What the color of your urine says about your hydration

We all know how important it is to stay hydrated, especially when exercising and especially in the heat. But how do you know if you’re really drinking enough water in proportion to your size and activity level? That’s where the “Pee Chart” comes in. New University of Texas head football coach Tom Herman created the “Pee Chart” as a practical way for his players to track their hydration and stay healthy.

The “Pee Chart”

The “Pee Chart” is exactly what you think it is. It’s a sheet of paper that’s posted in every restroom that a football player might utilize and it asks them to compare… as in compare the color of their urine with the chart colors on the sheet.

If your urine is nearly clear, that’s “Championship Urine Level.” As the color becomes more and more dark yellow and eventually orange, a teammate is dubbed everything from “Selfish” to having “Blatant disregard for your teammates.” If your urine color resembles a darker orange, you’re tagged as “A Bad Guy.”

The categories of the “Pee Chart” may seem humorous, but hydration is a serious topic. It’s important to stay properly hydrated, especially during physical activity, and your urine color is the best way for you to measure your hydration level.

Beating the Heat

As football practices kick off later this summer — deep in the heart of the infamous Texas heat — “Pee Charts” like Coach Herman’s are critical documents.

Proper hydration before, during and after rigorous activity can and will make the difference in a player’s performance and, ultimately, his health. This is the time of year when team doctors around the state are on high alert.

“It’s critical that football programs take proper hydration very seriously,” said Walton G. Bartels, MD, a family medicine physician on the medical staff at Scott and White Clinic – Belton. “Not only is it a health risk, but a team’s performance is so closely connected to proper hydration that it can make the difference between winning and losing, especially in September when it’s still in triple digits around here.”

Dr. Bartels and Torrance Walker, MD, are encouraged by the heightened importance placed on good hydration. Both remember a time when water breaks were deemed only for the weak.

“Water breaks were scarce when we played,” said Dr. Walker, medical director of orthopedic surgery and orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff of Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center – Fort Worth. “Coaches were more concerned about players catching abdominal cramps than heat cramps and other heat illnesses. I remember having one 6 ounce cup of water during one break per practice in the August heat! We used to have these buckets full of ice water and sponges to be used for cooling off but all the players would regularly designate one of the buckets for ‘drinking’ water. We had to sneak over to get some water when the coaches weren’t looking. Eventually, the coach got wind of what was going on and then allowed us to have more sanitary water for drinking during practice. It’s funny to think of now but we could’ve still gotten ill from that but fortunately no one did.”

It’s All in the Preparation

Starting to hydrate long before the first ball is kicked off on Friday night is a critical component of proper hydration, Dr. Bartels said.

“It’s not good enough to start drinking water on game day,” he said. “It’s important to get your body ready days ahead of time so that when the game starts you can be at peak performance levels.”

Monitoring your body weight before and after practice and games is another measure every athlete should take seriously. This helps you understand how much fluid loss occurs during a workout. Water is the best remedy for hydration issues but sports drinks also work well during an activity. Caffeinated or alcoholic drinks are non-starters in the hydration game.

Whether it’s a well-placed “Pee Chart,” the constant supervision of a team doctor or the uncompromising direction of a head football coach, athletes in Texas have no excuse for improper hydration no matter how hot it gets.

Follow these hydration tips to prevent heat-related illnesses during your summer sports practices.

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What the color of your urine says about your hydration