Within the water world lie several debates. There are debates over how much we should be drinking, whether or not tap water is safe, and the methods of filtration we should be using. These issues remain contested because they don’t have a concrete answer. One source gives us a certain explanation, while another tells us something different, perhaps even contradictory. However, these three topics are far from being the only ones debated when it comes to water. You may have also found yourself wrapped up in another debate. This one lies at the periphery, but is still significant.
Room temperature vs. cold water: Which is better?
You may have pondered this question, trying to find a balance between your desired temperature and scientific (or, equally likely, pseudoscientific) claims you’ve heard. As with each of the aforementioned situations, there is no clear-cut solution. There are nuances that come into play, particularly when considering individual differences in terms of health, exercise routines, and even preference. It’s important to delve into empirical findings before deciding what’s right for your unique body. Here are several points to consider.
Benefits of Drinking Room Temperature Water
Think back to the last time you were sick. Were you more likely to reach for an icy beverage or a warm mug of tea? Chances are the latter, and for good reason. Warmer water has been associated with many positive health outcomes. It can provide relief from a runny nose, congestion, and sore throat— symptoms of the common cold and flu.
Compared to cold water, warm water can be beneficial to the digestive system. It helps keep things moving and more efficiently assists the body in removing waste. Warmer water can soothe cramps and constipation, though many studies have only been done on hot water and not room temperature water. Additional findings can provide a clearer picture of room temperature water’s effects on the body.
Health Risks of Drinking Room Temperature Water
There are no health risks associated with drinking water at room temperature, so long as one does not over-consume. Studies have found, though, that warm water consumption can curb thirst. This can be dangerous if your body is trying to cool off through sweat. Water that’s excessively hot can also burn the tongue and esophagus, so one should be cautious so as to avoid harm to these sensitive parts of the body.
Benefits of Drinking Cold Water
Now think back to the last time you had an intense workout. Was your first instinct to rehydrate with a glass of warm water, or did you reach for a beverage that was chilled, possibly even icy? Cold water, of course, sounds much more appealing in these situations. Cold water keeps your core body temperature from rising too high as you exercise, allowing you to workout longer. This can keep you from also becoming dehydrated and fatigued. For individuals working out in hot climates— a double whammy—drinking cold water can further assist the body in maintaining a stable temperature, thus reducing the risk of life-threatening conditions like heat stroke.
Health Risks of Drinking Cold Water
Cold water, despite the refreshing feel it provides, can trigger migraines. If you’re one of the 29.5 million Americans who experiences them, you might want to hold off on colder water. One study linked cold water consumption to headaches in women. Those who suffered from chronic migraine attacks were two times more likely to develop an ensuing headache.
Additionally, in individuals living with the rare but troubling digestive condition achalasia, cold water can worsen symptoms. In this condition, damaged nerves in the esophagus make it difficult for food to pass through the stomach as it should, resulting in chest pain and swallowing difficulties. Medical researchers in China instructed individuals diagnosed with achalasia to drink cold water. After doing so, the participants were found to have increased pressure in the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle responsible for allowing food and beverages into the stomach.
The Final Verdict
So, back to the question at hand. Room temperature vs. cold water: Which is better? What it ultimately comes down to is your own choice. Most of us will probably gravitate towards a preference. This is influenced by factors such as our exercise habits, existing health conditions, and likely the external temperature. Take a step back and examine your water preferences on a typical day. You might be surprised at how much they align based on those three factors.
Making mindful choices in certain situations, such as when we’ve come down with the cold or flu, can prove beneficial. Temperature, of course, is only one part of the picture when it comes to drinking water that is optimal for our wellbeing. Ultimately, it’s important to make sure we are taking in enough water. Doing so can keep our bodies and their plethora of systems functioning at their prime.
Q: Is there a specific temperature that evidence has shown to be of utmost benefit to human health?
A: A specific temperature hasn’t yet been pinpointed. However, recent findings recommend drinking water anywhere between 50°F and 72°F for optimal hydration.
Q: I’m picky about the taste of my water. Is there an ideal temperature to keep water from tasting flat or unpalatable?
A: The Canadian Drinking Water Quality has found that consumers frequently complain about water above 19°C (66°F) on the basis of taste. Additionally, water in plumbing systems may begin to taste moldy or earthy if the temperature rises above 16°C (60°F).
Q: At what temperature does water begin to damage tissues? I’m a frequent tea/coffee drinker and don’t want to experience adverse health effects.
A: Research has found that beverages between 160°F and 185°F can scald and burn significantly. This is also the temperature at which teas, coffees, and hot chocolates are served in most dining establishments. After analyzing a sample of 300 participants, the same study found 136°F to be the ideal drinking temperature.10 Always exercise caution when drinking hot beverages by allowing them to cool sufficiently before consumption.
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- What Are the Benefits of Drinking Hot Water? Retrieved from healthline.com (November 4, 2020)
- P.C. Szlyk, I.V. Sils, R.P. Francesconi, & R.W. Hubbard. Patterns of human drinking: effects of exercise, water temperature, and food consumption. Aviat Space Environ Med. 1990 Jan; 61(1): 43-48.
- Is It Better To Drink Cold Water While Exercising? Retrieved from webmd.com
- Migraine. Retrieved from womenshealth.gov (April 1, 2019)
- P. Mattsson. Headache caused by drinking cold water is common and related to active migraine. Cephalalgia. 2001 Apr; 21(3): 230-235.
- Yutang Ren, Meiyun Ke, Xiucai Fang, Liming Zhu, Xiaohong Sun, Zhifeng Wang, Riufeng Wang, Zhao Wei, Ping Wen, Haiwei Xin, Min Chang. Response of esophagus to high and low temperatures in patients with achalasia. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2012 Oct; 18(4): 391-398.
- What Temperature Water is Best to Drink for Health Benefits and Lose Weight? Retrieved from thebeet.com (February 22, 2021)
- Water Temperature. Retrieved from safewater.org
- Fredericka Brown and Kenneth R. Diller. Calculating the optimum temperature for serving hot beverages. Burns. 2008 Aug; 34(5): 648-654.