How to Monitor Hydration Status
Because fluid requirements vary considerably between individuals, athletes should learn effective ways of monitoring their hydration status to determine if they are drinking enough fluid.Two effective methods are monitoring urine colour and using pre/post-exercise weight to calculate fluid loss.
1. Monitoring urine colour
Next time you use the facilities, it’s worth noting the colour of your urine and adjusting your fluid intake accordingly. Here’s what your urine colour says about your hydration status:
- Transparent or colourless: While it may seem like drinking plenty of water is always beneficial, excessively clear urine can actually indicate over-hydration. It means that you may be consuming more fluids than necessary, potentially diluting essential electrolytes in your body.
- Pale to light yellow (colour of lemonade): This is the ideal colour for hydrated individuals. It indicates that you are well-hydrated, and your body has a sufficient amount of fluids. Keep up the good work!
- Dark Yellow (colour of apple juice): Dark yellow urine is a sign of mild dehydration. It indicates that you should increase your fluid intake to replenish the water lost during physical activity. Make sure to drink water or other hydrating beverages to restore proper hydration.
- Amber or Dark Orange: If your urine appears amber or dark orange, it is a clear sign of dehydration. This colour indicates severe fluid loss, and immediate rehydration is necessary. Drink water or electrolyte-rich fluids and seek shade or a cool environment to avoid further dehydration.
Remember, monitoring urine colour is a convenient and practical way to assess your hydration status, but it can be impacted by the foods you eat (beets, for example!) It’s important to listen to your body and consult a healthcare professional if you have concerns.
2. Using weight to determine fluid replenishment
In addition to urine monitoring, using weight measurements before and after exercise can help determine fluid replenishment needs.
During exercise, some athletes may lose significant amounts of fluid through sweat. To determine how much water was lost and how to replace it, here are some general guidelines:
- Weigh yourself immediately before and after exercise to get the most accurate estimation of fluid losses.
- Calculate the difference between your pre-exercise weight and your post-exercise weight. This will tell you your estimated fluid loss.
- Determine fluid replenishment: for every pound (or ⅕ kilogram) of weight lost during exercise, drink approximately 500mL or 2 cups of fluid.
Note: This fluid replenishment estimation is a general guideline and can be adjusted based on individual factors like sweat rate, exercise intensity, and environmental conditions.
Monitoring your weight before and after exercise can serve as a helpful guideline to estimate fluid replenishment needs. However, it's essential to listen to your body's thirst cues, monitor urine color, and consider other hydration indicators to ensure optimal hydration and performance.
General Guidelines for Fluid Intake
The goal of pre-exercise hydration is to ensure that athletes start the session in a hydrated state to optimize performance. Athletes should aim to drink approximately 3-5 ml of water per kg of body weight 2-3 hours before exercise if they suspect they might be dehydrated. For a 70kg (154lb) athlete, this is roughly 0.75-1.25 cups. Additionally, consuming foods with high water content, such as fruits and vegetables, can contribute to hydration.
During exercise, athletes should always have a water bottle handy to sip on fluids at regular intervals during practice or competition. Water is usually the best option, however, sports drinks may even be appropriate during long, intense training sessions lasting over 90 min or taking place in a hot environment.
Rehydrating after exercise is crucial for recovery. Athletes should aim to replace the fluid lost during physical activity. As a general rule of thumb, athletes need to drink 1-1.5L (4-6 cups) of fluid per kg of weight lost during exercise.
Note: Water isn’t the only important part of recovery. Some athletes may benefit from consuming specialized recovery drinks, dairy-based beverages, or protein shakes post-game. These products provide a convenient combination of fluids, carbohydrates, electrolytes, and proteins to optimize muscle recovery while rehydrating.
The Importance of Electrolytes for Rehydration
Electrolytes play a crucial role in hydration because they are minerals that help maintain fluid balance in the body. When we sweat during physical activity, electrolytes, mainly sodium, and chloride (as well as potassium, magnesium, and calcium to a lesser extent) are lost along with water which is why during intense exercise or in hot weather, replenishing electrolytes is crucial to restore the balance and prevent imbalances that can lead to muscle cramps, fatigue, and reduced performance.
Eating a nutritious and well-balanced meal after exercise can help replenish lost electrolytes, however, after sessions where athletes have increased sweat production (ex. Endurance exercise in the heat) they may also benefit from salty snacks (pretzels, salted nuts, sport drinks) to top up electrolyte stores.The water intake requirements for athletes vary depending on factors such as body weight, activity level, climate, and individual sweat rate and composition (ex. Some people are “salty sweaters.”) The general guideline is to drink at least 8 to 10 cups (64 to 80 ounces) of water per day, but athletes may need more to compensate for fluid loss during exercise.
Sports Nutrition at our sister clinic, the Nepean Sports Medicine & Physiotherapy Centre
Proper hydration is essential for athletes to perform at their best and maintain their overall health. It’s important to develop good hydration habits going into the season to help you get the most out of your training. For help fueling for success, book a nutrition assessment with Registered Dietitian, Ruth Burrowes to discuss your sports nutrition goals.