Friday, August 21, 2009

What Color Is Your Pee?

Yes, that's right, I just asked you the color of your pee. Go ahead to the bathroom and check. I'll wait right here.

Done? Ok.

Urine color is a great indicator of your hydration, which is important even if your most strenuous activity is couch surfing. The U.S. Navy has a helpful chart to help you determine if you are sufficiently hydrated based on the color of your urine. How did you fare? As the chart notes, sometimes vitamin supplements can affect the color of your urine, particularly B vitamins, which tend to temporarily turn it neon yellow. If that's the case, you can check again in a couple of hours.

Severe dehydration is, of course, a serious condition, and can be fatal. Even mild dehydration can cause symptoms that many people would not associate with fluid loss, such as fatigue, headache, or irritability. Ever just feel "blah"? It could be mild dehydration!

How much fluid do we actually need? Well, the bad news is that it's probably more than you usually drink. The good news is that any liquid, not just water, counts towards your daily intake. Yes, even coffee. Even wine! In general, we need about two quarts of fluid a day- that's the legendary eight 8-0z. glasses of water. But that's just for starters. If you are spending time outside in hot weather, spending time at high altitude, ill, pregnant, or breastfeeding, you'll need to drink two to six cups more per day. And you'll definitely need to drink more during exercise.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a fluid replacement approach to hydration during exercise. If you weigh yourself before and after a workout, you can determine how much fluid you've lost. An ounce of water weighs 1 oz., so one pound of weight loss would be 16 oz. of fluid lost. Aim to consume at least that replacement amount during exercise, as well as taking in extra fluids before and after a workout. Unless you are exercising for upwards of an hour, plain water is sufficient for hydration. If you are training for more than an hour at a time, you should consider a sports drink for electrolyte and carbohydrate replacement.

It can be a PITA to make sure you're drinking enough each day. Hence the question, what color is your pee? If it is clear or pale yellow, you can be sure you are getting enough fluids. If not, think about carrying a water bottle with you or keeping a big cup on your desk at work. And the next time you're feeling "blah," reach for some water before you reach for some coffee or a snack-- You might just be dehydrated. Drink up and then go get your pee on!

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