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MAY 28, 2024

The Hidden Dehydration Trap: Why Sugary Drinks Leave You Thirstier

Learn how sugary drinks and sodas make you think you’re quenching your thirst but are actually dehydrating you by reducing your water intake.

Read time: 12 minutes

We've all been there: it's a hot day, and you reach for a cold, sparkling soda knowing it’s the perfect way to cool down and quench your thirst. Except, it isn’t. Sure, you’ll feel refreshed and satisfied but it turns out this sensation is just an illusion created by your brain, and that sugary drink might actually be making you more dehydrated.

Don’t panic, we’re not saying completely boycott sodas, we’re simply going to take a mature look into how sugary drinks affect our bodies and why they can lead to dehydration. So, let’s get to it.

The Sugar-Water Interaction in Our Cells

When you drink a sugary beverage, the sugar interacts with the cells in your body in a way that can disrupt your hydration. Here’s a simplified step-by-step breakdown of what happens (no science degree needed):

Increased Urination

When you consume a lot of sugar, your body works hard to get rid of the excess. This process requires water, which means that your kidneys are prompted to filter more water out of your bloodstream to excrete the sugar through urine. As a result, you end up losing more water than you're taking in.

Cellular Dehydration

Sugar molecules also draw water out of your cells. This means that even though you might be drinking a liquid, the high sugar content causes your cells to lose water, leading to cellular dehydration. So, while you might feel like you're hydrating, your cells are actually drying out.

Thirst Masking

Studies have shown that cool, carbonated sodas can trick your brain into thinking you're quenching your thirst more effectively than water [Source: peer reviewed PLOS ONE]. This is partly due to the refreshing sensation of the carbonation and the sweetness of the drink, which gives a quick, albeit misleading, sense of satisfaction.

Combatting Dehydration the Right Way

So, what’s the best way to stay hydrated? Well, the answer is pretty simple: reduce your intake of sugary drinks and increase your water consumption. Yeah, it’s no huge revelation, just straightforward logic. But here are some practical tips to help you stay hydrated.

Invest in a Stylish Water Bottle

The first step is to find a water bottle that you love and want to carry around with you. A stylish, visually appealing bottle can motivate you to drink more water and keep it in sight throughout the day.

Invest in FORM to keep dehydration at bay

Track Your Intake

Using a water bottle with measurements on the side allows you to monitor how much water you’re actually drinking. This can help ensure you’re getting enough fluids throughout the day.

Set Reminders

Why not use your phone or a dedicated hydration app to set regular reminders to drink water? This can be especially helpful if you’re prone to forgetting to hydrate or hyperfocus on tasks.

Infuse Your Water

If plain water feels too boring, try infusing it with fruits, herbs, or a splash of natural juice. This can make drinking water more enjoyable and flavorful, without compromising your intake.

Eat Hydrating Foods

Incorporate foods with high water content into your diet, such as cucumbers, watermelon, oranges, and strawberries. These can help boost your hydration levels naturally.

Limit Sugary Drinks

And to come full circle, gradually reduce your intake of sodas and other sugary beverages. Try replacing them with healthier alternatives like herbal teas, flavored water, or coconut water.

General Tips to Stay Hydrated

  • Start your day with water. Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning to kickstart your hydration.
  • Drink before you feel thirsty. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink water. Thirst is a late sign of dehydration.
  • Stay hydrated during exercise: Make sure to drink water before, during, and after exercise to replenish lost fluids.

While sugary drinks might seem like a quick fix to quench your thirst, they can actually leave you more dehydrated. Sure, they’re not the only cause and far from the root of all evil but understanding the science behind this can help you make better choices for your hydration needs. By cutting down on sugary beverages and making water a more appealing and accessible choice, you can keep your body properly hydrated and feeling great.


Q: Why do sugary drinks make me feel less thirsty even though they dehydrate me?

A: Sugary drinks, especially cool and carbonated ones, create a temporary sensation of thirst relief because the cold temperature and fizz stimulate a refreshing feeling. However, the high sugar content pulls water from your cells and increases urination, which ultimately leads to dehydration.

Q: How does sugar increase urination and cause dehydration?

A: When you consume sugary drinks, your body needs to remove the excess sugar from your bloodstream. This process requires water, leading your kidneys to filter more water out of your blood to excrete the sugar through urine. As a result, you lose more water than you gain, causing dehydration.

Q: What are some signs that I might be dehydrated from drinking sugary beverages?

A: Common signs of dehydration include feeling thirsty, having a dry mouth, dark yellow urine, feeling tired or dizzy, and experiencing dry skin. If you notice these symptoms after consuming sugary drinks, it’s a good indication that they are contributing to your dehydration.

Q: Can I still enjoy sugary drinks without getting dehydrated?

A: Moderation is key. While it’s best to limit sugary drinks, you can still enjoy them occasionally. When you do, make sure to drink plenty of water before and after to balance out the effects and maintain proper hydration.

Q: How much water should I drink daily to stay hydrated?

A: The general recommendation is to drink about 8 cups (64 ounces) of water a day. However, individual needs can vary based on factors like age, gender, climate, and physical activity levels. Pay attention to your body’s signals and adjust your water intake accordingly.

Q: Are there any healthier alternatives to sugary drinks that can help keep me hydrated?

A: Yes, there are plenty of healthier alternatives! Try drinking herbal teas, flavored water (with natural fruit infusions), coconut water, or simply plain water. These options can provide hydration without the negative effects of sugary drinks.

Q: What can I do to make drinking water more enjoyable?

A: To make water more appealing, consider using a stylish water bottle that you enjoy carrying around. You can also infuse your water with fruits, herbs, or a splash of natural juice for added flavor. Tracking your water intake and setting reminders can also help you stay on top of your hydration goals.

Q: Can foods help with hydration?

A: Absolutely! Eating foods with high water content can contribute to your overall hydration. Some hydrating foods include cucumbers, watermelon, oranges, strawberries, and celery. Incorporating these into your diet can help you stay hydrated.

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Written by Matthew Stogdon

Matt has been writing for two decades, across print and digital media. He is also an accomplished filmmaker, with several accolades under his belt.


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