How Quickly Can I Rehydrate Myself?

If you’ve ever experienced dehydration, you know how uncomfortable the symptoms can be. An estimated 75 percent of Americans suffer from chronic dehydration, so chances are good that you’ve been dehydrated at some point in your life. Once the symptoms of dehydration set in, you’ll undoubtedly want to rehydrate as quickly as possible, but how quickly can you rehydrate yourself? Using a combination of fluids and electrolyte supplements, it is possible to rehydrate yourself relatively quickly, but it is best to prevent dehydration from occuring in the first place.

What are the signs of dehydration?

When the body has an insufficient amount of fluid to properly carry out essential functions, it is said to suffer from dehydration. Dehydration occurs when people take in less fluid than they lose through sweat, urine, vomiting, or diarrhea, and it is often caused or accelerated by an electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes are essential minerals that the body needs in order to perform a variety of functions in the body, one of the most important of which is maintaining a balance of fluids. Dehydration can happen to anyone, but it most commonly impacts young children and senior citizens, who have more difficulty taking in the right amount of fluids. Dehydration most commonly occurs in senior citizens and very young children, but people of all age groups can become dehydrated. While many people consider thirst to be a sign that it’s time to drink water, mild dehydration has already begun by the time you feel thirsty. That’s why it is so important to drink fluids throughout the day, even when you don’t feel thirsty, in order to avoid dehydration. Common signs of dehydration include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Diminished urine input
  • Tiredness

How quickly can you rehydrate yourself?

How long it takes to recover from dehydration and how quickly you can rehydrate yourself depends on the severity of your dehydration. If you are suffering from mild dehydration, one study found that you will need approximately 20.3 ounces of fluid, or 600 mL, and about 45 minutes to rehydrate yourself. Subsequently, it will take larger amounts of fluid and longer periods of time to recover from moderate to severe dehydration. While many people might be tempted to chug water or an electrolyte beverage in order to rehydrate as quickly as possible, this can actually be dangerous. Drinking too fast can cause your blood to become diluted and cause your kidneys to begin eliminating liquids more quickly through urine. Drinking too much water without replacing electrolytes can also cause an electrolyte imbalance called hyponatremia, which occurs when there are insufficient levels of sodium in the blood. Therefore, people who are suffering from severe dehydration should rehydrate under the care of a medical professional who ensures that your body is receiving the right balance of fluids and electrolytes in order to rehydrate safely. While it is possible to recover from dehydration in all but the most severe cases, it is much easier to prevent dehydration from happening in the first place than to try and treat it after the fact. 

How can dehydration be prevented?

Preventing dehydration doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it’s really just about taking care of your body and paying attention to your hydration levels consistently. The first key to preventing dehydration is to pay attention to the amount of fluid that you are losing through sweat, diarrhea, or vomit. If you are sick, doing an intense or extended workout, or work in a hot environment, you need to drink more fluids than the average person and also need to replace your electrolytes. When consuming fluids to prevent dehydration, make sure you take small sips of water, approximately two to three ounces at a time, to avoid triggering your body to expel additional fluids through urine, which can occur if you drink too much water too quickly. Consider regularly using electrolyte drops or capsules to keep your electrolyte levels balanced and prevent changes to electrolyte levels that can cause dehydration. 

What are the best ways to recover from dehydration?

Sometimes, you might think you’re doing everything right to prevent dehydration but still find yourself suffering anyway. When dehydration occurs, it is possible to rehydrate using a variety of different beverages and even some foods. The best ways to recover from dehydration include the following:

  • Water: Of course, everyone knows that drinking water can help rehydrate you, but there are many reasons why water is often the best choice. For mild dehydration, water is usually sufficient, and it contains no calories, added sugar, or carbohydrates. In order to be effective as a way to rehydrate, water should be sipped throughout the day in small portions of two to three ounces at a time. Chugging a large amount of water at once simply triggers the kidneys to excrete more fluids through the urine, which can have the opposite of the intended effect. People who perform shorter workouts of moderate duration, do not work outdoors in the heat, and are not salty sweaters likely will be able to hydrate through water alone. However, in some cases, it is necessary to replace your electrolytes as well.
  • Electrolyte supplements: As noted above, water is sufficient for rehydration in many cases and should be considered the number one tool in the prevention of and recovery from dehydration. However, people who have performed a tough or lengthy workout, work in hot environments, are feeling under the weather, or are trying to recover from a big night out will likely benefit from an electrolyte supplement to rebalance the levels of electrolytes in their bodies and restore hydration. People who are salty sweaters may also require electrolyte supplements during workouts or on hot days, even if the effort level is easy or moderate. These individuals lose more sodium through their sweat than other people and can become dehydrated more easily. Electrolyte supplements don’t have to be packed with calories, carbohydrates and sugar; electrolyte drops and capsules contain none of the unnecessary junk but can help people recover from dehydration effectively by rebalancing electrolyte levels. 
  • Coffee and tea: You may have been told that coffee and tea that contain caffeine are dehydrating and shouldn’t be used to rehydrate, but this is only true if they are ingested in large quantities. Coffee becomes dehydrating at approximately two to three 8-ounce cups of coffee, while tea becomes dehydrating at five to eight 8-ounce cups of caffeinated tea. Therefore, it is considered ok to drink coffee or tea to rehydrate as long as you do not drink large amounts and are not suffering from severe dehydration. Many people like to use coffee and tea for hydration due to the energizing effect of caffeine.
  • Skim and low-fat milk: Milk might be considered nature’s electrolyte drink, as it naturally contains high concentrations of electrolytes. Although milk does contain calories, it also has plenty of protein, which can aid in muscle repair and recovery after a workout. Although milk is excellent for rehydrating, it can cause stomach upset in some people, particularly when choosing higher fat varieties. Therefore, skim and low-fat milk are recommended if you are trying to rehydrate, particularly after a difficult workout.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Suffering from mild dehydration but sick of drinking water? Try chewing on some fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies are made up of anywhere from 80 to 99 percent water, which makes them excellent for rehydration. The fruits and vegetables that have the highest amount of water include berries, oranges, carrots, cabbage, melons, grapes, lettuce, and spinach. 

  • When should you seek treatment for dehydration?

    Although an estimated 75 percent of the American population is considered chronically dehydrated, most people are experiencing mild dehydration. When dehydration becomes severe, it can be extremely dangerous. Immediate medical attention should be sought if you experience any of the following:

    • Have not urinated in eight hours
    • Are disoriented or confused
    • Feel very tired
    • Are too sick from nausea or vomiting to take in fluids
    • Have had a seizure
    • Have a weak or rapid pulse
    • Feel dizzy when you stand

    Dehydration should be stopped before it reaches severe levels, as the symptoms associated with severe dehydration are very serious. Signs of severe dehydration include:

    • Drop in blood pressure
    • Quickening heart rate
    • Shock
    • Confusion
    • Coma
    • Sunken eyes
    • Reduced elasticity of the skin
    • Fever
    • Seizure
    • Lethargy

    If left untreated, severe dehydration can be fatal. Therefore, it is important to make sure that you take in an adequate amount of fluids based on the activities you are doing throughout the day and also that you replenish the stores of electrolytes in the body.