Hydration is fundamental for endurance athletes. While it's best to stay hydrated all day long, sometimes you need to rehydrate fast. Fortunately, quick hydration is possible with the right fluids and nutrition.
Keep reading to find out more about why quick hydration may be necessary, how to rehydrate after dehydration, the best way to rehydrate at home and on the trails, and more useful tips.
Why is it important to hydrate fast?
Hydrating fast is essential if you are dehydrated or nearing dehydration. As an endurance athlete, you are likely aware of how you can become dehydrated from sweating or becoming too hot, but dehydration can happen for many reasons. You may find yourself needing to hydrate quickly after an illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea, after a long night of drinking, or even when taking some medications like diuretics.
Because we are a company created by endurance athletes, for endurance athletes, we will mostly focus on why you need to hydrate fast as an athlete today. A quick lesson on how dehydration happens and what it looks like inside your body may help improve your understanding of the topic.
In the simplest terms, being dehydrated means your fluid intake has not been adequate. The fluid in your body is essential to many functions of life, including temperature regulation, waste removal, normal brain function, digestion, and organ protection.
The amount of water in your body also plays an important role in the balance of electrolytes like sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Some electrolytes are meant to be inside your cells, while others are meant to be outside your cells. Dehydration causes an electrolyte imbalance in which electrolytes go where they are not meant to be, and this can cause the side effects of dehydration that, if left untreated, can cause serious issues.
During a tough event, you could lose 6-10% of your body weight in sweat loss that can lead to dehydration and cause poor physical performance, but your performance can be compromised with as little as a 2% loss if fluids are not replaced adequately. Additionally, if the fluids inside your body are becoming low, your kidneys can hold onto extra in case of emergencies, which can be problematic.
It is smart for endurance athletes to know what to look for in terms of dehydration. Here are possible signs and symptoms:
- Confusion and changes in cognition
- Dry mouth and skin
- Dark-colored urine or lack of urination
- Increased heart rate
- Decreased appetite
- Muscle cramps
- Lack of sweat
These signs and symptoms of dehydration should not be ignored. Some, like rapid heart rate, chills, lack of sweat, and confusion, could mean you are already dehydrated and need to seek immediate help and hydration. It is best to rehydrate your body quickly before you ever experience these warning signs, as severe dehydration is quite dangerous.
How quickly can you hydrate your body?
When you are dehydrated or nearing dehydration, you may feel incredibly thirsty and want to chug a large amount of plain water as quickly as possible, but don’t! Rehydrating too quickly can be dangerous and can happen if you drink a large volume of water in a short amount of time, leading to over-hydration and electrolyte imbalance. Several aspects of health and nutrition have to do with balance, and hydration is certainly one of them.
How quickly and safely you can hydrate your body may depend on your level of dehydration. With mild dehydration, one small study found that you can rehydrate within 45 minutes with 20 ounces of water. However, these are not hard numbers and facts that necessarily apply to everyone.
Many factors will contribute to how fast you can rehydrate. These factors can include your age, gender, body size, level of activity, how much you sweat, how hot it is outside, and your fluid status before engaging in exercise.
To rehydrate completely after being totally dehydrated can take up to 36 hours if you are resting at home and using an oral rehydration solution that contains water, sugar, and electrolytes. In cases of severe dehydration, some people require hospitalization and IV fluids for at least 24 hours before they even feel well enough to hydrate orally.
Some of this information may sound alarming, and perhaps it is! But you can take this information and use it to motivate you to hydrate and rehydrate properly before, during, and after your endurance training.
Sometimes your level of activity or the temperature can make your body lose fluid quicker than usual, despite your hydration efforts. In this case, getting rehydrated will need to happen quickly to avoid dehydration.
Is drinking enough water the best way to hydrate?
We have been led to believe that drinking a glass of water is the best and only way to rehydrate. Truthfully, any fluid that is not full of caffeine or sugar will help you hydrate, and that does include drinking water, but it probably isn't the best choice when looking for quick rehydration as an endurance athlete.
While drinking enough water is, of course, important and should be a part of your daily routine, there are other drink options to consider when you're facing mild dehydration and even severe dehydration.
Surprisingly, skim milk has been found to be an excellent fluid source for rehydration due to its sodium and lactose, or sugar, content. But if milk is not your thing, oral rehydration solutions have also been found to be excellent sources of hydration, which is great because skim milk that has become warm in your water bottle probably isn't what you're craving in the middle of a race.
Oral rehydration solutions contain water, sugar, salt, and other electrolytes, making it the best way to hydrate when dehydrated. Do you know what else contains those exact ingredients? Hint: you have landed on this website.
Oral rehydration solutions are known to reduce muscle cramps during an event as well as restore fluid faster during recovery from exercise. You can use these drinks while on the road or trail or when looking for quick hydration at home. A good mix with the electrolytes and sugar you need to rehydrate properly will do the trick.
