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What Happens if You Go Without Water Then Start Drinking It?

By Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.

Due to the risk of dehydration, it’s never a good idea to go without water for an extended period of time unless instructed to do so by your healthcare provider. According to MedlinePlus, most adults should drink at least six to eight glasses, or 48 to 64 ounces, of water on a daily basis. If you have avoided water or other liquids and suddenly start drinking water again, you may experience certain side effects.


Going without drinking water for too long can lead to dehydration, which can pose serious health risks and even death. Most people cannot survive without drinking water, or foods and beverages containing water, for more than a week. According to Harvard Medical School, signs you may be dehydrated include feeling thirsty, dry mouth, fatigue, flushed skin, impaired physical performance, dizziness, reduced blood pressure, rapid heart rate, kidney failure and even death.

Weight Gain

When you go without drinking water for a while and become dehydrated, you can experience water weight loss. When you start drinking water again after being dehydrated, you’ll likely gain all the weight back. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons encourages athletes who become dehydrated during a workout or sports event to drink 2 to 3 cups of water for each pound of water weight lost during exercise.

Weight Loss

Water doesn’t contain any calories but takes up space in your stomach. Therefore, drinking large amounts of water when you’re not accustomed to doing so can cause you to feel full. This is thought to be beneficial for overweight or obese individuals who are trying to reduce their calorie intake for weight loss. Drinking water instead of sugary drinks such as soda, is an important component of most weight-loss programs.


Although drinking enough water is important to stay hydrated and healthy, drinking too much water may poses health risks for athletes who lose a lot of sodium while sweating during prolonged workouts. If you go without water for a period of time during exercise, then drink excessive water to rehydrate you run the risk of developing hyponatremia, or too low sodium concentration in your body. To help prevent hyponatremia during prolonged endurance exercises or prolonged heat exposure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends athletes consume supplemental sodium, eat salty snacks or drink sports drinks containing sodium in addition to drinking water during long workouts.

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