What’s more effective at staying hydrated: Water or Milk?

  • by Anna Tomlinson

What’s more effective at staying hydrated: Water or Milk?


It’s important to stay hydrated, whatever it is you’re doing. Whether out in the fields or typing away at your desk, staying hydrated is essential for our health and wellbeing.

Taking on fluids each day:

  • Helps organs to function properly
  • Ensures nutrients are carried to all our cells
  • Flushes out bacteria
  • Keeps our joints lubricated
  • Improves the health of our hearts
  • Regulates our body temperature
  • Increases concentration levels

Typically, we try and stay hydrated by drinking water. But is that the best option?


Water hydrates – but not as well as it could 

Research by St Andrews University recently backed up what we all know: water is a great fluid for helping us stay hydrated. It’s what we’re all told, drink 8 cups of water a day, or around 2 litres.

But the research dug a little deeper. It looked at how other drinks hydrated the body. And guess what? Water didn’t give the highest hydration response.

The science of the study is pretty complicated, and there are a lot of factors at play such as the volume of the liquid and the rate at which the body absorbs it. But there was one clear conclusion.

Drinks with small amounts of protein, sugar or fat are more effective at keeping us hydrated than water.


And one of the best drinks for staying hydrated is milk

It’s because the way our bodies are hydrated from a fluid changes based on the nutrient composition of the drink.

When a liquid is made up of proteins and sugars, the stomach takes longer to empty the fluid, which keeps hydration of the body happening for longer.

It’s why sports drinks are popular with athletes; they contain a sugar solution to boost hydration. Doctors use solutions with sugar, sodium and potassium for the same reason; they’re more effective at prolonging hydration and helping the body to retain water.

And which drink contains protein, small amounts of fat, and a little bit of sugar lactose? Milk!

The study found that milk was one of the most effective drinks for staying hydrated, because its nutrients are helping slow the rate at which liquid is emptied from the stomach.

By slowing gastric emptying, the release of urination is also slowed (something which makes us more dehydrated.

Plus, milk is a good source of sodium. And sodium helps the body retain water, like a sponge, which also stops you needing to go to the toilet!


Full fat or skimmed?  

The study tested both full fat & skimmed milk and found both were great at keeping the subjects hydrated.

The trick is in the careful make-up of the nutritional content.

Too much sugar – such as in drinks like Coca-Cola or fruit juices – were found to give a similar hydration response to water initially, and as the body then requires water to dilute high sugar levels, they could actually lead to dehydration.

So, if you’re working up a sweat, want to keep your body in tip-top shape and keep focused on a difficult task… grab a pint of milk!

A glass of milk is the way to stay hydrated it seems!

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