Everyone knows that your supposed to drink two litres of water a day. You've be told that by your mum since you were 7 years old so if it's not locked into that skull of yours by now, it'll never be! So why is it that despite knowing the rule, you've for so long neglected to follow it? Well I am here to tell you that as always, mumma really did know best.
I do not routinely hangout in bathrooms waiting for the next guy to join me at the cubicle so I can check out his pee! Fair to say, that would be creepy. Yet I will say that in times gone by when I am going about my own leaky business, the very communal nature of the urinal makes it almost impossible to not pass judgement.
'On what?' you ask suspiciously. On the fact that dehydration is more common than not amongst the general population.
Yes gentlemen, I am here to tell you that hydration is SO important to maintaining good health that god gave us a built-in, highly accurate system to measure our fluid state at any moment in time. You guessed it, by plainly observing the colour of our urine!
Why Is Hydration Status Important?
The human body is roughly half to three-quarters H2O. Virtually every bodily cell and metabolic process relies on this vital nutrient. For example:
- Water is a major component of blood and it essential to keep it liquid - without water, how would blood flow?
- Water is critical to temperature regulation - think about when you sweat, heat travels to the skin surface and is evaporated off.
- Water moisturises the skin surface - ever been to the Greek Islands and seen those 70 year old men that have spent too much time sun-baking and look crispy? No good...
- Water makes digestion possible - for a preview of digestion without water, try eating a box of dry Weet-Bix.
- Water is essential to eliminate waste products of digestion and metabolism from the body - that's why your pee smells terrible after a big night, it's carrying out all the toxins!
Through the major processes of the body, adults lose 2.5 to 3L of water per day and this amount shoots through the roof with physical effort, especially in hot environments.
But A Little Dehydration Never Killed Anyone...
Well actually, it did and it does. Sure fluid depletion doesn't usually get to that level untreated but a loss of 15-20 percent of the body water will inevitably lead to death. Dehydration can be quite an insidious occurrence sneaking up on you without you explicitly noticing the symptoms. What may start as a dry mouth and light-headiness can quickly progress to muscular cramps, dizziness and nausea if left untreated.
As your fluid level drops, tiredness appears due to the blood volume dropping causing poorer oxygen delivery to the cells. Both your mind and muscles start to fatigue and whether it be work or play you are engaged in, your performance will drop.
The Power of Perusing Your Pee.
Thirst seems like the most obvious indicator of body fluid level but it's not the most reliable. By the time thirst is first realised, we're already at least two percent dehydrated and behind the so called eight-ball. And that brings us full circle to the power of perusing your pee!
Urine colour and smell and the frequency of toilet trips is the most reliable measure of hydration status. Lightly coloured or clear urine is an indicator that you are well hydrated. If this is matched with a visit to the gents once every three to four hours or five to six times daily, you're on the mark. Dark coloured, yellowish to golden urine is indicative of mild to moderate dehydration, especially if your pee stops are infrequent. This is occurring as a result of the fact you do not have enough available fluid in your system to dilute the colour.
Oddly enough, certain foods can give a false indication through colour or odour that you are dehydrated. Highly scented foods or those containing sulfur compounds such as asparagus and garlic can produce a pungent smell. Brightly-coloured foods like beetroot and carrots can impart a similar colour. Energy drinks, vitamins tablets and some medications are also well known to give a false dehydration reading. Observing reddish colours in the urine warrants further discussion with your doc as this is a typical sign you are passing blood.
The Take-Home Tip
As always, prevention is better than treatment and we should be aiming to take in an amount of water each day that replaces the 2.5 to 3L loss. The natural water content of a varied, balanced, fresh food diet will help to make up the 0.5 - 1L shortfall from hitting your target 2L of drinking water per day. And remember, you need to be extra vigilant during and after exercise or strenuous work as this is when you are most susceptible to under-estimating your fluid losses. And get comfortable with your pee as it offers much more info than first meets the eye! JS