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What color is your pee? And why it matters.

I came in at 7 a.m. from a 6-mile run this morning and was dripping sweat. My clothes were soaked. I’m not normally a heavy sweater, but in the weather we have been having in Houston lately, I have turned into one. With the heat and humidity, we all need to watch our hydration status if we are outside working out, walking, or even working in the yard.

One of the questions I use to gauge hydration status when working with athletes is, “What color is your pee?” The color of your urine, particularly the first thing in the morning, is a good way to tell how hydrated or dehydrated you are. If it is the color of apple juice, you are dehydrated and need to drink more. If it is the color of pale lemonade or clear, you are well hydrated. This is a spectrum of colors. If your urine is on the dark end of the spectrum – not necessarily apple juice dark, but a darker color – you need to drink more. Some vitamins and medications can cause urine to be various colors, so this test only works if you have not had taken any of those recently.

The question that often follows is, “How much should I drink?”You can use the standard guideline of 64 ounces per day if that helps you visualize how much to drink.Caffeinated drinks were thought to be dehydrating, but recent research has found that you do not lose more water than you take in, although you do not retain as much fluid from caffeinated drinks as from water. You can also use thirst as a guide. If you are thirsty, have something to drink. If you are well hydrated, you should have to make a trip to the bathroom every couple of hours. I recommend keeping a glass of water or water bottle at your desk to encourage drinking more.

Another way to tell how much you need to drink when you are spending time outside is to weigh yourself, preferably dry and nude, before and after you go out. For every pound of weight lost, you need to drink 16 to 24 ounces of water to rehydrate. You do not need to drink it all at once, but you do need to concentrate on refilling your body’s water tank throughout the day. A headache after being outside is also a sign of dehydration.

Staying well hydrated can help you feel better and perform better. Next time you get up in the morning and make that first trip to the bathroom, remember to ask yourself, “What color is my pee?” Then, adjust your fluid intake accordingly.