The quest for healthy hydration is riddled with uncertainties: Am I drinking enough water? Is this water better than that water?
And what about water temperature?
Is it better to drink water that’s room temperature? Steamy hot? Ice cold?
We want to make the most of the water we drink, so it’s natural to wonder if and how the temperature of water affects our body’s ability to utilize it. Comb through social media, and you’ll find proponents who swear by warm water, those who only drink ice-cold water, and those who promise room temperature water is the best way to go.
However, the science of water temperature as it relates to hydration is far less certain than these influencers would make it seem. Experts agree there’s not enough rigorously vetted evidence to support any one water temperature outperforming the others when it comes to our health.
What matters far more: you and your tastes and preferences.
Here’s a look at the research.
Is cold water healthier to drink?
Again, there’s not a lot of scientific evidence for or against the superiority of cold water when it comes to hydration. There is, however, solid research showing that cold water can help cool our bodies after intense, sweaty exercise.
“It turns out that sweating stops before fluid can completely be incorporated into the body,” gastroenterologist Brian Weiner told the Cleveland Clinic in a March 2022 interview. “There’s some kind of reflex that acknowledges liquid intake, and studies have shown that it kicks in more at the cold tap water level.”
Jill Blakeway, a licensed and board-certified doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, agreed.
“Cold water is refreshing and cooling,” Blakeway said in an interview with Bustle. “It’s great on a hot day and a good choice after exercise."
However, cold water can have drawbacks. A 2001 study showed drinking cold water can cause headaches (brain freeze anyone?) and increase the likelihood of migraines.
Speaking of cold water, can ice water burn calories?
This is where Weiner has done the research. After becoming a devotee of Italian ices, the doctor came to realize the calorie counts on the packaging weren’t 100% accurate, since they failed to take into account the energy required for our bodies to melt the ice. This led Weiner to study exactly how many calories are burned by simply eating ice.
“I calculated it, and for every ounce of ice that you eat, it takes five calories to melt it and bring it up to body temperature,” Weiner told the Cleveland Clinic.
Whether that same ratio applies to ice-cold water is unclear. But ice water will help cool the body, while eating ice can boost calories burned.
In general, drinking water of any temperature has been associated with lower calorie intake throughout the day. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics concluded that, “Promoting plain water intake could be a useful public health strategy for reducing energy … consumption in U.S. adults.”
Is it healthy to drink hot or warm water?
The answer, once again, depends on what you mean by “healthy.”
For congestion, clogged sinuses, sore throats, coughing, runny noses and even sinus headaches, the steamy and soothing effects of drinking hot water have been shown to provide relief.
Hot water has also been associated with better digestion, although the scientific evidence to back this is somewhat lacking. A 2016 study showed drinking warm water can boost intestinal movement and help our bodies expel excess gas after laparoscopic gallbladder surgery.
Some believe hot water, especially when consumed on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, dilates blood vessels in the gut, helping to keep things in that area moving efficiently. Others theorize hot water dissolves the foods we eat, aiding in digestion by breaking down our bites more effectively.
And room temperature water, is that better for you?
As with hot water, room temperature water is also believed to aid in digestion. While cold water can cause blood vessels in the stomach and intestines to constrict, room temperature water has no such effect.
Drinking water at room temperature has also been shown to quench thirst more easily. While this may sound like a bonus, experts say to be wary of it. As registered dietician Vanessa Rissetto said in a 2019 interview, drinking lukewarm water “can be dangerous on days when your body is losing water through sweating … If you do opt to drink warm water, be aware that you may not feel thirsty as often as you should."
The bottom line: Drinking water at any temperature is great for your health
Regardless of temperature, the health benefits of drinking water are seemingly endless. Water consumed at any temperature can:
- Aid in digestion, especially when water is substituted for high-sugar beverages such as sodas
- Relieve constipation
- Boost central nervous system function and brain activity, and improve mood according to a 2019 study
- Improve metabolism and curb hunger
- Most importantly: keep us hydrated; our bodies need water for almost every function, making proper hydration crucial to our wellbeing
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