The bottom line is this: your tea intake does count towards your overall fluid intake for the day.
Historically, coffee and tea have been given a bad rap. There are myths swirling that both of them act as diuretics (i.e. removing water from the body), or are dehydrating.
Meaning, when you drink them, they actually cause your body to lose more water.
So, it would go something like this: you drink a cup of tea or coffee and your body, within a relatively short period of time, would basically eliminate the fluid you just drank via your urine.
This used to be a common belief.
But we’re learning that this is simply not the case.
What are the Effects of Coffee and Tea on the Body?
Coffee and tea do mildly trigger a diuretic effect, but not to this extreme. Your body still absorbs and uses the majority of the liquid you consume through coffee and tea.
Not only that, but there are some potential health benefits to consuming coffee and tea regularly.
Researchers are discovering that consuming 2 to 4 cups of coffee, black, or green tea most days of the week can reduce a person’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, colon and liver cancer, and even Parkinson’s disease. I must mention that these studies usually study people that drink their coffee and tea without any added milk, cream, or sugar.
The question that researchers still aren’t able to answer, though, is whether it’s the healthy compounds in coffee and tea that prevent diseases — or if it's the caffeine.
The consensus seems to be that both may help lower our risk for these diseases.
We know that coffee and tea come from plants (duh) and plants contain lots of beneficial compounds. For example, plant-based foods contain antioxidants. There are a lots of different types of antioxidants. Some of these antioxidants are called polyphenols. These are the types of antioxidants we often find in coffee and tea.
Researchers are learning that these polyphenols may prevent certain diseases like heart disease and cancer. It appears these compounds are probably beneficial to our health, but it’s possible that the caffeine makes them more potent. There are a couple of studies that have been performed using decaffeinated tea and coffee which show promising results, but we need more published studies to really know what’s going on.
How Much Coffee and Tea should I be Drinking?
While all of this sounds amazing, there’s no need to go overboard with your tea and coffee consumption.
Most health agencies recommend that healthy adults consume no more than 400 mg of caffeine each day. If we are talking about tea, you would get about 400 mg of caffeine by drinking about 7 cups, which is quite an amount.
Because it is naturally higher in caffeine, drinking about 2.5 cups of your store-bought, drip coffee would get you to around 400 mg. Now, if you have underlying conditions like high blood pressure, IBS, heartburn (or Gastroesophageal Reflux), stomach ulcers, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, you may want to check with your doctor.
Also, for those that are pregnant, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day. In the context of tea, that would be no more than 4 cups each day. As for coffee, 1 to 1.5 cups. Please know that depending on the brand, the caffeine content can vary quite a bit. Therefore be sure to check the label to really know how much you’re actually getting per serving.
What about Energy Drinks?
I can’t talk about coffee, tea, and caffeine without also addressing energy drinks. We simply don’t know at this time if they provide similar benefits.
Part of the reason for this is that energy drinks not only contain caffeine, but usually sugar and possibly some herbal supplements as well. Because of all these other ingredients, it makes it difficult to determine the true health effects of these products.
If you’re an otherwise healthy adult, the current recommendation when it comes to energy drinks is to consume no more than 2 cans of Red Bull per day OR no more than 1 bottle of 5-Hour Energy.
If you do consume either of these, it’s best to avoid other sources of caffeine.
What about other energy drinks like Monster? Well, we really don’t know because they may not list the caffeine content of their product, or what they do list is inaccurate. When it comes to tea and coffee, on the other hand, those foods are more tightly regulated so the caffeine content listed on the Nutrition Facts labels are more accurate.
To sum up this article, you may continue counting tea towards your water intake for the day. But don’t rely on this as your only source of fluid. Continue to drink water regularly, and keep in mind that it's best to consume tea plain instead of adding sugar, milk, or cream.
Lastly, go ahead and check the caffeine content of the brand of tea you’re using. That way, you can see if you’re exceeding the 400 mg of caffeine per day limit.