You'd be hard-pressed not to find a coffee-lover just about anywhere you go, and rightfully so. Not only can the sweet aroma of coffee be the perfect (and, let's be real, usually necessary) start to our mornings, but it also has tons of health benefits and can even help you lose weight. But does the water in coffee count toward your recommended daily intake of water? There are conflicting views regarding this because it's thought to be a diuretic (i.e. it makes you urinate more frequently), which makes it work against the antidiuretic hormone that our bodies produce.
How Much Water Should We Drink in a Day?
Determining our daily intake of water depends on a variety of factors including age, how active we are, the climate, and other variables. Generally, most nutritionists recommend drinking eight eight-ounce cups of water a day. You can also drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, you would drink 70 ounces of water a day. Be sure to drink even more than that if you exercise, though.
In terms of fluids, which means all beverages (including coffee), the Institute of Medicine recommends 13 cups (about three liters) for men, nine cups (about two liters) for women, and about 10 cups for pregnant women.
We want to make sure we stay hydrated, so drinking water is imperative. It flushes out toxins from our organs, helps us digest food, can aid in weight loss, and helps maintain our energy levels. So can fluids like coffee hinder our water intake?
Coffee: Dehydrating or Hydrating?
According to Courtney Schuchmann, MS, RD, LDN, coffee may actually have a dehydrating effect on our bodies if we don't consume enough water in addition to it. Schuchmann does not recommend cutting coffee out of our daily routine since it has many possible health benefits such as "reduced risk of colorectal cancer, improved bowel movements, and improved liver regeneration for those with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NASH)." She suggests we continue with our daily coffee consumption "since studies have found that individuals who drink more coffee per day typically have lower incidence of the above mentioned diseases," but to ensure that if our goal is to drink eight to 10 cups of water a day, that our coffee intake is in addition to that.
Although coffee may initially serve as a diuretic, a study conducted about caffeine ingestion and fluid balance proved that people can actually develop a tolerance to the diuretic effect caffeine produces, and those who regularly consume beverages like coffee showed no diuretic effects at all. "Our bodies eventually get used to the caffeine when we drink multiple cups of coffee every day," Dr. Wong stated, "and the diuretic effect slows down and your body gets better at retaining water."
This also means that coffee may actually be hydrating, according to Dr. Luiza Petre, a board-certified cardiologist. "It seems hydration is not offset by the diuretic effect of coffee. Our body quickly compensates for the caffeine, so coffee has an overall hydrating effect." However, she does not recommend making coffee our only source of hydration and adds that that we should consume no more than three to four cups (and no more than 400 mg of caffeine) a day.
It is important to note that the way we individually metabolize coffee and how sensitive we are to it should also play a role in how much we are able to drink. Although four cups is the most we should be consuming in a day, keep in mind that not everyone can tolerate that amount of caffeine.
The way we drink coffee is also very important. What we add to our coffee can greatly impact the benefits we're able to reap from it. If we're pouring in sugary additives or full-fat milk, our coffee may not be as healthy or hydrating. The best way to drink your coffee is black, and if that's too much to handle, try adding some cinnamon or a touch of honey for added sweetness.