Should You Drink Cold Water When You Exercise?

Drinking Water While Walking

mihailomilovanovic / E+ / Getty Images

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Drinking water is the best way to replenish fluids during and after exercise, but you may find different advice when it comes to temperature. Does water temperature matter when it comes to hydration and exercise? It may.

Exercise authorities such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommend that water and other hydrating drinks be cold when used during exercise. There are several reasons for this recommendation.

Why Is Cold Water Better?

Water is healthy and hydrating no matter the temperature, but cold water may provide some extra benefits during and after exercise.

Lowers Core Body Temperature

When you exercise, your body's core temperature rises and you lose fluids through sweat. Drinking ice water or an ice slurry can help keep your core temperature from rising, which can reduce water loss through sweat and help hydrate you better. Research has also shown that drinking cold water has the potential to slightly improve athletic performance.

Drinking ice water or cold sports drinks helps delay or reduce the rise in body temperature that may hinder endurance or strength training.

Tastes Better

Another factor in the recommendation to have cold drinks available during exercise or athletic competition is that most people find cold beverages more palatable, making them likely to drink more and more often which are keys to preventing dehydration. Even a minor amount of dehydration can impair athletic performance. To determine how much you should rehydrate, weigh yourself before and after exercising. For each pound you lose in sweat, aim to drink 16 to 24 ounces of water.

Burns a Few Calories

Your body expends a little more energy to warm ice-cold water to body temperature. The effect is minor, with estimates of up to 22 calories if drinking 1.8 liters of ice water per day. While the added calorie burn isn't enough to make a big difference in achieving your fitness goals, drinking more water in general burns more calories, so if drinking cold water appeals more to you than room-temperature water, you may still experience some extra calorie-burning effects.

Myths

You may see claims that cold water halts digestion, but several older research studies found no difference in liquid meal temperatures on gastric function.

Cold drinks are warmed to body temperature within five minutes of drinking them. This process does not delay the fluid passing from your stomach to your intestines to be absorbed. Overall, drinking water actually aids digestion.

What to Drink and When

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend:

  • Cold: Drinks for exercise should be cooler than room temperature—ideally at 33 degrees Fahrenheit if you are exercising in the heat and want to lower your core temperature.
  • Flavored: Drinks can be flavored to make them taste more appealing, helping people to drink more. A squeeze of lemon juice or other citrus fruits can add flavor without added sugar. 
  • Convenience: Drinks should be served in containers that let you drink without disrupting your exercise. Sports bottles have a sipper valve on top to allow you to drink without removing the cap. Hydration packs have a sipper tube; bottles with a wide neck allow you to add ice to your water or sports drink to keep it cooler throughout your walk or exercise session; some bottles are squeezable, while others have a straw to allow you to drink without squeezing. It is better to carry a water bottle with you in a water bottle-holding pack when walking rather than relying on water fountains along the way.
  • Plain water: If exercising for less than an hour, plain water is just fine (though you can add a squeeze of lemon juice or other flavorings for taste if desired).
  • Sports drinks: When exercising for longer than one hour, use a sports drink to hydrate and replace carbohydrates and electrolytes. You lose electrolytes (body salt) by sweating. By replenishing with water but not replacing lost electrolytes, you risk hyponatremia, a serious condition that results when the sodium levels in your blood fall below the normal range.
  • Drink to thirst: The old advice, still given by some coaches, was to drink and then drink some more based on the idea that thirst couldn't be trusted as a gauge for an exerciser's hydration needs. As a result of this advice, slower runners and walkers are at increased risk for hyponatremia. Updated guidelines caution endurance runners, walkers, and casual exercisers that over-drinking can cause hyponatremia, so most exercisers should use thirst as their guide rather than forcing fluids.

A Word From Verywell

Drinking cold water versus warm water can help you stay hydrated because it's often easier to drink, tastes better, and helps lower your core body temperature. However, if you like warm water more than ice-cold water, there's no need to fret. Find whatever appeals to you in order to get adequate hydration during and after your workouts.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kerksick CM, Wilborn CD, Roberts MD, et al. ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: Research & recommendations. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018;15(1):38. doi:10.1186/s12970-018-0242-y

  2. Hosseinlou A, Khamnei S, Zamanlu M. The effect of water temperature and voluntary drinking on the post rehydration sweatingInt J Clin Exp Med. 2013;6(8):683-687.

  3. LaFata D, Carlson-Phillips A, Sims ST, Russell EM. The effect of a cold beverage during an exercise session combining both strength and energy systems development training on core temperature and markers of performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2012;9(1):44.

  4. Burdon CA, Johnson NA, Chapman PG, O’Connor HT. Influence of beverage temperature on palatability and fluid ingestion during endurance exercise: A systematic reviewInt J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2012;22(3):199-211. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.22.3.199.

  5. Dubnov-Raz G, Constantini NW, Yariv H, Nice S, Shapira N. Influence of water drinking on resting energy expenditure in overweight childrenInternational Journal of Obesity. 2011;35(10):1295-1300. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2011.130.

  6. Tan PMS, Lee JKW. The role of fluid temperature and form on endurance performance in the heat. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. 2015;25(S1):39-51. doi:10.1111/sms.12366

  7. Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM. American college of sports medicine joint position statement. Nutrition and athletic performanceMed Sci Sports Exerc. 2016;48(3):543-568. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000000852.

Additional Reading