Thirsty? It’s time to think that drink

September 23, 2016

By Debbie Herbst, RD, LD, CDE
Mercy Hospital Carthage

It’s hot weather and all you can think about is a cold drink, but what you drink makes a difference. Does it make you thirstier or quench your thirst? Is your drink resulting in weight gain?

Nearly all adults need at least 64 ounces of water (not other beverages) daily. People who are larger, work in the heat or exercise a lot need more water. If you don’t like water, try cold water or adding lemon, lime or flavor enhancers.

Drinking enough water helps regulate your body temperature. If you are sweating a lot while working or exercising, you may need drinks that have electrolytes, such as Gatorade or PowerAde, to replace what is lost. Electrolytes are minerals like sodium and potassium that help maintain the right amount of fluid in our bodies and help muscles work correctly.

Drinking enough water also aids digestion, enables the mind to work better and helps the body process medications.

Thirst can be affected by temperature, medication and habit. Older adults and children are more likely to need encouragement to drink enough. Their bodies cannot cool down as quickly, so it is easier for them to become dehydrated. Signs of dehydration include headache, tiredness, weakness or dry mouth.

What about coffee and tea? Coffee and tea in moderation are OK so long as you drink enough water and your doctor has not recommended that you avoid caffeine. Coffee, tea, colas and diet colas have a diuretic effect, which means they cause the body to get rid of more fluid. This is why these drinks may not quench your thirst.

What about milk and juice? Milk has calcium, potassium and sodium, which are electrolytes. Milk also has protein. Chocolate milk has more sugar and calories.

Different juices have varying amounts of vitamin C and other nutrients. Eight ounces of orange juice has 120 percent of the daily value for vitamin C and is high in potassium. If you like other juices, read the label to determine whether it has vitamin C. Avoid juices that have added corn syrup or sugar.

What if you are struggling with your weight, but don’t eat too much? Look at your drinks.

One can of cola and 12 ounces of sweet tea have 150 to 180 calories. Chocolate milk has 200 calories, whole milk 150 calories, 2 percent milk 120 calories and skim milk 90 calories. Water, diet cola, unsweetened (or artificially sweetened) tea and coffee have no calories.

Do you love coffee drinks? Be aware that 1 cup (8 ounces) of mocha coffee averages 210 calories. Check the nutrition label for coffee drinks for the calorie content. When ordering coffee drinks, trim down calories with skim milk, sugar-free syrup and no whipped cream.

What about a “cold one”? Be aware that alcohol also has a diuretic effect and can “pull” water out of your body. As far as calories, an average 12-ounce beer has 140 calories and an average “light” beer 90 calories.

Drink water in between beer or other alcoholic drinks. This especially is important when working outdoors or doing outdoor sports in hot weather.

Looking for nutrition information on your beverage of choice? Go online or download free apps at,, or Loseit.

Stay cool, have fun this summer and think that drink.

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