cups of water per day for four days.
- During each trial period the participants drank a regulated amount of water provided in bottles, the amount of which was determined for each of them based on their three-day food diary.
- During the water-only trial, they were drinking four extra cups of water a day.
- During each trial period the participants also did no physical activity, did not drink alcohol and ate a controlled diet as provided by the researchers in order to limit the effects of these factors on their overall hydration.
- The two trial periods were separated by a 10 day wash-out period when the person resumed their normal caffeine intake, diet and activity.
- Then, before and after each trial, the researchers measured total body water, body mass and blood, urinary markers of hydration (such as sodium, potassium and creatinine levels) and blood analysed for caffeine levels to confirm compliance.
The results from the study was as follows:
- The researchers found no significant difference in total body water from before and after each trial and there was also no significant difference in total body weight between the two trials. Nor was there any differences between the two trials in blood markers or urinary markers of hydration, or 24 hour urine volume.
- Urinary sodium levels were found to be higher during the coffee days most likely because caffeine increases kidney excretion of sodium, however, they found no difference in other measures of hydration or urine output and there were no significant differences in body mass between the two trials, though there was a small gradual daily fall in body mass in both trials.
- The study concluded that “coffee, when consumed in moderation by caffeine habituated males[,] provides similar hydrating qualities to water”.
This was a small study, however, and more research needs to be done on the effects of caffeine on hydration and sodium levels of the body. But, it does muddy the waters of the old traditional view that caffeine is a diuretic. Increasingly, it is being seen as part of part of the consumer’s mix of beverages. Regular coffee is certainly the lesser of two evils if we compare the many “energy” drinks and soft drinks on the market with high levels of sugar and artificial ingredients.
Having said of all that, decaffeinated coffee should definitely be considered since it has no diuretic effects and is an excellent way to hydrate during the day. Decaf coffee is also an excellent source of antioxidants like its cousin – regular coffee. Decadent Decaf Coffee Company is seeing this trend particularly in the younger generation that is becoming increasingly aware of caffeine and decaf coffee’s benefits to help them with keeping healthy and hydrated.