Not Drinking Enough Water? How to Hydrate Fast

Drinking enough water throughout the day isn’t easy. Too often, you simply get caught up in whatever you’re doing — whether you’re working, socializing, or exercising — to remember to hydrate.

But if you’re not drinking enough water to achieve optimal hydration, you likely won’t feel your best. Even a body water loss of just 1-2% can begin to impact your cognitive abilities — which means you won’t be able to perform as well at work or be fully mentally present with your friends and family. And eventually, you could end up dealing with symptoms of with dehydration, like dizziness, dry mouth, and fatigue.

"Even a body water loss of just 1-2% can begin to impact your cognitive abilities."

If you find yourself thirsty or on the brink of dehydration, you probably want to know how to rehydrate fast, before your dehydration gets worse.

Below, we’ll cover not only how to hydrate fast, but how to restore electrolytes fast — which is an essential factor in water absorption and hydration. We’ll also share some ways to help you take in more fluids overall, so you can make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day to keep you going.

How Long Does It Take to Rehydrate?

The speed of hydration depends on your starting level of dehydration. If you’re severely dehydrated, you will need to take in more fluids to rehydrate.

Severe Dehydration

Mild dehydration can turn into severe dehydration during extreme temperature exposure, in the case of illnesses that cause diarrhea or vomiting, certain medications, or simply not drinking enough water for an extended period of time.

Symptoms of severe dehydration include:

  • Trouble concentrating or communicating
  • Disorientation or irritability
  • Not sweating
  • Not urinating
  • Poor skin turgor, or skin elasticity
  • Trouble keeping down fluids

In the case of severe dehydration, it is important that you contact your doctor.

But what about in the case of mild dehydration? One research study demonstrated that subjects who were mildly dehydrated could reach normal levels of hydration within 45 minutes by taking in 600 mL of water or a combination of salt and carbohydrate-electrolyte solutions (CES).

How to Hydrate Faster

While intravenous therapy (IV) can be used in some situations to quickly treat dehydration, it’s not an everyday solution. IVs are often reserved for emergency treatment, as most people aren’t qualified to set up IV treatment on their own. Even mobile or local IV therapy businesses, which can provide IV infusions on demand, may have wait times in addition to the time it takes for you to get to the business (or the mobile business to get to you).

The solution also isn’t to simply drink large amounts of water as quickly as you can. Drinking water alone can flush out electrolytes and fiber from your body, which can, in severe cases, lead to a serious condition called hyponatremia.

However, there are simple tips for how to hydrate fast at home. By taking in the right fluids in the correct way, you can speed up your rehydration.

1. Use an oral rehydration solution (ORS)

As mentioned above, water alone isn’t the most effective way to rehydrate. In the 1960s, physiologists found that glucose (or sugar) helps increase the body’s absorption of water and sodium. This is known as the “sodium-glucose cotransport system.” In 1964, this type of salt-sugar solution was successfully used to treat patients with cholera. From there, the modern oral rehydration solution was formulated and used to treat diseases and other fluid loss related to medical conditions.

Today, many health organizations, including the WHO, UNICEF, and American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend using ORS to treat dehydration.

An effective ORS contains:

  • Sodium, which helps your body absorb nutrients.
  • Glucose, which helps you absorb sodium and energizes your body.
  • Electrolytes, like potassium and chloride, offer many benefits, including maintaining ideal fluid balance and alleviating cramps.

In addition, an ORS that is hypotonic can speed up the hydration process. Hypotonic solutions contain a lower concentration of electrolytes than the body, which allows salts and fluids to be absorbed more quickly by the bloodstream. Overall, this can result in quicker rehydration and a faster recovery.

2. Improve water absorption by speeding up gastric emptying

When you hydrate, fluids must pass through your stomach and into your small intestine before they are absorbed by your bloodstream. This is called gastric emptying. You can speed up this process — and allow those fluids to get to your cells faster — with a couple of small adjustments to how you hydrate:

Adjust your volume

If you are unable to add electrolytes to your water for speedy absorption, there are ways to make sure your plain water is going to work for you. Rather than taking small sips of plain water throughout the day, it may be more beneficial to take in a larger volume at a time. Studies have shown that when people consumed 20 ounces of water at a time, that water moved through their systems faster than when they consumed 13.5 ounces — which moved faster than when they consumed seven ounces. Ultimately, the research found that a larger volume of water puts more pressure on your stomach and digestive system, which speeds up gastric emptying.

Consider carbs

The amount of carbohydrates in your drink can also affect gastric emptying. Drinks with 6% carbohydrates or more, like juice or soda, linger in your stomach for a longer period of time, delaying gastric emptying. A lower-carb fluid can move through your body faster.

Ultimately, speed of hydration comes down to selecting the right drink and taking in a larger volume of fluids at a time to improve water absorption. With these tips in mind, you can keep your hydration at an optimal level.  

How to Stay Ahead of Your Hydration

Ideally, you won’t wait until you experience symptoms of dehydration to begin hydrating. But drinking enough to stay fully hydrated is easier said than done.

According to one study, 77% of respondents said they did not consume enough water on a daily basis to meet their health needs.

How can you improve your chances of staying hydrated? Here are a few tips:

Make it taste good

Many people say they don’t drink water because they simply don’t like how it tastes. In one survey, nearly one-quarter of respondents cited the taste of water as the reason for not drinking enough water at work. Today, that’s easily remedied. With products designed to enhance the flavor of your water as well as restore electrolytes, you can get the hydration you need and a tasty beverage.

Alternate types of beverages 

When you’re at work or with friends, drinking water probably isn’t your first priority — coffee, tea, soda, or cocktails are much more acceptable in these settings. About 41% of people say they are not drinking enough water at work simply because they prefer to drink other beverages. While it’s fine to consume a variety of beverages, try adding in a glass of water or ORS in between each cup of coffee, tea, or soda you consume. (You can also find hydrating, electrolyte-rich drinks that contain caffeine, if you’re looking for an extra boost.)

Get high-tech

Today, there is a range of apps and water bottles that can help you track your hydration digitally. They can recommend how much water you need in a day, log how much you’ve had to drink so far, and send you notifications when it’s time to take a few sips. If you’re the type of person who simply forgets to drink because you’re busy or not thirsty, this type of technology can give you the reminders you need to stay on top of your hydration.

Hydrating fast is possible — but it’s about more than drinking as much water as you can. By choosing fluids with the right mix of electrolytes, you can speed up your rate of rehydration and start feeling your best.

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