We have created a whole generation of water drinkers. As far as I can tell, they also drink a lot of other things and eat a lot of water-rich foods, too. This water fascination has often frustrated me at work given that no meetings can really begin until everyone has water. That, plus working in healthcare and having just seen the eye-opening HBO/Institute of Medicine special, The Weight of the Nation about the obesity epidemic, lead me to want to find out what the real skinny is on our water obsession.

We all want to remain hydrated, but it does not require being fused at the hip with a water bottle. There is no real scientific justification1  for everyone to consume 8 glasses of water a day. The best indication of whether you really need to drink more water for hydration purposes is the color of your urine.

The scientists explain it this way: “Urine color tracked changes in body water as effectively as (or better than) Uosm (osmolality), Usg (specific gravity), urine volume, Posm (plasma osmolality), plasma sodium, and plasma total protein. We concluded that (a) Ucol (urine color), Uosm, and Usg are valid indices of hydration status, and (b) marked dehydration, exercise, and rehydration had little effect on the validity and sensitivity of these indices.”2

To you and me, what that means is simply that if your pee is light yellow, you are fine. You are hydrated and no water is needed. The author of the study referenced above, rightly does not like publishing a urine color chart because it can so easily be distorted by your printer or computer display. But the Navy/Marines Urine Hydration Chart3 does give you a general sense of where you should be.

So, if your pee is deep yellow, drink up. Obviously, if it is very hot or you are doing high-powered exercise, you need to drink more water. So use common sense. But if you simply need to have something up to your lips and in your mouth all day long every day, realize it’s not about dehydration.

Interested in diving in further? Check out this article and the associated links.



1   http://www.dartmouth.edu/~news/releases/2002/aug/080802.html

2   Int J Sport Nutr, 1998 Dec; 8(4):345-55. “Urinary indices during dehydration, exercise, and rehydration.” Armstrong LE, Soto JA, Hacker FT Jr, Casa DJ, Kavouras SA, Maresh CM.

3  “Am I Hydrated? Urine Color Chart” Navy/Marines Urine Color Hydration chart: http://www-nehc.med.navy.mil/downloads/healthyliv/nutrition/urinekleurenkaart.pdf


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