Let’s face it, coffee powers your career. You have your go-to coffee shop, a favorite blend for your coffee machine at home and a mug almost permanently glued in your hand. You know you should probably drink as much water as you drink coffee, but you can’t go without your cuppa. But does coffee dehydrate you, or is that just a myth you keep hearing?
To make this clear, no matter what science says, we’re not telling you that you need to give up your morning Joe. But maybe you need to drink an extra bottle of water a day — let’s get down to the science.
Is coffee a dehydrator?
First of all, is coffee a dehydrator? The basis for arguing that coffee dehydrates is that caffeine — you know, the whole reason you started drinking coffee in the first place — is a diuretic. Though that’s sometimes welcome, there’s a diuretic in many medicines for menstrual symptoms to help clear water retention, too much of any diuretic can leave you dehydrated. In addition to costing you major money on lotions to combat flaky skin, that can zap energy levels, kill your performance in the gym and leave you with a nasty headache.
None of that sounds great, but is coffee a dehydrator? That’s a little more complicated than saying, yes, because it has caffeine and is, therefore, a diuretic. So, let’s go onto another pressing question, which might shed some light: does coffee dehydrate you?
Does decaf coffee dehydrate you?
Before we jump straight into answering the question does coffee dehydrate you, decaf drinker (or even half-caff drinkers) are probably wondering about them. Decaf coffee, though much lower in caffeine content than regular, still contains caffeine. That means there’s still some of the diuretic properties of a normal Joe in your decaf cup, so you should still know the answer to the next section.
Does coffee dehydrate you?
So, does coffee dehydrate you, or is it a myth that keeps circulating on the Internet? The idea that coffee dehydrates is largely myth, though it’s rooted in scientific fact about how your body responds to diuretics. Yes, caffeine can stimulate urine production, but even that is simplifying things.
Just like you get used to the stimulating effects of caffeine — such as the shaky hands and anxiety when you first start drinking it — your body adjusts to the diuretic effect of caffeine, especially if you’re a consistent coffee drinker. In fact, it takes a pretty hefty dose of caffeine (250-300 mg or 2-3 cups of coffee) to stimulate any increased urine output — and that’s only in people who have been deprived of caffeine for a period of days or weeks beforehand, a 2003 review found. To boil it down, “While caffeinated drinks may have a mild diuretic effect — meaning that they may cause the need to urinate — they don’t appear to increase the risk of dehydration,” according to Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., who wrote about the topic for the Mayo Clinic.
Additionally, the amount of liquid you take in is generally greater than the amount you’ll pee, even if you up your caffeine and it does stimulate your urine output. Coffee is, after all, made with water. If you order a grande at Starbucks, for example, you’ll get 182 mg of caffeine but also 16 ounces of water. If this is your daily. If this is your standard order, you may not feel any effects at all since your system is used to the caffeine.
So don’t worry about the dehydrating effect of coffee. But if you take a break from your standard brew, maybe downsize your grande to a tall and drink an extra glass of water until you get used to the caffeine again. Your hands will thank you.