Hot summer days, strenuous workouts, or simply a walk in the park—any of these situations can leave you feeling thirsty and dehydrated. But what happens if you don’t rehydrate? Your body can suffer from mild dehydration that can affect concentration, mood, and energy levels.
Unfortunately, not all fluids are created equal. In fact, water may not always be the best solution for quenching your thirst. It’s essential to rehydrate after any activity–especially one that takes place in extreme weather that may cause intense sweating.
Rehydration is crucial for preventing the damaging effects of dehydration, particularly if you have a stomach bug or are recovering from a long day under the sun.
Let’s discuss the signs and symptoms of dehydration and how to rehydrate fast.
Understanding the Signs
Spotting the signs of dehydration is key to participating in all the warm-weather activities and intense workouts you love.
If you’re not getting enough water every day, you’re less likely to be in optimal health. Even 1 percent of water loss in the body can begin to impact your brain function, which means you’ll have difficulty performing your best and being fully present in the moment.
Some signs of dehydration to look for include the following:
- Extreme thirst
- Dry mouth and tongue
- Dark-colored urine
- Fatigue and nausea
- Dizziness and confusion
- Severe irritability or listlessness
If you notice any signs of dehydration, it might be a good time to call your doctor, especially if you’re experiencing the following:
- Inability to produce tears when crying
- Noticeably sunken eyes and cheeks
- Sunken soft spot on top of the skull
- Diarrhea for 24 hours or more
- Feelings of extreme fatigue or weakness
- Passing out
- Black or bloody stool
What Are the Causes of Dehydration?
Dehydration can happen for many reasons. Maybe you don’t find enough time to drink water throughout the day, you become sick, or you lack access to safe drinking water when traveling.
Whatever the reason, some of the most common causes of dehydration include:
- Fever: Generally, the higher the fever, the more dehydrated you may end up. If you have a fever in addition to diarrhea and vomiting, these conditions may worsen.
- Increased urination: This is often caused by uncontrolled or undiagnosed diabetes. Certain medications like blood pressure medicine and diuretics can also lead to dehydration because they cause you to go to the bathroom more than usual.
- Diarrhea and vomiting: Diarrhea can lead to severe water and electrolyte loss. If you have diarrhea and vomiting, you may lose an exponential amount of fluids and vital minerals, which is why it’s important to drink water, juice, or an electrolyte beverage if you’re sick and experiencing these symptoms.
- Excessive sweat: When your body sweats, you lose water. If you do intense training or exercise and don’t follow up with fluid replacement, you can easily become dehydrated. Humid weather may also increase sweat and the amount of fluids you lose when exercising.
How Long Does Your Body Take To Rehydrate?
Depending how dehydrated you are, you’ll need to slowly take in more fluids to rehydrate the body.
Research shows that mildly dehydrated subjects could reach normal hydration levels within 45 minutes to one hour of drinking 600 mL of water or electrolyte drinks.
So, how can you hydrate your body faster?
Intravenous therapy (IV) can be used as a quick way to treat dehydration; it’s not an everyday solution for everyone, and it’s not the most accessible solution. IVs are often reserved for emergency care because a lot of people aren’t qualified to set up an IV treatment at home.
But guess what? There are simpler ways to quickly rehydrate at home.
Use Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS)
Water alone isn’t always the most effective way to rehydrate. Today, leading health organizations, including UNICEF, WHO, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend using oral rehydration solutions (ORS) to help with hydration. These are carefully balanced mixtures of salt, sugar, and water that are optimized for rehydration.
An effective ORS includes:
- Sodium (Salt): Helps the body absorb nutrients.
- Glucose (Sugar): Serves as the fuel for cell energy
- Electrolytes (Essential Minerals): Play a huge role in many bodily functions like muscle contractions, fluid balance, and pH balance
Overall, an ORS can result in faster rehydration and recovery.
Drink Plenty of Water
Drinking more water seems like an obvious solution, but not everyone follows this golden rule of wellness. Consuming H2O is essential because water makes up 60 percent of our body–it’s a natural regulator of internal body temperature and protects the spinal cord and brain, not to mention its role in making up a big portion of our blood.
To quickly rehydrate yourself, focus on 15.5 ounces of water if you are a man, and 11.5 cups if you are a woman. If you find the taste of plain water too boring, try adding fruit or vegetables like strawberry, cucumber, or lemon to the mix!
Eat Hydrating Foods
Did you know that certain foods like cucumbers can be made up of 80-99 percent of water? Not only can these food items hydrate the body, but they can also leave you feeling satisfyingly full.
When looking for hydrating options, opt for foods like:
- Berries like grapes and strawberries
These H2O-filled foods are essential ways to rehydrate the body. Whichever item you choose, make sure to consume at least one cup (or two servings) per day in addition to your daily 8 oz glass of water. You can never go wrong with double the hydration.
Want to spice up your hydration? Try blending these hydrating fruits like strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, and oranges to make a healthy and delicious smoothie!
Speed Up Gastric Emptying
When you hydrate your body, fluids pass through the stomach and into the small intestine before being absorbed by the bloodstream, where water and electrolytes can travel to the rest of your body. This process is known as “gastric emptying.”
If you can speed up this process with just a few tips and tricks, you can hydrate your body more efficiently and get those fluids to your cells faster.
Adjust Your Water Intake
As you drink water throughout the day, take a few bigger gulps to help boost gastric emptying. Studies show that when individuals consume 20 ounces of water, it’s moved more quickly through the system than if they drink 13.5 ounces.
Don’t Drink Your Carbs
The number of carbohydrates you consume can also affect gastric emptying. Beverages with six percent of carbohydrates or more, like soda or juice, may linger in your stomach for longer periods and delay gastric emptying. A lower-carb fluid can help quench your thirst and quickly move through the body.
Stay Ahead of Hydration
You wouldn’t want to wait until you experience severe signs of dehydration to start hydrating the body. But getting enough water to stay hydrated may be easier said than done.
According to a recent study by Quench USA, Inc, nearly 80 percent of respondents said they didn’t consume enough fluids daily to meet their needs.
So, how can you improve your chances of proper hydration?
Build the Taste
Most people who don’t like drinking water say it’s because they don’t like the taste of plain water. Flavor enhancement products like Nuun, or natural fruit juices like lemon and lime, can help turn your water into a tasty treat! The more you love your water’s taste, the more likely you are to reach for it throughout your day.
Opt for Alternatives
Whether you’re at work or out with friends, drinking water may not be your first priority. However, nearly 40 percent of individuals say they are not drinking enough water because they simply prefer to drink flavored beverages.
While it’s fine to consume various beverages, consider adding a cup of water in between each serving of tea, coffee, or soda you consume. You can also find fulfilling electrolyte-rich drinks that contain caffeine if you need an extra pick-me-up.
There are plenty of ways to hydrate as fast as possible, but it should be more about drinking as much water as you can and choosing the right mix of electrolytes with your fluids. That way, you can help speed up your rehydration rate and stay feeling your best—all day, every day.