Most of us drink our water cold. We run the cold faucet for a few more seconds to get it extra-chilly, grab a bottle from the fridge, or add ice cubes before sipping. When we do consume hot water, it’s usually in the form of tea or coffee. There’s no way that warm or even hot water on its own is drinkable, let alone healthy, is there?
The answer might surprise you.
We Need Water to Function. But at What Temperature?
The human body needs water for most of its functions. Not only does it keep our cells healthy and our blood fluid enough to move through blood vessels, but it also eliminates the byproducts of our metabolism and regulates our body temperature through sweating.
Other benefits include:
- Cushioning and lubricating joints
- Aiding in digestion and preventing constipation
- Moisturizing the skin
- Keeping the bladder clear of bacteria
- Detoxification: research suggests that drinking more water can help protect the kidneys while eliminating waste materials in the blood.
- Improving mood: this study found that drinking water reduced participant anxiety and boosted their brain activity during challenging activities.
As it turns out, the temperature of our water may change its effect on the body, but to what extent? Let’s review the suggested health benefits of cold vs. hot water and which conditions each type may improve.
There may be a natural reason why we reach for cold water when thirsty. Not only is the taste more refreshing, but this study suggests that cooler water may be better for rehydration.
During heat stress (either from heat exposure, exercise, or other physical activities and pressures), the body must balance and regulate its fluid state, temperature, and circulation, and researchers found that water consumed at 41°F (5°C) reduced the time spent sweating after exercise. Our body temperature increases when we work out, and drinking cold water helps regulate that temperature.
Another study, this one at Columbia University, found that the human stomach absorbs water-cooled to 40°F (4°C) more quickly than water that’s warm or at room temperature, which ultimately helps prevent dehydration more effectively.
Other potential benefits are highlighted below.
According to Livestrong, drinking eight cups of cold water could help you burn 64 calories, which is the equivalent of five to fifteen minutes of exercise.
This assertion appears to be supported by a study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, which found that people who drink more water may burn more calories.
Participants’ metabolic rates increased 30% after drinking 17 ounces of water (two tall glasses). According to the researchers, increasing water intake by 1.5 liters a day (about 6 cups) would burn an additional 17,400 calories over a year, which adds up to approximately five pounds! It appears that as your body works harder to maintain the internal temperature, it burns more sugars and fats, resulting in weight loss.
Improved Concentration and Pain Tolerance
Cold water activates sensors just beneath our skin, which then raises our heart rate and adds an adrenaline rush, making us feel alert and focused. This is one of the reasons why cold showers and chilled forms of hydrotherapy are being touted as effective ways to start your day and remain productive as the hours go on.
According to ice products manufacturer ReddyIce, drinking ice water may be nearly as effective as caffeine when you want to increase adrenaline production and make faster, more focused decisions. Adrenaline not only boosts your mood but can also improve your ability to tolerate pain. Cold water itself is often recommended as a pain management method because it causes your blood vessels to constrict and can reduce swelling and inflammation.
As it turns out, drinking hot water has certain health and illness-fighting benefits. This early study found that hot drinks like tea or water with lemon were more effective at relieving cold symptoms than the same beverages served at room temperature. Researchers concluded that the warm vapor from these drinks could loosen clogged sinuses and soothe a sore throat caused by mucus accumulation.
Other benefits may include those outlined below.
Like water at other temperatures, hot water keeps the digestive system moving, making your body better able to eliminate waste. This study found that warmed water could have a beneficial effect on intestinal movements after surgery, so it may help dissolve and move food that you’re having trouble digesting.
Thermoregulation in Cold Temperatures
In 2017, researchers found that while shivering is the body’s natural reaction to cold conditions, drinking warm fluids can help reduce it. The subjects wore suits circulating water that was a bit above freezing, then drank water at different temperatures, including up to 126°F (52°C). Drinking hot water helped them maintain their body temperature with less effort.
May Relieve Achalasia Symptoms
Achalasia is a condition in which your esophagus has trouble moving food into your stomach. Those living with it have trouble swallowing and report feeling as though food gets stuck in their esophagus (a condition called dysphagia). Researchers in this study found that drinking warmer water may help achalasia patients digest more easily.
What is the Recommended Temperature?
When consuming hot beverages like water, the Journal of Food Science recommends a temperature range of 130 to 160°F (54 to 71°C). (Burning or scalding can result from temperatures above these levels.) After boiling, leave it to cool for a while and, if you’re not a fan of the taste of hot water, add a slice of lemon or lime for a flavor boost.
No matter what temperature you prefer, regular water consumption can help ensure you stay hydrated throughout the day. Recommended minimum intake varies according to your age and gender, and pregnant or nursing women need more water than usual. Keeping a water bottle or thermos nearby during your waking hours can ensure that you have regular access to the fluids you need to stay healthier.
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