Is Milk a Better Hydrator Than Water? | Signos

Move aside water; cow’s milk may be the new hydration drink you are searching for.

man-drinking-glass-of-milk
by
Mia Barnes
— Signos
Staff Writer
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Reviewed by

Mia Barnes
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
May 20, 2024
September 11, 2023
— Updated:
September 12, 2023

Table of Contents

You carry your reusable bottle with you everywhere. However, plain water gets boring — what are your alternatives? Sugary soda and sports drinks are not ideal, but what about drinking milk? Does this dairy product hydrate you? 

Keeping hydrated affects multiple aspects of your health, from your skin to your kidneys. Water may rule supreme, but it isn’t your only option. What about moo juice? Does milk help with rehydration? Here’s the truth about it. 

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Importance of Hydration

Americans have a somewhat wacky relationship with water. Even knowing how important it is to stay hydrated, they often undercut their efforts. They’ll dutifully down their eight cups — then drown out the benefits with caffeine and alcohol.1 

The problem is even mild to moderate dehydration can result in kidney damage if it occurs frequently enough.2 That’s only one impact. Failing to stay hydrated can also harm: 

  • Your brain: Your mood diminishes, you lose energy, and increase your risk of cognitive issues. 
  • Your heart: When dehydrated, blood pressure rises, straining this organ. 
  • Your muscles: You may experience greater soreness and stiffness and get cramps. 
  • Your skin: You lose tone and suppleness and prematurely age. 

Proper hydration affects nearly everything in your body. Dehydration can even leave you feeling bloated as your cells struggle to maintain precious moisture. You know coffee’s out — is water your only option? What hydrates better than water? 

Is Milk Good for Dehydration?

Fortunately, one of your favorite coffee additives won’t dehydrate you if you drink it without the caffeinated mixer. Therefore, yes, you can use milk for hydration. 

Milk may hydrate you better than water because it contains several good-for-you ingredients. What makes it a superfood beyond addressing dehydration? Here are some of the perks.

1. There Are Electrolytes in Milk

When you exert yourself, you dehydrate more quickly through sweat. However, you also lose electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, and magnesium, that your body needs for contracting muscle fibers and carrying electrical impulses along nerve channels. 

A lack of electrolytes can cause unpleasant symptoms similar to dehydration and disrupt the fluid balance in the human body. It could feel like you came down with the flu. You may experience: 

  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Extreme fatigue

If a tall glass of milk fixes the problem, you know dehydration or lack of electrolytes is the culprit. 

2. Milk Contains Water

Did you know that milk is 87% water?3 This precious fluid contains the hydration you need and more. 

The watery component of milk contains other trace minerals your body needs. For example, molybdenum supports neurological function, and sulfur is a crucial building block of amino acids. Copper improves how many enzymes work, manganese helps you metabolize protein and sugar, and fluorine prevents tooth decay.

glass-of-milk-on-white-surface

3. Milk Contains Lactose and Natural Sugar

What is lactose? You might know this milk protein if you’re intolerant to it. While many people know it as a source of glucose or blood sugar, it’s also the only way to get galactose.4

Your body needs galactose for healthy nerve cell membranes. What does all this mean if you are lactose-intolerant, though? Fortunately, you can take lactase supplements, which replace the missing enzyme that prevents your body from digesting lactose. Additionally, many people who struggle to drink whole milk can successfully ingest it as yogurt, a part of many smoothies. 

Finally, your body sometimes needs quick sugar for energy. For example, a cup of fat-free milk can treat low blood sugar and is discreet.5 You can carry an emergency water bottle containing milk into settings that don’t typically allow snacks, like classrooms and lecture halls. 

4. Milk Contains Vitamins and Minerals 

You already know that milk is a fabulous source of trace minerals. It’s also a crucial source of some of the biggest ones you need for overall health. Take a look at what each 8-ounce glass contains:6

  • Calcium: You get 123 milligrams of this mineral for bone and dental health. 
  • Protein: Each glass contains over three grams. 
  • Vitamin D: You intake 38 grams of this nutrient necessary for calcium absorption and immune system functioning. 
  • Vitamin A: Each cup provides 115 units of this nutrient essential to healthy hair, skin, eyes, veins, and connective tissues. However, skimming milk removes much of it, so stick to the whole version. 
  • Riboflavin: Milk possesses 38% of your RDA of this nutrient that helps you convert food into fuel and may prevent migraines in some patients. 

5. Milk Is an Essential Component of Many Hydrating Drinks

What do you add to your tea? Even the green variety has far less caffeine than coffee, making it a more hydrating way to wake up. Adding a splash of milk to your favorite a.m. blend could stave off nausea and give you a healthy, nutrient-rich start to your day. When you consider tea's antioxidants, you’ll see the benefits of saying “good morning” with a cuppa. 

Milk also plays a starring role in many smoothies. Blend it with your favorite berries, some honey, and a sprinkle of cinnamon for a dessert-like beverage that nourishes you without causing a dramatic spike in your blood sugar. 

Does Milk Hydrate Better Than Water?

