March 16, 2022

Should You Drink Warm or Cold Water?

It all depends on your ideal temperature

An illustration of a person filling their mug at a water cooler

Some like it with ice. Others like it hot with a slice of lemon. And some of us are just fine with whatever comes out of the tap. But does the temperature of the water we drink have a positive or negative effect on our health? Fill up your glass and take a minute to read what gastroenterologist Brian Weiner, MD, has to say.

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What qualifies as cold water?

It might seem silly to define this, but think about it. You can be in a room that’s comfortable temperature-wise to you and one person will be freezing while another person will be burning up. So, that’s why we’re here — giving you a range of cold water temperatures.

Dr. Weiner says that a pitcher of ice water from the fridge would be around 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius). Cold tap water would be around 60 F (15.55 C). Room temperature water comes in at around 78 F (25.55 C).

Is cold water good for you?

You’d think there’d be a lot of research behind this. But Dr. Weiner says there isn’t a lot of science to back up the claim of whether or not cold water is good for you.

“We all need to hydrate ourselves. That’s critical. In terms of studies or science about this, it is relatively limited,” he says.

Cold water benefits

He adds that in the best-studied cases regarding athletes and hydration, though, athletes gravitated toward cold tap water more. Cold tap water also seemed to cool them down faster.

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“It turns out that sweating stops before fluid can completely be incorporated into the body. There’s some kind of reflex that acknowledges liquid intake, and studies have shown that it kicks in more at the cold tap water level,” says Dr. Weiner.

Ice can help you burn calories

Dr. Weiner is quite familiar with this one. A few years ago, he decided to part ways with ice cream and started eating Italian ice instead. While he learned to love the swap, something still wasn’t quite right. It was the calorie count on the cups. They didn’t factor in the amount of energy that the body uses to melt the ice. So, he decided to look into it.

“I calculated it, and for every ounce of ice that you eat, it takes five calories to melt it and bring it up to body temperature,” Dr. Weiner says. He wrote a paper about it as well.

So, in a nutshell, if you want to hydrate, cold tap water is a good choice. If you want to burn some extra calories, munch on ice — or Italian ice.

Can warm or hot water help with achalasia?

Achalasia is a rare health condition that affects about 1 in 100,000 people in the U.S. every year. With achalasia, your esophagus can’t move food and liquids to your stomach. Your lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle that connects your stomach to your esophagus, opens to allow food and liquids to enter your stomach and closes to prevent stuff from backing up into your esophagus. With achalasia, the LES doesn’t open.

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One study suggests drinking hot beverages or eating warm or hot foods could help the LES to relax and decrease its resting pressure. Cold water can make the symptoms of achalasia worse.

So, what’s better for you?

It’s been said that drinking warm or hot water can help you have smoother bathroom moves or make you feel better when your sinuses are congested. But Dr. Weiner says there aren’t a lot of health benefits related to drinking warm or hot water.

“There’s something very comforting about hot beverages. People like hot beverages for their souls, for their psyches,” he notes. “If you have a cold and the hot steam gets into your nasal passages, that can offer some relief but that’s not a hydration issue. That’s similar to mom giving you a hot cup of chicken soup — the nurturing value of the food itself, but medically, there’s very little to no value.”

So, when it comes down to it, it’s mostly about personal preference.

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