The first beverage you sip on when you wake up can significantly impact the rest of your day, either as an energizer and mood-booster or as a sugar-laden (and potentially overstimulating) disaster in a cup that’ll leave you fatigued, moody, and hungry by the afternoon.
And if that drink is high in sugar — such as a chocolate caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream and cacao nibs — you’ll end up craving more sweet, high-fat, and high-calorie foods too, instead of healthier picks like protein, healthy fats, and fiber-dense carbohydrates to better fuel you. Of course, drinking something is technically better than nothing at all, where your body would then remain in a dehydrated state after going hours without replenishing fluids.
“When we wake up, we are slightly dehydrated from hours of sleep, as the body loses water during sleep through respiration, sweat, and normal body functions that require water,” Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, says.
And unfortunately, lingering or worsened dehydration negatively impacts productivity for the day ahead. It leads to brain fog and compromised cognitive thinking as well as lethargy, with decreased energy levels and less motivation to tackle whatever’s on your to-do list for the day.
“Our natural state of dehydration makes the first thing that we drink in the morning all the more important,” Best says, which is why you want to make sure it's a hydrating, healthy source that will benefit your mind and body.
The Healthiest Drink to Have in the Morning to Hydrate and Wake Up
Plain and simple, water is the best beverage to sip on right when you wake up.
“A standard glass of water is the best option, as it contains the most basic form of hydration that the body needs,” Best explains.
Of course, you can flavor it naturally with fresh fruit and herbs, but water in its pure and plain state is sufficient for replenishing lost fluids and waking you up. Cold water is also particularly helpful for boosting alertness and mental clarity, as the cold temperature and hydrating nature of water will together work to enhance cognitive thinking and focus, while clearing away any remaining mental cloudiness and physical drowsiness as well.
According to registered dietitian nutritionist Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN, CSO, author of Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Prep and How to Eat to Beat Disease Cookbook, you should drink a glass of cold water first thing in the morning, and save any warm beverages for later.
“I suggest drinking water right away, and then moving to a hot beverage — one with antioxidants, like green tea or black coffee — which can be pleasantly stimulating when enjoyed throughout the morning as you're getting ready,” Hultin says.
Water's too Bland for You? Try These Options.
If water is too bland for you, try adding fruit, vegetables, and herbs, all of which naturally enhance the flavor and even offer additional health benefits to improve energy, concentration, and focus, for a more productive and happier day, too.
“Water is the easiest and healthiest way to hydrate, and you can prepare it in a way that you really look forward to, such as with the addition of fresh mint or cucumber for a vibrant scent and flavor that’s perfectly fitting for the morning,” Hultin says.
Warm Lemon Water
Best suggests drinking lemon water, which is a great option that’s often touted for its health properties that cleanse the body, focus and brighten the mind, and improve bladder health.
Plus, similar to Hultin’s suggestion, lemon water also provides more flavor to create a positive habit around properly hydrating all day long.
“Adding lemon to your water may help you enjoy it more and drink enough to successfully achieve your specific hydration needs,” Best explains.
And according to Best, it’s a good drink for settling digestion and avoiding reflux. Lemon water is alkalinizing on the body, which keeps it well balanced and hydrated for optimal functioning, as opposed to when the body is in an acidic state due to dehydration, excess caffeine, or high intake of foods that are typically acidic by nature (tomatoes and coffee).
It also works to support the gut and digestion as a laxative.
“Lemon water has also been shown to improve insulin resistance and digestion, and drinking lemon water in the morning can also act as a laxative,” Best says.
The caveat here, however, is that you must drink it warm to experience the laxative effects. The solution? Drink a glass of cold water first, and then follow it with a cup of warm lemon water to support enhanced hydration and digestive health.
“The body is coming out of a fast in the morning after sleeping for many hours, so you can kickstart your digestion and rehydrate your body by enjoying a cup of water or tea,” Hultin explains.
Decaffeinated, Warm Tea
Keep in mind that caffeinated beverages — despite their supply of hydrating fluid — also work as mild diuretics. So, if you're really focused on improving hydration first thing in the morning, Hultin suggests choosing herbal teas instead.
Best agrees: She likes to drink warm tea after drinking plain water as part of her daily routine.
“While I always have a glass of water first thing in the morning to hydrate myself, I turn to caffeine-free ginger tea second," Best says. "This tea is naturally caffeine-free, which means that I'm not triggering more water loss."
If you choose a ginger decaffeinated tea, have it after breakfast for greater digestion benefits. If it’s a different decaf tea, it doesn’t matter whether it’s before or after your meal.
“It is best to drink ginger tea hot right after breakfast, as the ginger helps with digestion as well,” Best explains.
... but Avoid Caffeinated Teas or Other Caffeinated Beverages First Thing in the Morning
In general, Best says that the first beverage you drink in the morning shouldn’t be coffee, which is — again — a mild diuretic, and thus should be reserved for later in the morning. And energy drinks with caffeine may also overstimulate and make dehydration worse, too, she notes.
Additionally, you'll want to ditch any sugary juices, smoothies, and coffees, too.
“I generally suggest that people avoid drinks that are high in natural or added sugars such as juices, sugar cubes, or creamers, because those can cause blood sugar spikes and start your day off in a dysregulated way,” Hultin says.
There is one exception, though. If you’re working out in the morning, a sugar-free sports drink could be useful as a way to rehydrate with electrolytes without sugar and its inflammatory side effects. Still, have a glass of water first, and make sure that it’s either sugar-free or incredibly low in sugar.
Better yet? Save your electrolyte water for after a morning training session, and increase its value by adding protein to build and repair muscle. A low-calorie, zero-sugar protein water can be useful here, since you’ll need to replenish depleted nutrient stores.