How to Properly Rehydrate After a Workout

woman drinking water after a workout

Eric Audras / Getty Images

If you are like most people, you know to stretch and cool down after a workout to help repair their muscles, but did you know the most important action you can take after a workout is to rehydrate your body? You simply cannot recover properly if your body remains depleted of fluids after a workout.

You also should avoid waiting until you feel thirsty. Instead, your workout routine should include a rehydration step during and right after you are done so you can maintain consistent hydration. If you wait until you feel parched, you are already dehydrated. About 32% of athletes are dehydrated before working out and about 44% of athletes are dehydrated post-training or competition.

Plus, following rehydration best practices after working out will lead to better endurance and help you recover with as little downtime as possible. Here is what you need to know about rehydration including the best sources for replacing those lost fluids.

Importance of Rehydration

Rehydration is necessary to keep your body and its organs properly functioning. Water—as well as the minerals found in electrolytes—can keep your temperature regulated, lubricate your joints, prevent infections, move nutrients to cells, improve your sleep, invigorate the brain, and elevate your mood.

When deciding how to rehydrate, keep in mind that your individual fluid needs will vary based on your age, sex, activity level, and medical history. That said, experts generally recommend that women drink approximately 9 cups of water per day and that men drink approximately 13 cups of water per day. You can round out your water intake with other fluids such as flavored water, fruits, vegetables, and tea to ensure you are staying hydrated.

When you exercise, though, your hydration needs increase. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released a position stand on fluid replacement during exercise. Here are ACSM's recommendations:

  • For exercise lasting less than 60 minutes, drinking either plain water or an electrolyte drink will not make much of a difference.
  • For extreme exercise lasting more than 60 minutes, you should consume 600 to 1,200 milliliters of fluids, and you need carbohydrates containing glucose, sucrose, or starch.
  • During rehydration, you should include 0.5 to 0.7 grams of sodium in your fluids for exercise lasting longer than one hour. This helps promote fluid retention, prevention of hyponatremia, and improved recovery time.

Best Ways to Rehydrate After Exercise

During exercise, you lose water through sweat, respiration, and other bodily functions. Typically, the amount of loss depends on how long and how aggressively you work out. To recover and rehydrate after your workout, choose the fluids that work best for you and your hydrating needs.

Experimenting is helpful, as you see how your body adjusts to different types of drinks. For example, a certain sports drink brand could cause you gastrointestinal issues, whereas another brand rehydrates you well and allows you to recover quickly. Meanwhile, some people find coconut water more palatable than plain water. To find out what works best for you, here are the best rehydration options to try.


The American Council on Exercise says that drinking plain water is one of the most effective methods to rehydrate naturally. The council recommends drinking 8 ounces of water after exercise and an additional 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every 1 pound of body weight lost during exercise.

Sports Drinks

According to a published study in Nutrients, sports drinks can rehydrate you and provide high-value minerals, electrolytes, carbohydrates, and in some brands, protein. These beverages present a palatable way to bring needed fluids to your body that is often lost during workouts as trying to eat all the needed minerals would most likely give you gastrointestinal issues, especially if the exercise is intense.

Whole Foods

You can eat fruits and vegetables with a high water content to replace some of the water lost during exercise. Watermelon is one of the most popular options.

The National Watermelon Promotion Board indicates that watermelon is 92% water. The fruit also allows you to eat some of your fluid needs, helping to satisfy hunger as well as hydration needs without causing gastrointestinal stress.

Coconut Water

If you find sports drinks particularly heavy—as many brands contain added sugars— you may want to try coconut water as a potential solution for rehydration. This water contains electrolytes such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and sodium, as well as carbohydrates that help to improve muscle function and promote recovery process.

Electrolyte Supplements

When sports drinks cause gastrointestinal issues, you could switch to an electrolyte supplement in the form of a pill or powder. For the pill, you can either pop it open and pour the contents into a water-filled bottle, shake it up, and drink, or you could swallow the pill whole.

For powders, you dump the powder into water, stir it, and sip. These supplements are not as heavy as some sports drinks and you can control how much water you use.

When to Use Sports Drinks Over Water

Sports drinks replenish glucose, sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which are lost when you sweat. According to Harvard Health, adults only need sports drinks during exercise that lasts more than 1 hour or during heavy exercise sessions.

Drinking too many sports drinks, especially when you are not intensely exercising on a consistent basis, can lead to consuming too much sugar. You also risk getting cavities.

Signs of Dehydration

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you could be dehydrated and need to see a healthcare provider.

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Dark urine
  • Headache
  • Dry skin
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Muscle cramping
  • Thirsty

A Word from Verywell

Rehydration after a workout is imperative to recovery. Water and electrolytes help your body move, lubricate joints, bring nutrients to cells, and prevent overheating. If you workout more than 60 minutes or if you have an intense workout session, be sure to rehydrate immediately after exercise to avoid the potential danger of dehydration. As always, speak with a healthcare professional regarding any questions on your hydration choices.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to rehydrate after a workout?

    After a 60-minute workout, you can rehydrate in about 45 minutes as long as you continued to hydrate throughout the workout, did not have a significant sweat session, and start out hydrated.

  • What is the best way to rehydrate quickly?

    To rehydrate quickly, drink water immediately after your workout. Make sure you have water bottle or another water source available after you workout to not delay the hydration process. For more extreme workouts, you may need an electrolyte drink right away. These electrolyte drinks can provide good carbohydrates, protein, and necessary minerals to ensure you rehydrate and improve your recovery time.

  • How do you recover from dehydration after exercise?

    You should drink water immediately after a workout to recover from dehydration. You also need to replenish your electrolytes—which are electrically charged ions that help your body move water to ensure proper hydration. Look for an electrolyte drink or supplement that contains magnesium, sodium, calcium, and potassium, as these are minerals lost in sweat during workouts.

12 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Magee PJ, Gallagher AM, McCormack JM. High prevalence of dehydration and inadequate nutritional knowledge among university and club level athletes. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2017 Apr;27(2):158-168. doi:10.1123/ijsnem.2016-0053 PMID: 27710146

  2. Harvard Health. The importance of hydration.

  3. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. How much water do you need.

  4. American College of Sports Medicine. Position Stand: Exercise and Fluid Replacement.

  5. American Council on Exercise. How hydration affects performance.

  6. Orrù S, Imperlini E, Nigro E, et al. Role of functional beverages on sport performance and recoveryNutrients. 2018;10(10):1470. doi:10.3390/nu10101470

  7. Watermelon's benefits.

  8. Kalman DS, Feldman S, Krieger DR, Bloomer RJ. Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained menJ Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012;9(1):1. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-1

  9. McDermott BP, Anderson SA, Armstrong LE, et al. National athletic trainers’ association position statement: fluid replacement for the physically activeJournal of Athletic Training. 2017;52(9):877-895. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-52.9.02

  10. Harvard Health. Sports drinks.

  11. Cedars-Sinai. Dehydration.

  12. Logan-Sprenger HM, Spriet LL. The acute effects of fluid intake on urine specific gravity and fluid retention in a mildly dehydrated state. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2013;27(4):1002-1008. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31826052c7

By Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed, CPT
Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed, is a certified personal trainer, freelance writer, and author of "Growth Mindset for Athletes, Coaches and Trainers."