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Updated on August 1, 2023
7 min read

Dehydration From Alcohol: 5 Tips to Prevent and Treat It

Drinking alcohol can dehydrate you, and it's one of the main reasons you can get a hangover. This is because alcohol is a diuretic, which is a substance that induces diuresis or additional urine output.

Excessive urination causes your body to lose vital electrolytes essential for proper kidney function. These electrolytes include:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Chloride

Why Does Alcohol Dehydrate You?

Understanding how consuming alcohol leads to increased urination requires an understanding of ADH. ADH stands for antidiuretic hormone (also known as vasopressin). When the human body senses it is getting dehydrated, the pituitary gland produces ADH to reduce urination.

Alcohol decreases the amount of ADH your body produces, making it harder to retain enough fluids. The higher the alcohol content, the greater this effect will be. Fortunately, researchers have discovered these effects are not sustained over multiple drinks.

The diuretic effects are greatest as the level of alcohol in the body rises. But the production of ADH recovers as alcohol metabolizes. As it recovers, your body can start conserving water and limiting dehydration.1

How Much Alcohol Does It Take To Dehydrate You?

Even moderate alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration. According to one study, one drink of alcohol can lead to a 2 to 4% increase in additional urine output (diuresis).3

You're likely to urinate 100 mL more for every standard drink you consume (10 mL of alcohol). If you binge drink, you'll likely lose 500 to 1,000 mL of fluids, causing dehydration.


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Does Alcohol Dehydrate Muscle, Skin, or Both? 

Although it's unknown whether alcohol dehydrates muscle, it still has an effect. Too much alcohol can also dehydrate your skin.

The effects of alcohol on your muscles and skin include:

Alcohol's Effects on Muscle

Scientists have learned that alcohol can damage tissue in several ways. Due to its diuretic effect, alcohol makes it more likely for an electrolyte imbalance to occur.3

Alcohol also breaks down muscle tissue and reduces protein synthesis. This can lead to:3

  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Pulling or straining muscles
  • Cramps

This can occur after only a single episode of binge drinking. It may take a week or more to recover from residual effects. Chronic heavy drinkers experience more significant muscle damage and loss.7

Alcohol's Effect on Skin

Too much alcohol can also lead to dry, inelastic skin. One large study found excessive alcohol consumption is linked to accelerated facial aging.

These effects include:2,10

  • Increased facial lines
  • Puffiness around the eyes
  • Loss of facial volume
  • Broken blood vessels
  • Facial redness
  • Skin conditions like rosacea, dermatitis, and psoriasis

What Type of Alcohol Dehydrates You The Most?

Drinks with more alcohol content cause more dehydration. Most hard liquors have high alcohol content; the alcohol by volume (ABV) of liquor is around 40%. This means liquor is more likely to cause dehydration.

These drinks include:

  • Whiskey
  • Vodka
  • Rum
  • Gin

What Type of Alcohol Dehydrates You The Least?

All types of alcoholic drinks cause dehydration to an extent. However, alcohol's dehydrating effects will be somewhat reduced in some of the “lighter” alcoholic drinks. 

A glass of wine has around 12.5 to 14.5% alcohol, much less than dark liquors. Beer will dehydrate the least, with a typical alcohol content of 4 to 6%.6 


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Alcohol Dehydration Symptoms

Symptoms of dehydration range from mild to severe. The amount of alcohol you consume will influence the symptoms you experience. Signs and symptoms of dehydration also differ by age. 

For an adult, symptoms include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Urinating less frequently
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

Does Dehydration Make Hangovers Worse?

Dehydration contributes to hangovers but is just a piece of the puzzle. Studies have pointed to additional causes.

These include:

  • Inflammation
  • Gastrointestinal irritation
  • Poor sleep
  • Electrolyte imbalances

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5 Tips to Prevent Alcohol Dehydration

Here are five tips to prevent dehydration from alcohol:

1. Eat Plenty of Food Before Drinking

Alcohol enters your bloodstream through the stomach. If you have a full stomach, it can essentially slow down the absorption of alcohol.

This also means drinking alcohol on an empty stomach can lead to a higher blood alcohol content (BAC). This will quickly cause dehydration.

2. Limit the Amount You Drink

It takes most people 1 hour to metabolize one standard drink (14 grams of pure alcohol). The more you drink, the more times your body metabolizes the alcohol.

Limiting the amount you drink can lessen alcohol's impact on your body. Take your time consuming a drink to help you moderate your alcohol consumption.

3. Drink Water Before Drinking Alcohol

Contrary to popular belief, alternating alcoholic drinks and water will not help you avoid dehydration. But you can certainly ensure you are as hydrated as possible before consuming alcohol. You can also drink water before you go to bed to help replenish hydration levels.

4. Choose Drinks with Lower Alcohol Content

The higher the alcohol content, the more dehydrating the drink will be. A heavy alcoholic drink like whiskey, brandy, or rum can dehydrate you more than lighter drinks. Stick to beer and wine to mitigate any dehydration you may experience.

