Looking for the quickest hydration boost? Here are some rehydration strategies that health experts recommend.
It’s a well-known fact that staying hydrated is important for overall health, and there are a lot of pre-packaged drinks and powders that claim to do the trick. According to the CDC, healthy hydration means drinking enough water and natural fluids for your body to function properly. Of course, this varies for each individual, based on body weight, age, activity level, and heat exposure. However, as a rule of thumb, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggests 15.5 cups of fluids per day for men and 11.5 cups for women.
When you get enough fluids on any typical day, the difference is obvious. You might feel a boost in energy levels, improved focus and cognitive performance, and a more efficient metabolism. But a day spent in the heat or doing an intense workout can quickly deplete your fluid levels. In certain circumstances like these, a glass of water is just not enough to rehydrate. Doctors offer insight into how to hydrate fast so you can feel like yourself again in no time.
What Are Signs of Dehydration?
Dehydration can be easy to spot. Symptoms include dry mouth, dark yellow urine, tiredness, and headaches, says Vanda Carapichoso, an intensive care physician and founder of the elder care service VC Care. “If you're experiencing severe symptoms like extreme thirst, dark urine, dizziness, confusion, or rapid heartbeat, it's wise to seek medical help for an IV,” she advises.
Otherwise, staying hydrated takes constant effort. It's important to stay in tune with your body to watch for signs of thirst. Underlying health conditions and medicinal routines can also make increased hydration a must. So talk to your doctor to get personalized advice on how to maintain hydration levels appropriate for your health, age, and needs.
Is It Possible and Necessary to Hydrate Quickly?
Only about 20 percent of water intake will come from water-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, according to the Mayo Clinic, and the remainder comes from drinking water and other liquids. During peak seasons and times of day, your body might need a boost.
But despite the temptation to guzzle a gallon at once, Jared Braunstein, DO, board-certified internist with Medical Offices of Manhattan, recommends otherwise. “Drink water throughout the day instead of all at once," he says. "Your body absorbs water more effectively… and drinking too much water can cause hyponatremia, a condition in which the balance of fluids in your body is thrown off. Pay attention to what your body tells you, and drink when you're thirsty."
Also, rehydration is crucial for the elderly. Seniors are more prone to dehydration because their appetite and thirst tend to diminish with age, but they are also likely to be taking medications that increase dehydration. Carapichoso says to encourage small sips of water throughout the day, even if they don’t feel like it, to rehydrate consistently but quickly.
Both experts say that severe symptoms must be treated with an IV under a physician’s care.
When Might You Need to Hydrate More Than Usual?
For most instances of mild dehydration, rehydration can usually be managed at home with water, nutrient-rich foods, and rest. Here are four instances when you must pro-actively hydrate more than normal.
Altitude and Airplanes
Due to the high altitude and low humidity, airplane cabins can be surprisingly dry. “This can cause you to lose more fluids when you breathe," Braunstein says. Plus, long trips can throw off your normal schedule of drinking water. To avoid getting dehydrated, drink water before, during, and after the trip. People who live or visit high-altitude places are also encouraged to drink more water because sun and wind exposure can deplete the body at much faster speeds than when closer to sea level.
Hot and humid weather can also cause the body to lose fluids, so increase fluid intake to make up for anything the body loses in sweat.
Sickness is another instance when your body can rapidly lose a lot of fluid. Fever, vomiting, or diarrhea call for electrolyte-rich drinks, lots of = water, or even oral rehydration solutions. Some medical procedures also lead to fluid loss, Braunstein says, so consult your doctor on how to rehydrate after any surgeries or medical procedures.
During exercise, our bodies lose a lot of fluid through sweating, especially in high-intensity training, long-distance running, or intense sports, Braunstein says. “It's important to drink water before, during, and after exercise to keep chemical balance and avoid getting dehydrated.”
What Are the Best and Safest Ways to Rehydrate Fast at Home?
For less severe cases of dehydration, it’s possible to hydrate efficiently and conveniently at home.
Fall back on the fundamentals: drink water.
Braunstein recommends carrying a water bottle around as a reminder to drink up. He also suggests sipping through a straw to consume more with minimal effort.
Sip electrolyte-rich coconut water (or other hydrating drinks).
Braunstein also recommends coconut water, which contains electrolytes, a group of nutrients that help restore, regulate, and circulate fluids in the body. The essential minerals categorized as electrolytes include potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and more. Together, they can speed up fluid absorption and improve overall health. Other options to rehydrate include caffeine-free herbal teas, nutrient-rich clear broth or soup, and Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS) that include a balanced blend of electrolytes and carbohydrates.
Carapichoso shares a homemade electrolyte drink that uses just three ingredients: Mix together 1 liter of water, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and two tablespoons of sugar. The drink can be chilled or sipped at room temperature to replenish electrolytes lost during vigorous exercise, extremely hot weather, or other activities involving excessive sweating and exertion. The uncanny mix of glucose and sodium may be odd to the palate, but great to restore fluid balance in the body in circumstances where fast rehydration is necessary.
Keeping eating water-rich foods, especially fruits and veggies.
Also, there are plenty of hydrating foods to eat throughout the day. Snack on water-rich foods like watermelon, strawberries, grapes, cantaloupe, oranges, or cucumbers to stay hydrated, Braunstein adds.
Avoid foods and drinks that contribute to dehydration.
Hydration is not just about knowing what to consume; it’s also about knowing what to avoid. If you’re trying to rehydrate fast, Braunstein recommends avoiding caffeine and alcohol, while Carapichoso says to limit added sugars, too.
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