How to Quickly Assess Your Hydration Status

Urine Color Guide
Are You Hydrated?

Do you ever wonder why some people can lift more weights or seem to last longer during their workouts?  It could be several factors but one less obvious is they might be properly hydrated before the workout and you might not.
I’m going to ask a favor of you here and I must warn you, it is a bit personal.  The chart you see above is a standard Urine Color Chart to assess hydration status.  As you know, drinking water can affect your performance upwards of 2% if you (the athlete) are slightly dehydrated and it can take up to 24 hours to get back to a fully hydrated status.
Take The Simple Test

If you fall into the 1-2-3 color category above, you are well hydrated.  7 or 8 and you should be talking to your doctor, not reading this blog.
You might have heard that consuming water in specific amounts or at certain times is a myth.  That thirst is a myth or you don’t need to employ some sipping protocol.  If you are the average person, you can let thirst be your guide.  But if you are or consider yourself to be a serious athlete, you should drink water to stay hydrated and possibly drink water during your sport to replace lost fluids.  The advice that is given to the general population is not valid for athletes looking to improve their condition and optimize performance any more than the RDA applies to individuals who want to build muscle.
Then why do people write articles on how much water should I drink?  It helps get a person who’s not used to drinking water frequently to stay hydrated, into the habit of drinking more water so they can easily stay in the hydration categories listed below.  Drinking more water than you need is not necessary and at times can be dangerous.  But if you are hydrated, regardless of it’s 1/2 your body weight in ounces per day or some other fancy protocol, you are hydrated.  Drinking more water won’t do you any good.  The guy who drinks 2 gallons a day won’t necessarily outperform the guy who drinks enough to stay properly hydrated for the sport in question and duration.
In other words, beyond being hydrated, drinking MORE water isn’t going to magically make you lift more or burn more fat.  Hydration is hydration.  However, what that means to each person depending on:

  • temperatures
  • activity
  • duration
  • sweat
  • size
  • gender

Is where some formulas come into play.
Those formulas have a place and are valid.  For example.  A 200 lb male who is a bodybuilder should drink about 100 oz of water per day to stay hydrated.  Maybe more if he sweats a lot.  Maybe even more if he’s training twice a day or it’s very hot outside.  He could drink a lot less and be hydrated as well.  Thus, formulas are just there to ensure some level of hydration.
Let the Color Be Your Guide
Proper hydration is the key to ensuring quality training sessions.  Monitoring your overall body weight along with your urine color (the first urine of the morning) combined with thirst is a simple method of determining your hydration status.  You can use the color guides during the day to stay at optimal levels without chugging a gallon of water every 5 minutes.
There are much more scientific methods using the Urine Specific Gravity (USG) that measures excreted waste in the urine using a refractometer.  However, this will be just fine for private test.
Assessing Hydration Status:

Hydration StatusUrine Color
Very well hydratedHint of yellow
Well hydratedPale yellow
Minimal dehydrationLight yellow
Moderate dehydrationYellow
Significant dehydrationDark yellow
Very significant dehydrationDark yellow/orange
Extreme dehydrationDark orange/brown
Very extreme dehydrationGreen/brown

Using the color chart above coupled with the descriptions, you should be able to accurately determined your hydration status.  Proper hydration is essential to optimal training.  If you aren’t sure how much water to drink to get to an adequate level, please refer to the How Much Water Should I Drink to determine a more precise level given your situation.
Here’s to you staying hydrated!
Marc David – CPT

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