Hydration is a sticky subject in the summertime. It’s hot and we tend to be a bit more active which means we are sweating more than normal. We definitely need to be conscious of our water intake and our hydration level. But here’s the thing, I don’t believe we need to be super crazy about this. Think about it - nowadays, everyone has a big ol' water bottle, sometimes even huge water jugs - that are with us at all time and we are constantly drinking and refilling. But the thing is these bottles are all super modern. Water bottles and constant access to drinkable water is a new phenomenon that only started in the past decade or so.
Something that is important to remember is that we humans have been around for thousands of years and we've never really had hydration issues. And for the vast majority of those thousands of years there wasn't air conditioning, and labor was mostly manual. So I'm not sure how vital it is to drink a bottle of water every hour, on the hour.
As a matter of fact, more people die because of hyperhydration (too much hydration) than dehydration. Now, I don't mean to scare you by saying this. The death count from either hyperhyrdation or dehydration is extremely low. But even so, it should be something we are aware of, just as we are all aware of the dangers of dehydration. Our bodies run on electricity, and too much hydration or too little hydration can mess the electrical currents up. The best course of action is to understand the healthy range of hydration, and base your fluid consumption off of that.
The best way to know if you are properly hydrated is the good old-fashioned pee test. When you go to the bathroom, notice the color of your pee. Does it look like applejuice? Like lemonade? Or totally clear? Ideally, our pee is a very light lemonade color. If it’s darker, then drink more water! If not, then you don’t need to go out of our way to drink more.
This chart lays it out pretty clearly. If you are in the hydrated color zone, you don't need any fluids. If you notice you drop into the dehydrated zone, then think about getting some water. If you are in the severely dehydrated zone, then it's super important to get fluids in as soon as possible.
There is also a really cool skin elasticity test you can do in a pinch (see what I did there?) to see if you’re dehydrated. If you pinch the skin on your hand and it stays pinched, then you’re pretty dehydrated. If the skin springs right back to where it was, then your body has plenty of water in it and it’s functioning at a healthy level.
So, if you tend to drink water routinely throughout your day, you are most likely hydrated. The issue becomes when people are drinking other types of liquids, such as coffee and sodas. As amazing as coffee is, it does dehydrate the body. So if you start your day with coffee, you may be doing some harm to the body. Best practice is to always start your morning by drinking a glass of water BEFORE your coffee.
Sodas and other beverages, including carbonated waters, need to be carefully watched. The thing with these are that your pee will pass the color test, but the carbonation actual dehydrates you. So while you think you are getting hydrated, you might not be. If you are a soda drinker remember to do the pinch test frequently, even if your pee is clear. It may be deceiving you! If you can drink a glass of water in between each soda, you'll definitely be hydrated, and you may find that it helps you reduce the amount of soda you drink as well! That would be a win-win!
Written by Jason Yule.