- Symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, extreme thirst, and muscle cramps.
- Mild dehydration can be relieved in as little as 10 minutes.
- Hydrating quickly helps you restore lost fluids and minerals.
Sweating like a pig? Don’t pull a Bear Grylls. While the British adventurer gained notoriety for rehydrating by drinking his own urine, there are far better ways to hydrate fast.
Dehydration sets in when your body loses more fluids than it’s taken in. More than half of the human body is made of water, so even a small deficit can be harmful. Losing as little as 1.5 percent of your body’s water can lead to fatigue, thirst, and a mouth that feels as arid as the Nevada desert.
Dehydration occurs when you are losing more fluids than you’re consuming. These fluids can be lost by using the bathroom, vomiting, crying, or sweating.
Your strategies for rehydrating depend on how much fluid you’ve lost. For mild dehydration, drinking water and electrolytes—essential minerals like sodium, calcium, and potassium—can relieve symptoms in as little as 5 to 10 minutes, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
If you’ve developed a headache and muscle cramps, you’re veering into moderate dehydration territory. Drinking fluids can help, but if you start to feel confused, faint, or struggle to breathe, get to an urgent care or ER, stat. You may need IV fluids, says Susan Greene, ACE certified Nutrition Specialist, health coach, and personal trainer.
You should start to feel better within about 45 minutes of getting IV fluids, but it can take several hours for you to feel back to normal, and up to three days to completely replenish lost fluids, Greene says.
Effects of Dehydration
Urine is a good indicator of your hydration levels. If you’re well-hydrated, your piss should be anywhere from pale straw to dark yellow. If your urine becomes a brown-ish color, that’s a clear sign of dehydration. (Conversely, if your pee is clear, you could be overhydrated which may be lowering your salt and electrolyte levels. In that case, pump the breaks and stick to the basic rule of thumb of 64 fluid ounces of water a day.)
Feeling tired often leads to guys grab a cup of coffee to boost their energy, but this can make dehydration worse since coffee is a diuretic.
Fatigue sets in when you don’t have enough water in your system to support healthy functioning, says Greene. “As the body becomes distressed, your energy depletes. The result is extreme lethargy.”
Dehydration fatigue is different from the kind of tired you feel after a long day at the office. When you’re dehydrated, you lack the power to move, you feel jittery and anxious, and your muscles are so tired all you want to do is sit down, according to Greene.
While it may be a myth that thirst is a slam-dunk sign of dehydration, a bone dry mouth is cause for concern. Excessive thirst is a red flag that your body is low on water.
Decreased cognitive functioning
When you feel fatigue kick in, don’t be surprised if cognitive function dips as well. Dehydration is linked to deficits in short-term memory, vigor, attention, and reaction, all of which improve with hydration supplementation (1).
“Individuals suffering from mild dehydration will feel a tightness in their lower extremities for around 10 to 30 seconds,” says Greene, likening it to a Charley Horse. “Light stretching and plenty of fluids can help to eliminate the cramp, but it can last longer with more severe dehydration.”
How to Hydrate Fast
You need to replace the fluids and minerals quickly. Particularly the latter.
“Electrolytes are the most effective way to get your fluid balance in check,” says Greene.
Electrolytes help to balance fluids as well as successfully transport nutrients around. Sodium helps balance fluid, while potassium can help with cramping. Magnesium relaxes your muscles.
Bottled or from the tap, water is a cheap and easy fix for mild dehydration. Men are typically advised to consume approximately 11-13 8 oz glasses of water, whereas women generally require around 10 8 oz glasses of water as their recommended intake.If you’re moderately or severely dehydrated, it won’t cut it. “Plain water doesn’t have the minerals needed to overcome the fluid loss,” says Greene.
Oral Rehydration Solutions
Oral rehydration solutions are the most effective way to hydrate fast since they contain electrolytes your body has been deprived of, according to Greene. They can also help with injury prevention and proper organ function (2).
One study of healthy male cyclists compared the fluid balance efficacy of an oral rehydration solution against sports drinks and water: Oral rehydration solutions were more effective at restoring fluid balance during recovery than the others (3).
“There are two electrolyte products I recommend to optimize hydration,” Greene says. “First, Smartwater, which is simply distilled water mixed with electrolytes. But my favorite option is Nuun, a tablet packed with key electrolytes which mixes easily into 16 ounces of water.”
Gatorade and Powerade are popular hydrating options. “They are great for athletes because they contain electrolytes and other key ingredients that help you recover from the physical demand of strenuous activity,” says Greene.
“Coconut water replenishes electrolytes since it contains those vital minerals, but has less overall amount than an oral rehydration solution,” says Greene. “Since the amount of electrolytes varies, it’s inconsistent for hydrating effectively.”
Feeling hungry? Both fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables make a perfect hydrating snack due to their high water content. Look for fruits like watermelon, cucumbers, grapefruits, and peaches, which have a high water content.
How Much Water Do You Need?
Drinking 8 ounces of water is an old myth. “Aim to drink about half your bodyweight in ounces per day,” says Greene. “If you weigh 200 pounds, you need roughly 100 ounces of water per day, or about 12 to 13 cups of water.” If you’re 150 pounds, that drops to about 9 to 10 cups.
Can You Rehydrate Overnight?
Not unless you wake up every hour to sip water. “It’s ideal to keep up with your recommended amount of hydration throughout the day in order to avoid excessive drinking right before bed,” says Greene. “While there isn’t a miracle to immediately hydrate overnight, being efficient with your water intake will work.”
Go to bed well hydrated, your morning urine should be that straw-dark yellow color, according to Greene.
The Bottom Line
The fastest way to hydrate is with an oral rehydration solution. These products are packed with electrolytes which are minerals found in your body that balance fluid levels and maintain optimal hydration. While you can hydrate fast with regular water, focus on electrolytes.