Officially dehydration has occurred when as little as 1% or greater of your body mass is lost as a result of losing fluids. A 5% fluctuation in fluid volume can damage your health considerably.
A female has approximately 52% fluids, a male 60%, in their bodies; which are made up mostly of salt water (sodium), potassium, and chloride. When our fluids get imbalanced and this ratio dips, dehydration is imminent.
How Do You Test for Dehydration?
The best ways to test for dehydration are of course with:
- blood tests that check your electrolyte levels, mostly potassium and sodium (according to the Mayo Clinic). By giving blood samples this will also confirm proper kidney functionality.ş
- urinalysis would also be performed to determine the degree in which you’re dehydrated, while also checking to see if you might have a bladder infection.
But, what if you’d rather not visit the doctors office and there isn’t an emergency situation…
Plus, these methods are not feasible during day to day activities or exercise.
To take control of and stay hydrated most devices and tests, like urinalysis and blood tests are over-kill and fall under the medical diagnosis and treatment category, which are not practical for the purposes of managing your hydration for yourself on a daily basis.
The following tests will give you a baseline to go off of in determining whether or not you are sufficiently hydrated.
How Can I Check Myself for Dehydration?
If you’re looking to monitor and test to see if you might be dehydrated throughout the day, before exercising, during or post workout; then here are a couple tests you can do on your own.
Simple and Basic Tests for Dehydration
- The “Pinch” Test – Skin Turgor (see video below)
- Tongue Turgor Test
- Urine Color (see chart below)
- Monitoring Urine Output
What Is the Pinch Test for Dehydration?
The pinch test is a simple and quick way to check yourself for dehydration based on the elasticity of your skin, also known as skin turgor. This test becomes less reliable as an indication of dehydration for the elderly, as skin elasticity reduces with age.
You’re basically going to be pinching a small area of skin between the top of your hand and wrist. Most do it this way, but it is best to pinch the skin on your inner thigh or over the sternum.
- Pinch a fold of your skin and hold for 2 seconds.
- Let go to see how fast your skin flattens back to its normal position.
- If you are well hydrated, it should immediately return to normal, in less than a second.
- If it takes more than 1 second, chances are you’re dehydrated.
Here’s a great video by Dr. Berg on info regarding dehydration and performing the “pinch test”.
However, just because you are not thirsty or passed the pinch test does not necessarily mean you’re not mildly or moderately dehydrated. Perform the urine color test in conjunction with the pinch test in order to get a more accurate reading.
The Tongue Turgor Test
This test is said to be more reliable than the skin turgor test because the results are not dependent on a persons age.
If you are well hydrated, your tongue will have one well defined longitudinal line (furrow).
A dehydrated person may lose the one longitudinal line and have multiple lines instead, sometimes horizontal.
Dehydration Urine Color Chart
Urine Dehydration Test Online
The above urine chart is the test that everyone refers to online. As you can see in the chart above, the darker yellow your urine gets, the more dehydrated you are.
If you are adequately hydrated, the color of your urine should be clear (not cloudy), have only a touch of yellow (pale), and be odorless.
Healthy color pee is light yellowish (pastel). If it’s a little brighter or darker, it is a sign that you’re beginning to get dehydrated and are going to want to drink a tall glass of water. This in not the most reliable test, but is generally a good indicator.
So again, pale, light yellow urine indicates sufficient hydration. If your urine is completely transparent, this means şyour body is over-hydrated. Your goal should be to maintain a hydration status that consistently puts your urine color within level 1 – 3 on the chart.
Monitoring Urine Output
This basically means keeping an eye on frequency and volume of urination (how much and how often).
To check yourself for dehydration, another easy way to determine your hydration level is to monitor how often you’re urinating, how much volume is urinated, as well as its color.
These indicators are the easiest and probably the most useful when self-diagnosing dehydration. If you’re urinating less often than usual, and when you do – less volume is exiting your body, then this is another sign that you’re not drinking enough water throughout the day.
What Amount of Urine Is Normal Output?
Normal urine output is around 1 ml/kg of body weight, per hour. The range considered safe is 0.5-2 ml/kg per hour. The minimum acceptable urine output is 0.5 ml/kg per hour. (Source NursingTimes)
So as an example, if you are well hydrated and if you weighed 80 kg = about 175 lbs. 80 ml (2.7 oz.) per hour on average is what you’d need to urinate for it to be considered optimal. So it should take you about 4.4 hours to urinate the amount of a 12-ounce can of coke.
How Much Water Should You Be Drinking Per Day?
A good rule of thumb to go by, and one that is recognized by many professionals, is to drink roughly 8 glasses of water per day.
They say to drink half your weight in ounces on a daily basis. This differs a bit for men and women and depends on your weight, activity levels, etc.
For example, if you weigh 160 lbs. you should drink 80 ounces (2.36 liters), about 10 cups of noncaloric fluids per day. That’s about six and a half 12oz. cans worth.
The Institute of Medicine recommends Women drink 2.7 liters of water daily (roughly 12 cups). Men should get closer to 4 liters a day (close to 15 cups). These numbers are for total liquid intake, including all kinds of beverages, moisture in food, etc.
Many forms of hydration testing now exist and technological advancements make it possible to detect the slightest changes in hydration from ones’ blood, sweat, saliva, and urine.
Most of us underestimate how quickly dehydration can set in. Managing hydration varies with each individual and there are many factors that affect its onset such as gender, weight and the state of your overall health.
Regular testing is advised because your hydration status can influence your mood, cognitive performance (even at the workplace), physiological functions, and your overall health.
Remember, experts have published that if your hydration levels (water volume lost) dip even 1% below normal levels, your health will begin to be negatively affected.