You’ve finally stopped hitting the snooze button, so good for you. Now, before you do anything else, it’s time to drink something. But what’s the best way to start your day? You may have heard that it’s a big glass of water, or perhaps you’ve been told a hot cup of green tea or coffee is the way to go.
We spoke to nutrition experts to find out what they’re downing at daybreak, and why you should follow their lead.
Drink water, even if you’re not thirsty
Most of the experts who spoke with HuffPost had a clear (pun intended) winner for their morning beverage of choice: water. Even if it seems ho-hum, it’s what your body needs most to rehydrate after a night of sleep.
“You may not necessarily feel thirsty first thing in the morning, but drinking water can be a health habit that you prioritise to stay adequately hydrated throughout the day,” Vicki Shanta Retelny, a registered dietician nutritionist, told HuffPost.
But don’t worry — that H2O doesn’t necessarily have to be tepid tap water that’s drunk from a toothbrush holder cup (come on, we aren’t monsters). Experts suggest picking something you like to drink.
“I tend to prefer a can of seltzer first thing, because it’s easy to gauge the amount as a mental cue to finish the entire can before I have any coffee,” registered dietician Barbara Ruhs told HuffPost, adding that you should “always choose seltzer without added sodium,” which means it pays to read labels.
Make it easy on yourself
Not everyone rises in the morning with a song on their lips, but we all deserve to enjoy a crack-of-dawn beverage that promotes minimally civilised behaviour for the rest of the day. Registered dietician nutritionist Karen Ansel shared a tip: “To say I’m not a morning person is an understatement, but my workaround is to prepare the makings for a pot of coffee the night before and the coffee maker on a timer. When I wake up, I have a fresh pot waiting to help kick me into gear.”
While the Bulletproof coffee fad (which combines coffee with grass-fed butter and MCT oil) still holds sway among true keto believers, nutritionists’ reactions to the high-fat drink ranged from “meh” to “bleh.”
“If you absolutely love to put butter or coconut oil into your coffee, go ahead,” Ruhs said. “Personally I am not a fan, and as a dietitian, I can tell you it’s definitely not ‘healthy.’ I recognize that keto fans don’t want to have a slice of toast with butter on it, but adding it to coffee — yuck!”
The so-called science behind this fad is “based on gibberish,” registered dietician nutritionist Amanda Frankeny told HuffPost, adding, “No peer-reviewed studies have supported the idea that drinking hot buttered coffee in the morning sets you up to shed pounds.”
Frankeny also had thoughts about those “detoxifying” drinks that might seem tempting after a night of full-on retoxing.
“Don’t believe any drink that’s claiming to detoxify you,” she said. “Our major organs already are very robust detoxification systems. Your body has the know-how to get rid of the ‘sludge.’ If you nourish it, it can do its job.”
Energy drinks, another popular morning choice, also raised concerns.
“Many energy drinks have a lot of caffeine in them, so if you drink one first thing, you have to be super careful about your caffeine intake throughout the rest of the day,” Amy Gorin, a registered dietician nutritionist, told HuffPost.
And while juices have gotten a bad reputation over the years, Ruhs said the occasional glass of orange juice in the a.m. is just fine, and that ”100% juice is not as terrible as people have come to believe.”
“It’s true that juice doesn’t have all of the fiber of the whole fruit, but it still can be included once in a while as a good source of vitamin C,” she added.
Tea — at any temperature — is a healthy choice
For a fad-free beverage with health benefits, consider adding hot or iced tea to your morning routine.
Registered dietician nutritionist Toby Smithson, who was diagnosed with diabetes at age 8, said she brews a full pitcher of tea every morning to last her the whole day.
“Research has shown health benefits, including for diabetes prevention and management, from drinking tea,” she told HuffPost. “The polyphenols in tea appear to influence insulin activity, and other benefits include improved insulin sensitivity, maintenance of healthy blood pressure, reduction in risk of heart disease and reduction in risks of developing Type 2 diabetes.”
None of the experts we spoke with felt there was any special magic in hot water with lemon as a first-thing-out-of-bed beverage, but they didn’t discourage it, either.
“I can see the attraction of this idea,” Gorin told HuffPost. “Hot water is incredibly soothing, and lemon adds a nice splash of citrus to the water. Personally, if I’m drinking a hot beverage, I prefer to get antioxidants from it, so I suggest having green tea with lemon instead.”
Drink coffee to get things moving
If you’re looking to — as Ruhs put it — “get that business done before leaving the house,” she suggested having a cup of coffee. Frankeny agreed, sharing her own personal routine: “If you want something that helps with regularity, this drinking routine works wonders for me: I chug about 16 ounces of water right away and follow that with a cup of joe.”
For Frankeny, coffee is a year-round choice, no matter what the weather is like. When it’s hot outside, cold brew is her go-to.
“Overnight, I steep two to three heaping tablespoons of coffee grounds with two cups of water, a little cinnamon and a teaspoon of brown sugar,” she said. “The next morning, I strain it and combine with milk. I change it up with fennel seeds and white sugar, which makes it taste like a pizzelle, the traditional Italian waffle cookie, while still keeping a relatively balanced nutritional profile.”
Yes, what you drink matters
No matter what, experts agree that your first sip of the day is important.
“It sets the tone for the whole day,” Ansel said. “The last thing you want to do is start the day off with a sugary, highly processed drink like soda or an energy drink that will flood your system with sugars. These may deliver a quick shot of energy, but that’s guaranteed to be followed by a significant mid-morning low.”
If you can’t shake that Mountain Dew or Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino habit, registered dietician nutritionist Sara Haas has a suggestion to help you reframe your thinking.
“If you start the day with a sugar-loaded, junk-filled beverage, you’ve already told your body you don’t care much about it,” Haas said. “But if you start with water, tea, coffee or something with some nutritional benefit, you’re telling your body, ‘We’ve got this!’ and ‘I care about you!’”