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​​One Major Effect of Drinking Ice Cold Water, Says Science

Some say it’s unhealthy for you...but is that true?

People have a lot of opinions about drinking ice cold water. Some claim that drinking cold water is bad for your digestion and can cause mucus build-up. Others claim that cold water makes you burn more calories and aids with exercise performance. So what's the truth? Is it okay to enjoy an ice-cold cup of water on a hot summer day? Long story short—yes. There isn't enough scientific evidence to make a claim that ice cold water is bad for you, and the one major effect of drinking ice cold water is exactly what you would think it would be—for your hydration.

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Why drinking cold water helps with hydration

First, it's important to note that drinking water at any temperature is going to help your body get hydrated. Staying hydrated is important for regulating your body temperature, keeps your organs functioning properly, delivers nutrients to your body's cells, and can even help with preventing infections, according to Harvard Health.

And yet, while consuming water at any temperature can help with your body's hydration, drinking cool water has been proven to specifically help with assisting in rehydration more so than other temperatures. One study from the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine that reviewed six different male athletes that consumed water at different temperatures found that drinking water at 16 degrees Celsius (~60 degrees Fahrenheit) with a higher intake of water resulted in less sweating compared to the others. The study concludes that cool tap water can be the ultimate temperature for rehydration purposes, especially for athletes when working out in the heat.

Along with drinking it, cold water has been proven to also help athletes in workout recovery. One study from the Human Kinetics Journal found that a 10-minute cold shower immediately after an exercise session can assist with hydration status. Plus, a 10 minute cold shower (also known as "cold water therapy") has been shown to help athletes to feel less sore and less fatigued, according to the European Journal of Applied Physiology.

Even with so much to benefit from drinking cold water, there are some wellness experts who claim that cold water actually isn't good for your body's health, in which their theories have evidently been debunked.

athlete drinking cold water on the track
Nigel Msipa/Unsplash

The myths surrounding cold water consumption

In ayurvedic medicinal practices, it has been stated that drinking ice cold water is actually bad for your body's overall digestion. This specific claim states that drinking cold water can constrict your blood vessels, resulting in your body's inability to absorb certain nutrients and vitamins, and food. Drinking warm water is also a cultural practice for many, where the claim is that warm water can help with speeding up the digestion process and can even be good for your gut health.

Some hold up this claim to western medicine and point out a study in General Pharmacology from 1983 which looks at how cold affects the blood vessel wall and evaluates blood flow and body temperatures for dogs. While it is true that cold weather can affect the circulatory system, this study doesn't specifically focus on how drinking ice cold water can directly affect your blood vessels. All in all, while your blood vessels do play an important role in digestion, there is not enough scientific evidence to back the claim that drinking cold water can slow down your body's digestion rate.

Another common misconception about drinking ice cold water is how it can cause mucus build-up. This comes from a 1978 study from CHEST Journal which measured nasal mucus velocity and nasal airflow resistance and found that hot liquid is superior to cold liquids in managing nasal bodily fluids. However, it's important to note that while this specific study was archived in the National Library of Medicine, the study is no longer available for review through CHEST Journal online.

Lastly, there is a claim that drinking cold water can make you hungrier, which stems from a 2005 study from the University of Florida. This study compares the difference in appetite when exercising immersed in cold water versus warm water, and concludes that those who exercise in cold water may have an "exaggerated energy intake following exercise" which could make you feel hungrier and cause you to eat more.

Even if there have been other studies that have shown increased hunger during the colder seasons of the year, this still does not conclude that drinking cold water can result in an increased appetite. While your body may work a bit more to raise body temperature after cold water is consumed, your body only needs eight calories to do this, resulting in insignificant calorie expenditure.

Just drink more water.

While there is much debate over drinking ice cold water versus drinking room temperature water, medical experts can agree on one thing–just drink water to stay hydrated. Your preferences in water temperature won't matter when it comes to the ultimate goal of why you're drinking water in the first place—to stay hydrated and to keep your body healthy and happy.

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Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, with a main focus on food coverage, nutrition, and recipe development. Read more
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