Can Coffee Hydrate You as Much as Water?

Your cup of Joe may do more than keep you awake. It may also help keep you hydrated, even as well as water.

Elizabeth Bedell, LD, RD, coordinator for the ProMedica Executive Health Program, says that coffee was once thought to be dehydrating because it is a diuretic, but recent studies are proving otherwise.

A January 2014 study by the University of Birmingham in England found that men who drank the same volume of coffee per day had “no significant difference” in hydration status from men who drank the same volume of water per day.

A similar study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Diet found that those who consume moderate amounts of coffee experience a short-term increase in urine output, but then develop a tolerance, meaning that those who drink coffee daily experience virtually no negative fluid balance due to caffeine.

The benefits don’t stop there. “Many studies show that people who drink coffee are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s, certain cancers, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, heart disease and stroke,” says Bedell. “Coffee also contains a concentrated amount of antioxidants – substances that prevent destruction and help heal cell damage.”

People may also experience enhanced athletic performance from the caffeine’s stimulant effect on your central nervous system, as well as a decreased perception of effort and an effect on muscle power. The caffeine can also increase concentration when consumed in the right amount. However, too much can also impair your ability to concentrate.

But don’t get too excited that your daily pumpkin spice latte will ward off cancer, make you a star athlete or an academic genius. Bedell advises: “When it comes to the benefits of coffee, we are referring to black coffee.”

Bedell warns that coffee doctored up with cream, sugar and syrup can contribute to weight gain and associated problems. “Cream and sugar provide zero nutrients to your body, they are just there contributing to your waistline,” says Bedell. “Think of specialty coffee beverages as dessert instead of a morning routine.”

If your morning java contains half cream and half coffee, Bedell recommends weaning down over a week or so, so you can get used to the difference in taste.

In regards to the quantity of black coffee, Bedell recommends only 2-3 cups per day. The caffeine in coffee can cause problems for some, she adds. Excess caffeine can lead to irritability, increased blood pressure, digestive problems, and insomnia. It is also contraindicated with certain medications, so you should talk with your doctor about any potential interactions. The bottom line: “Caffeine is a drug,” she states.

When consumed in moderation and with no additions, coffee can keep you as hydrated as water. “The research is mounting as to the benefits of coffee,” says Bedell. “Coffee drinkers: Raise your mug and drink on!”