Is Cold Water Bad for You? Benefits and Risks Explored

When you hear the phrase benefits or harms of cold water, you probably immediately associate it with cold water therapy — cooling the entire body with cold water. Many people promote it, even though its benefits are questionable, according to scientific studies.

A much newer topic of debate in the world of wellness is cold water drinking. While some people believe that drinking cold water can be harmful, others argue that it’s perfectly safe and can even offer particular benefits. This article explores the potential risks and benefits of drinking cold water. Moreover, it compares them with those of drinking warm water.

Is drinking cold water bad for you?


In general, for most people, drinking cold water is not harmful. Both cold and room temperature water will keep you hydrated, which is essential for maintaining all important functions of the body. However, some effects of cold water on health have to be discussed in more detail.

Possible digestive issues

The potential impact on digestion is one of the concerns often raised about drinking cold water. Some believe that cold water can cause the stomach to contract. This may lead to cramps or slowed digestion. Scientific evidence supporting this claim is minimal. It's true that extreme cold can cause blood vessels to constrict. This may also suggest that drinking cold water can cause the blood vessels in the stomach to narrow, resulting in temporary digestive discomfort. Still, it is important to note that individual tolerance varies, and what might cause discomfort for one person may have absolutely no effect on another.

Nonetheless, another opinion circulating in the media has the opposite hypothesis — cold water could even support gastric function and performance. One study has shown that drinking 500 mL 2°C water suppresses gastric contractions compared with consuming 500 mL 37°C or 60°C water. What is more, the study further suggested that this slowdown in stomach contractions potentially decreased feelings of hunger and even reduced energy intake.

In order to fully confirm or refute each of these hypotheses, more detailed research is needed.

Throat irritation

Another popular concern is that cold water might irritate the throat. Further, it is elaborated that the irritated throat would potentially swell, making it easier for harmful bacteria to penetrate the swollen parts. Actually, there is neither scientific nor clinical evidence to support this idea.

Rather than causing a sore throat, cold products, such as ice cream and ice lollies, are traditionally used to alleviate postoperative throat pain after tonsillectomies in children. A recent clinical study involving 92 children who underwent tonsillectomy found that consuming an ice lolly reduced sore throat pain for up to one hour after consumption.


Nevertheless, it is crucial to acknowledge that there is limited evidence regarding the effects of drinking cold water on throat irritation. This only highlights the necessity for additional research to comprehensively grasp the connection between cold water consumption and throat health.


Some people report experiencing headaches after drinking cold water. This phenomenon is known as an ice cream headache and is caused by eating a cold stimulus like ice cream or cold drinks. When a cold beverage rapidly cools the roof of the mouth (palate), it can trigger a sudden headache. The pain lasts for a short time, often from a few seconds to a few minutes, and is felt in the middle of the forehead and/or on one side or at the back of the head when swallowing. If you experience frequent headaches after drinking cold water, it might be beneficial to opt for warmer beverages.

Are there any benefits of drinking cold water?

Despite some potential downsides, cold water also offers several notable benefits that should be considered.

Improved exercise performance

One of the outstanding benefits of drinking cold water is its positive impact on exercise performance. Research indicates that drinking cold fluids before and during physical activity in a hot environment can improve endurance capacity and reduce the risk of overheating. These findings were also confirmed by another study, which showed that cold water consumption during an exercise session can remarkably mediate and delay the increase in core body temperature, leading to an improved endurance capacity.

However, the most important thing to remember is to stay hydrated, regardless of the beverage's temperature, before and during endurance activities, especially in hot environments.

Metabolic boost

Another commonly discussed potential benefit of drinking cold water is its ability to stimulate metabolism. One scientific study shows that when you drink cold water, your body has to expend a bit of energy to warm the water to body temperature. This process, known as thermogenesis, can lead to a temporary and slight increase in metabolic rate. Still, cold water has a very limited role as a thermogenic agent and, therefore, cannot be used as the main strategy for healthy weight management. For healthy weight control, a higher focus should be given to an overall healthy diet and regular physical activity.


Improved alertness

A widely debated benefit of cold water intake is its effect on alertness and wakefulness. It is assumed that the potential stimulating effect of cold water is partly due to its temperature. It is assumed to help wake up the senses, increase mental clarity, and provide a temporary energy boost needed during periods of fatigue or drowsiness. However, there are no scientific studies directly supporting this observation.

A study on whole-body cold-water immersion showed that after having a cold-water bath, participants felt emotionally better and were more active and alert. The changes in emotions were associated with the coupling between brain areas involved in attention control, emotion, and self-regulation. In addition, other studies also demonstrate the potential positive effect of water consumption (importance of hydration) on certain cognitive abilities and mood states.

Thus, all these studies collectively highlight that water intake and cold-water immersion can have significant benefits on alertness and cognitive function. Nevertheless, in order to state that cold water consumption demonstrates the same impact, additional in-depth studies are required.

Cold water vs. warm water: which is better for you?

The debate over whether cold or warm water is better for you hinges on various factors, including the context of consumption, individual health conditions, and specific circumstances. Both cold and warm water may offer unique health benefits and potential drawbacks.

Cold water is often preferred for hydration during athletic performance, especially in warm climates. Drinking cold water may help lower body temperature, which may support endurance and physical performance by preventing overheating. Additionally, ingestion of cool tap water (16°C) may induce a lower sweating response in dehydrated athletes compared to warm water, suggesting that cool tap water may be the optimum choice for acquiring hydration in dehydrated athletes.

Keep in mind that it is necessary to consider the safety of tap water based on local public health guidelines before drinking it, as its drinkability can vary depending on the region. Furthermore, drinking cold water could also have some downsides. Some individuals claim to experience digestive discomfort while drinking cold water. Furthermore, in rare cases, cold water may cause throat irritation and even trigger headaches due to the sudden change in temperature.

Warm water has almost no scientific research assessing its health effects or backing potential health benefits. Only alternative medicine (ayurvedic) suggests that a cup of warm water in the morning could demonstrate a soothing effect on the digestive system, reduce menstrual and headache pain, and even act beneficially by detoxifying the body. Additionally, warm water might be particularly comforting in cooler weather or for individuals with sore throats or sinus congestion. However, warm water may not be as effective as cold water in cooling the body during intense physical activity or in hot climates. It might also be less palatable to some, making it harder to consume in large quantities, which theoretically might affect overall hydration levels.

Final word


Both cold and warm water have their own place in a healthy lifestyle. By understanding the benefits and potential downsides associated with each of them, you can choose the one that best suits your overall health and well-being needs. In case of any concerns, do not hesitate to consult with health professionals. Nevertheless, hydration remains an essential component — it is really not so important whether the water is cold or warm until you prioritize staying well-hydrated.


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