Nutrition, Health

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How Do You Tell If You Are Hydrated?

Published: 2021-06-22
How Do You Tell If You Are Hydrated?
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Did you know that 75% of Americans are clinically dehydrated?  Are athletes any better?  Depends on the level of athlete (HS vs. pro), but according to the studies, it is not much better than the general population.  That means a lot of us reading this are or have been dehydrated at one point.  However, there are some key signs to whether or not you are clinically dehydrated. 

  1. Are you thirsty? – if you are, this is the bodies way of telling you that you are dehydrated.
  2. What is the color and odor of your urine? – your urine should be relatively odor free. There are some things that will change the color and odor of (like asparagus and vitamin packs), but aside from that, there should not be an odor.  The color should fall in the 1-3 zone of the color chart here.  The darker it is and the stronger the odor, the more dehydrated you are. 

These are the two easiest signs of dehydration and a part of the reason that we use these in your daily hydration questionnaire.  This can also be used to guide you on how much you should be drink based on color. 

  • 1-3 – drink as normal you are hydrated.
  • 4-6 – you are dehydrated – drink ¼ liter within the hour or if outside drink ½ liter
  • 7 – you are seriously dehydrated – drink ¼ liter now and ½ liter within the next hour
  • 8 – you are severely dehydrated – drink 1 liter right now and another liter within one hour. If the color does not change, you should see your primary care physician to rule out other conditions.

Aside from your urine, there are other signs that we are getting dehydrated.  These include:

  • Headaches
  • Feeling foggy
  • Decreased mental alertness
  • Fatigue
  • Cramping
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability

In extreme cases this can result in loss of consciousness.  When someone’s urine color is getting to the color of 7 or 8 on the chart above, this is typically when you will start to feel some of the above physiological symptoms.  So always best to monitor your thirst and color/odor in order to make sure you are staying hydrated. 

It is also important to understand the role caffeinated drinks play in dehydration.  When most get thirsty, their default choice of beverage is soda or tea.  High sugar and/or highly caffeinated drinks act as a diuretic which causes you to lose water.  Most don’t realize but your high sugar-based drinks can lead to dehydration.  With high concentration of sugar in the blood, the body responds by drawing water from cells, saliva, tears, etc to try to neutralize the high blood sugar.  This can also lead to increased frequency of urination which further dehydrates. 

When these high sugar-based drinks are combined with high levels of caffeine, this can make this dehydration even worse.  So, when you think you are hydrating, you are in fact dehydrating.  So, when looking to hydrate yourself, the best thing to do is drink water.  When thinking about drinking water, did you know that drinking an ice-cold glass of water burns more calories than drinking water that is room temperature?  Why is that?  The body must spend energy to heat up the cold liquid to bring it to your core body temperature.  So not only is drinking cold water more refreshing, but it also helps you burn more calories. 

Stay tuned next week as we talk about some specific strategies you can use to help you become more hydrated.

Read more:

Why Is Hydration Important?

How Do You Tell If You Are Hydrated?

How Much Water Should You Drink to Stay Hydrated?