What Should I Drink if I'm Thirsty?

When you feel thirsty, listen to what your body is telling you. The feeling of thirst comes from your body's need for hydration whether the thirst is from sports, normal activities or sometimes medical conditions such as diabetes. When you are thirsty, there are a myriad of options for you to choose from. Although drinking water is a smart option in most cases, other drinks can satisfy your thirst.

A young woman drinking water in a hot tub. Credit: amanaimagesRF/amana images/Getty Images

Definition

Thirst occurs due to a variety of causes, according to Carol M. Porth, author of "Essentials of Pathophysiology." Two main causes are when your brain senses that the blood circulating through your body is either too concentrated, or your blood volume is low. Some people have thirst disorders such as hypodipsia, which is when your body does not recognize thirst, or polydipsia, which is when you have a false sense of being thirsty. Porth points out the difference between thirst and drinking, as thirst is when you realize you need to drink, and drinking is a habit that most people have that occurs before the feeling or sensation of thirst.

Water

Water is the first choice for hydration in most cases of thirst, although the amount you need varies based on your activity level, weight and climate. The Mayo Clinic indicates that an easy way to get enough water is to drink about 64 oz. of water a day. In contrast, a study published in the November 2002 edition of the "American Journal of Physiology Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology" indicates that healthy adults may not need 64 oz. of water a day, especially if living a sedentary lifestyle. Water satisfies your thirst by replacing fluids lost through sweat, daily activity and urination.

Sports Drinks

If you are an avid athlete, spend a lot of time outdoors or live and work in a hot climate, you may satisfy your thirst with a sports drink. Sports drinks, while often high in sugar, also contain necessary electrolytes and carbohydrates, which the President's Council on Physical Fitness, Sports & Nutrition explains replaces the electrolytes lost when you sweat during physical exertion. Look for sports drinks that have between 15 and 18 g of carbohydrates per 1 cup serving. If you are working outdoors or exercising intensely, be alert to signs of dehydration including feeling lightheaded, nausea or lethargic or having an extremely dry mouth.

Additional Options

While sports drinks and water are the best choices when thirsty, other beverages can relieve your thirst. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends avoiding caffeinated drinks or carbonated beverages when you feel thirsty. Choose decaffeinated teas or coffee, 100-percent fruit juice, milk or zero-calorie flavored water. The best way to avoid feeling thirsty is to drink water regularly throughout the day instead of waiting until your body signals that you are thirsty.

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