The claim: “Drink half your body weight in ounces of water! Drink until your pee is clear!”
The truth: You in danger, girl.
So, let’s talk about where the “yellow” comes from, to begin with. From earlier BGG2WL posts, we learned that body fat that is burned is also washed away with the water you drink, and carried out of the body through urination. But there’s more to it than that.
When you consume anything—water, sodapop, juice, food—its broken down into its smaller, more useful parts and then distributed throughout your body. The nutrients, the water, the amino acids are all broken apart in the stomach, and throughout the digestive tract those important parts are transferred to your blood, which carries it out into your body and throughout your limbs. Your blood carries good stuff in, and transports no-longer-useful stuff out, where it’s filtered through your—ahem—exporting system: your kidneys, your bladder and, ultimately, your urethra, where it makes an exit.
Within that “exporting system,” however, lots of magic happens. Your liver is constantly sorting out what should remain in your body and what shouldn’t, like sugars used to fuel activity (stay!) and dead blood cells (go!) When those dead blood cells are processed and prepped for their exit, the byproducts of those dead blood cells, two yellow-ish tinted chemicals called urochrome and urobilin make their way for your bladder. And, because your body is constantly removing and replenishing blood cells, this is a constant ongoing process, meaning there should be a constant color to your pee, since you’re constantly consuming and removing water.
You “get rid of water” a few ways—you cry, you sweat, you pee. People do things to speed up the process of “getting rid of water,” like spending too much time in saunas or taking diuretics, natural forms like what’s found in food or by way of pills, which make you pee more. Lose too much water, for instance like during exercise, and your body tries to neutralize the imbalance created by making you thirsty.
But why? Because water helps you carry out what your body no longer has use for, hence your urine having a yellowish tint to it. The yellow comes from the waste itself after having been processed by your kidneys, and the tint of yellow is an indicator of how well you are doing at ridding yourself of it all. (Certain foods, under certain circumstances, can turn your pee different colors, too—beets can turn it red, asparagus can turn it green, certain dyes in processed food can have you peeing various colors of the rainbow, and so on.)
This is also why the darkness of your urine is a good indicator of how hydrated you are; if your urine is the same kind of yellow as a cup of freshly cooked corn, chances are high you’re not drinking enough water to flush your body of waste with any frequency, so it not only builds up, but also all flushes out at once the next time you’re able to actually go.
When people say your urine should be clear, however, they’re advising you to drink so much water that you should have nothing tinting your urine, and that’s not quite the good thing it seems it should be. Drinking too much water can mean that you’re rinsing nutrients, electrolytes, and other valuable chemicals out of your body before your body has had the ability to do any good with them. Too much water causes an imbalance between the amount of water and sodium in your body, and results in a condition known as “hyponatremia,” and it’s especially hazardous for those of us who are gettin’ our workout on. Hyponatremia can cause nausea, dizziness, and fainting, sometimes even during your workout.
What color should your pee be? Look at it before it hits the toilet bowl, or catch it in a jar to get a look at it before it’s diluted by the water in the toilet bowl. Then, compare it to this chart created by the Cleveland Clinic to determine how you’re doing. There should be faint shades of yellow, but the darker it is, the more troubling. If you’re concerned, your doctor can offer you a test to find out if you’re suffering from kidney issues or other related conditions impacting your urine. If you don’t have suitable health care, your local women’s health facility like Planned Parenthood can offer wellness check-ups for low- or no-cost, and help you get the info you need on your insides.
How much water should you drink? It’s less about how much and more about how you drink it. You should try your best to avoid drinking so much water at one time that you’re guzzling it instead of sipping it. You shouldn’t want to inhale a glass all at once, and you shouldn’t be drinking to stave off hunger; if you’re hungry, then you likely need to eat. Skipping meals can have their own consequences that you likely will want to avoid. If you sip your water often, you’ll likely remain hydrated without needing to count ounces or carry around a gallon jug all day.
I carry around a nice tall aluminum water bottle with me all day, and sip from it intermittently. It keeps me hydrated, and keeps my water ice cold—no, this isn’t necessary and yes, lukewarm water is better for you for emergency hydrating—so that I’m more likely to keep drinking it. Keep a water bottle on you and remind yourself to take a sip every hour. Staying hydrated will come naturally to you, and—trust me—your body will thank you for it!