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How Can I Tell When My Body Is Hydrated?

author image Kristen Unger
Kristen Unger is a Doctor of Physical Therapy student specializing in geriatric physical therapy. Before entering physical therapy school, she attended Virginia Tech, majoring in human nutrition, foods and exercise. She also completed a handful of graduate-level courses addressing various topics in biomedical engineering while at Virginia Tech. Her writing addresses health and fitness concerns for a wide range of medical conditions.
How Can I Tell When My Body Is Hydrated?
Pay attention to your body for these four telling physical signs of hydration. Photo Credit: Ashley Corbin-Teich/Image Source/GettyImages

Hydration is an important aspect of nutrition for everyone, and it's key to maintain good health and overall well being. Monitor how much water you drink each day but also pay attention to your body for these four physical signs of hydration.

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Light Urine Color

Urine color can directly relate to your body's loss or gain of water and offers a reliable way to identify your hydration status. If you are well-hydrated, urine will be a light yellow or straw color, even if you have recently exercised in a hot environment. Urine is dark yellow or gold when you're dehydrated; this is because the wastes normally found in urine become more concentrated as your body tries to conserve water. Note: Intensely colored foods, as well as some medications, B vitamins and laxatives can darken urine even if you are hydrated.

Constant Sweat Production

If you are well-hydrated, you will continuously produce sweat during physical exertion. Your body uses sweat to moderate its temperature; when body temperature increases, you produce sweat by drawing fluid from the bloodstream.

If you are well-hydrated before exercise and continue to drink fluids during activity, you will maintain a relatively constant rate of sweat production and overall higher quality athletic performance. However, if you continue to sweat without replacing fluids, your overall blood volume decreases, which can lead to dehydration and an eventual cessation of sweating, along with muscle cramps and a dangerous increase in temperature.

Normal Skin Turgor

If you are well-hydrated, your skin should have normal turgor, meaning it rebounds immediately after being pinched. Health professionals commonly use this method, known as the skin turgor test, to get a general idea of hydration status. However, it is possible to be well-hydrated and still test poorly due to various other factors, such as smoking, malnutrition or kidney failure.

Capillary Refill

Your skin should take less than two seconds to return to its normal color after blanching when pressure is applied, if you are well-hydrated. This method, called the capillary refill test, is used to identify reduced blood flow in a localized area. With time, dehydration leads to vasoconstriction and reduced peripheral blood flow, increasing the time it takes for skin in areas such as nail beds to return to their normal color. When severely dehydrated, you might have a capillary refill time of four seconds or more.

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