Why Coffee is a Diuretic and How to Stay Hydrated
The energy-boosting properties of coffee can help you start your day, power through long afternoons, and make small talk with a smile on your face. However, coffee also has a powerful effect on the body. Namely, it can increase urination. If you drink a lot of coffee, you probably know exactly what we’re talking about! That’s because the caffeine in coffee is a mild diuretic. Below, we’ll discuss how coffee impacts the body and how to consume it in the healthiest way possible.
What is a Diuretic?
Diuretics are substances used to rid your body of salt and water. Water pills are a diuretic. Sometimes, diuretics (like water pills) are used to help your kidneys release additional sodium into your urine. This decrease is the amount of fluid flowing through your veins and arteries. Diuretics can be a good thing, as they lower your blood pressure.
However, diuretics can also lead to dehydration, which is not so good. Caffeine is a common diuretic. When consumed in excess, caffeine can have dehydrating diuretic effects. Since coffee contains caffeine (about 95 mg per 8 oz cup), it is a mild diuretic.
Caffeine, Diuretics, and Dehydration
Caffeine can be found in coffee, espresso, and tea, making these beverages a stimulating and energy-boosting choice. However, many people who consume caffeine every day wonder whether it is dehydrating.
Drinking beverages that contain caffeine as part of your normal everyday routine will not cause fluid loss unless you ingest them in excess volume. While caffeinated beverages do have a mild diuretic effect (meaning they will increase your need to urinate) they don't necessarily increase your risk of getting dehydrated.
So, drinking coffee will not cause dehydration in and of itself. However, it may have compounding effects that could lead to dehydration when consumed in excess. For instance, if you are working vigorously, engaged in strenuous activities, or not drinking water regularly, drinking nothing but coffee all day may lead to mild dehydration.
Why is Coffee a Diuretic?
Recent studies suggest that consuming caffeine causes diuresis, also known as an increase in urination. Your body produces urine to maintain your fluid levels and remove waste. If you urinate more often because you are drinking large amounts of caffeine, your fluid levels and electrolytes could be thrown off balance. Coffee contains caffeine, which can have an impact on your kidneys. That is why coffee is a diuretic.
How Does the Caffeine in Coffee Work?
When you consume a cup of coffee, the caffeine moves through your bloodstream where it creates a metabolic and biochemical reaction in your liver. At this point, the caffeine is processed in your body and your energy is increased.
Is Coffee Good for You or Bad for You?
A lot of people drink coffee because it boosts their energy. Not to mention, when you healthily drink coffee, there are many nutritious benefits to be reaped. Coffee is full of minerals and contains magnesium and antioxidants. Coffee can also improve your physical performance and enhance your mental acuity. So, in moderation, coffee may actually be a good thing.
However, if you drink too much coffee (more than 6 cups a day), you could wind up experiencing its diuretic effects. The bottom line is that drinking coffee is fine, as long as you are fine with consuming caffeine. Just don’t overdo it.
Diuretics and Dehydration
So why is it important to know the answer to the question, "why is coffee a diuretic"? Well, diuretics can increase your likelihood of becoming dehydrated. Therefore, diuretic caffeinated beverages like tea, coffee, soda, and energy drinks, can increase your risk of or accelerate dehydration. This is because when consumed in excess, they promote fluid loss through frequent urination.
Dehydration occurs when your fluid intake can not keep up with your fluid loss. Electrolyte, sodium, and potassium imbalances may also lead to dehydration.
Signs of dehydration include low blood pressure, dizziness, irritability, and headaches. Excessive thirst, dry skin, dry lips, and a feeling of confusion may also be signs of dehydration. Since dehydration causes all kinds of unnecessary strain on your bodily systems, it is better to avoid it. Staying hydrated is always the best way to go!
How to Avoid Dehydration if You Drink Coffee
It is fairly easy to enjoy your coffee without risking dehydration. Just don’t drink too much! For instance, if it is noon and all you have had to eat or drink all day is coffee, it's probably time to eat something for lunch and switch to water. You can also try to have some food in your stomach before drinking coffee. This slows down the diuretic process.
Diuretics tend to compound the effects of dehydration. After all, your body needs to maintain a precise balance of sodium, potassium, and magnesium to stay replenished. If you consume diuretics like caffeine or water pills, your kidneys respond by increasing your urination. That means that your body will lose fluids more quickly. The fluids in your cells are made of water. So, you'll want to stay hydrated to keep your cells, and therefore, the rest of your body, healthy.
Once again, drinking mild or even moderate amounts of coffee won't make you dehydrated. However, if you are drinking a lot of coffee quickly, you could increase your likelihood of becoming dehydrated. When combined with compounding factors like strenuous work, illness, lack of sleep, or an increased intake of sodium, it is easier to become dehydrated.
Alternatives to Consider When Cutting Back on Caffeine
If you want to avoid becoming dehydrated from coffee, make sure to consume no more than 500 mg of caffeine a day. This is equivalent to about six cups of coffee. If you regularly consume more caffeine than that, try switching to something lower in caffeine (like black tea) after your fourth cup of Joe. You could also consider switching to decaf. Decaffeinated coffee gives you the same feeling as drinking coffee without the dehydrating/diuretic effects.
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