Q: I am a long distance runner. In the winter I will run indoors but when good weather hits I'm mostly outside. How do you know you are hydrated enough? Are there warning signs to watch for?
A: Yes, there are warning signs you can look out for. Rule of thumb says you need to drink daily about half your weight in oz. of water. If you workout this is much higher (about 8 oz. every 15 minutes depending on intensity). This can be accomplished through water dense foods such as oranges or pure water. Your cells and body all require H2O to live.
Foods high in sugar, salt, and caffeine will dehydrate the body. This is why beverages such as pop, coffee and some sports drinks can be more harm than good. Opt for an electrolyte drink or gels when on long distance runs. Carry extras in times of extreme cold or heat. Water helps regulate body temperature and help your body sweat out toxins. Without proper amounts your organs will work harder than necessary.
The chart above shows how the color of your urine is a large indicator of proper hydration. The color may change after taking supplements (your body will get rid of the excess it doesn't need typically turning your urine a deeper yellow) or certain foods such as beets. The more clear your pee the better. The darker the more dangerous. Try to stay above the black line in the chart.
When you feel thirsty you are already behind on staying hydrated. Drink up as soon as you're able. Travel with a hydration pack or choose locations with access to drinking fountains or nearby stores to restock. Other signs your body is lacking water is cramping muscles, feeling lightheaded or dizzy, constipation, and dry skin.