Whether milk hydrates better than water depends on your ultimate goal. If you merely wish to slake your thirst, then either H2O or milk will do the trick and provide hydrating effects. 

Most people who need more water say that the boring taste of water dissuades them. Do you fall into this camp? If so, milk may hydrate you better than water if you enjoy the taste. Chocolate also has considerable health benefits, and you can find low-sugar chocolate milk if that’s the only way to get your 3-year-old to drink more. 

Maybe you can’t dream of parting with your morning coffee. Since milk contains more water than cream, switching what you use to lighten it will improve your hydration levels.

A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that milk hydrates more than water. Researchers asked participants to drink 1 liter of different beverages, including water, tea, orange juice, full-fat milk, and skim milk, over 30 minutes. The researchers found that the hydration status of those who consumed skim and full-fat milk was better than any other drink, including water.7 Other studies show that milk is an effective post-exercise rehydration drink for athletes.8,9

Is Non-Dairy Milk as Hydrating?

Whether non-dairy milk is as hydrating as whole milk depends on the variety and how many solids it contains. For example, your typical glass of almond milk has 10%-20% almonds to water, making it roughly equivalent. However, homemade recipes call for a 1:4 ratio of nuts to water, introducing more solids. The percentages vary for other popular types of milk, such as oat milk, macadamia nut milk, cashew milk, and hemp milk. 

Many opt for non-dairy milk options in an attempt to curb carbohydrates. Unsweetened almond milk has 0g of net carbs, while unsweetened coconut and cashew milk can contain 1-2g of net carbs. A cup of 1% fat cow’s milk contains 12g of carbs.

Be mindful of reading labels if you want to use non-dairy milk for hydration. Although these substances aren’t diuretics, you might not get as much water as anticipated. 

Consider adding many ice cubes to make a smoothie with non-dairy milk. The frozen water gives your glass a chunky consistency that helps you feel full while increasing the hydrating benefits. 

man-holding-two-bottles-of-almond-milk

Does Milk Hydrate: The Bottom Line

Milk does hydrate you, sometimes better than water. The added nutrients and electrolytes of milk make it good for dehydration or a quick energy boost halfway through your day. Feel free to count a tall glass of milk as water intake, marking one of your required cups off your daily list. 

Milk is not a diuretic; adding it to your coffee or tea enhances the hydration you get from your brew. Using milk for hydration could help you maintain healthier bones, teeth, and immune function, thanks to the calcium, protein, and vitamin D it contains. The micronutrients and trace minerals further support nerve, heart, and brain health, improving your well-being. 

Learn More About How to Enhance Your Health with Signos

Are you interested in learning more about how drinks like milk can benefit your overall health? Signos can help. Their continuous glucose monitoring system enables you to incorporate changes to your nutrition and lifestyle to manage your blood sugar, weight, and energy levels. 

See how membership in Signos empowers you to interpret your body’s signals and manage your metabolic health. Complete this short quiz to discover how Signos can help you lose weight and improve your well-being. 

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References

  1. Yoon, Carol Kaesuk. “U.S. Drinking Itself Dry, Study Finds.” Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/1998/06/16/science/us-drinking-itself-dry-study-finds.html?auth=login-google1tap&login=google1tap
  2. Jones, Kenton. “How Dehydration Affects Your Body.” Retrieved from: https://www.multipure.com/purely-social/science/how-dehydration-affects-body/
  3. “Definitions.” International Dairy Foods Association. Retrieved from: https://www.idfa.org/definition#:~:text=Milk%20is%20approximately%2087%20percent,D%2C%20E%2C%20and%20K.
  4. “Yogurt and Nutrition: Initiative for a Balanced Diet.” World Gastroenterology Organization. Retrieved from: https://www.worldgastroenterology.org/UserFiles/file/YINI/WGOF_180206_WGO-YINICampaign_QA_English.pdf
  5. “Patient Education: Treating Low Blood Sugar.” USCF Health. Retrieved from: https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/treating-low-blood-sugar
  6. “Milk, Whole, 3.25% Milkfat, With Added Vitamin D.” USDA. Retrieved from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/746782/nutrients
  7. Maughan, R. J., Watson, P., Cordery, P., Walsh, N. P., Oliver, S. J., Dolci, A., Rodriguez-Sanchez, N., & Galloway, S. D. R. (2016). A randomized trial to assess the potential of different beverages to affect hydration status: development of a beverage hydration index. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 103(3), 717–723. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.115.114769
  8. Shirreffs, S. M., Watson, P., & Maughan, R. J. (2007). Milk as an effective post-exercise rehydration drink. The British journal of nutrition, 98(1), 173–180. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114507695543
  9. Desbrow, B., Jansen, S., Barrett, A., Leveritt, M. D., & Irwin, C. (2014). Comparing the rehydration potential of different milk-based drinks to a carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism = Physiologie appliquee, nutrition et metabolisme, 39(12), 1366–1372. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2014-0174

About the author

Mia Barnes is a health writer and researcher who specializes in nutrition, fitness, and mental health.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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