Again, water should be an important and recurrent part of your day, but it is not the end-all-be-all to hydration. Water simply doesn't contain everything you need to replenish your body’s fluid levels and fluid stores in a fast and adequate manner, especially if dehydration is looming.
How to treat dehydration
Now that you know oral rehydration solutions will be your best option for rehydration as an endurance athlete, you may want to know a bit more about them.
Rehydration drinks typically used by endurance athletes are quite similar, if not the same, as an oral rehydration solution used in hospitals and other healthcare facilities to help patients get over dehydration caused by illness. There are different recipes for oral rehydration solutions, but the basic ingredients are water, salt, sugar (usually in the form of glucose), and electrolytes like magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
When you use Endurance Fuel before or during your event, not only will you get the ingredients used in an oral rehydration solution, but also natural flavors and organic ingredients. This will offer a cleaner and crisper taste than other oral rehydration solutions.
Once your endurance training or event is over, you should continue to replace your fluid and electrolyte losses until you are hydrated. Using Recovery will not only help you rehydrate but will also provide extra calories through healthy fats as well as complete protein for repairing muscles and aiding the important recovery process.
If you have a scale at home, you may want to weigh yourself before and after your long training sessions. You could lose as much as 10% of your body weight in fluid during a particularly hot or difficult endurance workout. When you weigh yourself, you will be able to keep track of your fluid intake by continuing to drink until you are back to your pre-workout weight.
When you are not using Tailwind during your event or recovery, you can snack on foods with high water contents that will help you stay hydrated. Some foods, mostly fruits and vegetables, contain high amounts of water and would be great options when working on your hydration. Here is a quick list of some of the fruits, veggies, and other foods highest in water:
- Broths (bonus: these also contain some electrolytes!)
- Bell peppers
- Cottage cheese
As an endurance athlete, you want to make sure you are well-hydrated before even starting your workout, so eating foods like these can help you do so. If you consume coffee or other caffeinated beverages, be sure to compensate by drinking water or more fluids. Caffeine is a diuretic that increases urination and fluid loss. The same can be said about alcohol.
How to rehydrate your body quickly
By now, you may be thinking, “I know hydration is important, and I need to hydrate all day, but what steps do I need to take to rehydrate my body quickly if I am feeling dehydrated?”. To rehydrate your body, there are actionable steps to take. Let’s look at some of those steps:
- On a rest day, a day that is not overly hot, or a day that does not include a tough training session that lasts longer than one hour, you can choose to drink plain water throughout the day to maintain hydration. You have probably heard something about drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water for basic hydration, and this may be okay for you, but your fluid needs are individual to you. The best and easiest way to track your hydration is by the color of your urine, with the goal being clear to light yellow.
- Extra hydration, as well as quick rehydration, may be necessary when you are preparing for a race or endurance event. If you have a training session that is longer than one hour or one that will take place in the heat, then fluids containing electrolytes and sugar will probably be your best bet to stay ahead of dehydration. In these scenarios, use Endurance Fuel before your workout or Recovery after your workout to replace and replenish fluid loss.
- During the long endurance event that you have been training for, use Endurance Fuel to ward off dehydration, regardless of how hot it is during the event. Mix 2-3 scoops of the mix per 24 ounces of water every hour and use your hunger as a guide to adjust any personal calorie needs. You do not want to risk dehydration during the important event you have spent months training for, so don’t risk it!
- If you find yourself feeling dehydrated or on your way to dehydration, increase your intake of an oral rehydration solution containing electrolytes and sugar. According to the CDC, if you are dehydrated, you can drink as much as 1,000 milliliters, or 33 ounces, of a solution like Endurance Fuel every hour. It would be best to use the decaffeinated mix during this time, as caffeine can cause further dehydration. Of course, if you are severely dehydrated, then medical attention may be needed.
- After your workout, use a recovery drink that contains the same electrolyte and sugar profile as your oral rehydration solution, plus healthy fats and complete protein to help rebuild muscles quicker.
These steps can help you get hydrated quickly to prevent dehydration or rehydrate your body to solve dehydration. You do not need to spend money at a fancy and expensive IV hydration station to rehydrate quickly. You can rehydrate at home if you are not severely dehydrated.
Recap and wrap-up
We covered a lot of ground on an important topic today. A quick recap is warranted! When it comes to quick hydration as well as rehydrating:
- It is essential for endurance athletes to work towards staying hydrated before, during, and after training and events.
- Sometimes dehydration happens or almost happens despite your best efforts.
- Be aware of the signs and symptoms of dehydration so you can act quickly and start the process of getting rehydrated.
- Oral rehydration solutions have been researched and found to be one of the best ways to hydrate when dehydrated, as well as helpful in quick hydration.
- There are some foods with high water content you can snack on throughout the day to increase your hydration even more.
- Use a drink like Endurance Fuel that contains the same ingredients as oral rehydration solutions during your workout.
- Use Recovery after your event to continue to rehydrate your body while also taking in healthy fats and complete protein.
No more relying on glasses of water! Tailwind products are here for all of your hydration, rehydration, and recovery needs.