5. Know When to Stop

Pay attention to how your body is feeling whenever you drink. Monitor your fluid intake and how much urine you are producing. Large amounts of dark-colored urine could indicate dehydration. 

Ways to Stay Hydrated While Drinking Alcohol

When drinking alcohol, especially in hot weather, avoiding dehydration is critical. One way to do this is to avoid sugary drinks.

Added sugar creates extra acid, which makes it harder for your body to store water. Salty foods, like chips and other snacks, are also risky when it comes to staying hydrated.

Too much sodium will increase fluid loss as your body tries to flush it out. Alcohol will make this worse. After eating salty food, drink water rather than alcohol. 

How to Rehydrate Fast After Drinking

The best way to quickly rehydrate is to regain the minerals flushed out due to excessive urination. Rehydration salt tablets are available at pharmacies. You can mix them with water.

They contain:

  • Electrolytes
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Chloride

Sports drinks such as Gatorade can also help rehydrate you. If you have mild dehydration, you can drink water until you feel better.

When is Alcohol Dehydration an Emergency?

Alcohol-induced dehydration can easily turn from uncomfortable to an emergency. Here are signs it's time to seek medical attention:

  • Sunken eyes
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing
  • Delirium
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Fainting

If you or someone else is experiencing these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. Intravenous (IV) fluids may be required to stabilize you if you're experiencing severe dehydration.

Alcohol Dehydration: Frequently Asked Questions

Can water flush out alcohol?

No. Once you consume alcohol, it's already in your body and must be removed by the liver. The liver processes 3/4th of an ounce of alcohol per hour, and drinking water will not make it happen faster.

Does drinking water after alcohol help your liver?

No. If you alternate alcohol and water as you drink, you slow your intake of alcohol. This may give your liver more time to metabolize it, but that can also be accomplished by simply drinking more slowly.

What happens if you are dehydrated and drink alcohol?

Consuming alcohol while dehydrated will just make dehydration worse. The diuretic effects will cause your body to lose water faster due to increased urination. The best way to ensure proper hydration is to drink plenty of water.

How do I know if I'm dehydrated?

If you are experiencing dry mouth or skin, headaches, muscle cramps, or dark-colored urine, these are signs of dehydration. You can reverse dehydration by taking in more fluids, but some people may be at risk of complications. 

According to Mayo Clinic staff, those at greater risk include the elderly, young children, and those with chronic medical conditions or who work outdoors.5 Possible complications include heat injury, urinary or kidney problems, seizures, and low blood volume shock.

Does beer dehydrate you more than liquor?

Due to the lower alcohol content, beer will dehydrate you slightly less than liquor. However, due to how alcohol affects the production of ADH, you will still become dehydrated after drinking beer. Consuming one beer leads to a 62% increase in urine produced compared to having a glass of water.

How long does it take to rehydrate after drinking alcohol?

According to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the body can rehydrate relatively quickly.10 Consuming just 20.3 ounces of water can restore your fluid levels to normal levels within 45 minutes. While hangover symptoms may remain, be sure to drink water to help speed your recovery.

Does alcohol dehydrate your skin?

Alcohol ages the skin due to the oxidative stress associated with its consumption. Symptoms of premature skin aging depend on how much alcohol is consumed. Drinking in moderation is associated only with facial volume loss and eye puffiness. 

Heavy drinking brings some additional symptoms. These include increased facial lines, oral commissures (lines around the mouth), and increased visibility of blood vessels. 

Updated on August 1, 2023
10 sources cited
Updated on August 1, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Gill et al. “Acute biochemical responses to moderate beer drinking.” British medical journal (Clinical research ed.),  NCBI.

  2. Goodman et al. “Impact of Smoking and Alcohol Use on Facial Aging in Women: Results of a Large Multinational, Multiracial, Cross-sectional Survey.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 2019.

  3. Hobson, R., and MaughanR. “Hydration Status and the Diuretic Action of a Small Dose of Alcohol.” Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2010.

  4. Kazakevich, N. “Alcohol and skin disorders: with a focus on psoriasis.” Skin therapy letter, 2011.

  5. Mayo Clinic. “Dehydration.”

  6. The Newsroom. “The alcoholic drinks which put you at most risk of dehydration.” The Yorkshire Evening Post, 2018.

  7. Simon et al. “Alcoholic Myopathy: Pathophysiologic Mechanisms and Clinical Implications.” Alcohol research: current reviews, NCBI, 2017.

  8. Vella, L., and Cameron-Smith, D. “Alcohol, Athletic Performance and Recovery.” Nutrients, NCBI, 2010.

  9. Higgins, EM., and Vivier, AW. “Cutaneous disease and alcohol misuse.” British medical bulletin, NCBI.

  10. Logan-Sprenger, H.,  and Spriet, L. “The Acute Effects of Fluid Intake On Urine Specific Gravity and Fluid Retention in a Mildly Dehydrated State.” The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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