Preventing and Treating Dehydration in Healthy People

By Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.

To determine how much fluid you need each day, knowing how many calories you need is helpful You can divide that number by 30 and that will give you how many ounces of fluid you need to drink each day. In addition to knowing that number you can also check the color of your urine. You should urinate about every 2 to 4 hours throughout the day.  Your urine should be clear. If you urine in not clear  after the first void in the morning than you need to drink more.

Example: Fluid Needs = 2000/30 = 66.6 ounces of fluid per day.

Online Hydration calculator:

You can get fluid from an assortment of foods. Check out the list below.

Fluid Contact from Food and Other Fluids

Food                                                     Portion             Fluid (g)                       Calories

Popsicle                                                   1 each              90                               varies

Ice cream, ice milk                             1/2 cup             45                               varies

Gelatin                                                     1/2 cup             120                               varies

Soup                                                         1/2 cup             120                               varies

Pudding                                                    1/2 cup             50                               varies

Gingerale                                        12 fl oz                        334                              124

Coffee*                                                         6 fl oz             176                                 4

Cranberry juice                                        6 fl oz              162                               108

Lemonade                                             12 fl oz                 443                              200

Tea*                                                                6 fl oz             177                                 2

Water                                                            8 fl oz              240                                0

Orange juice                                              8 fl oz              219                               112

Tomato juice                                            8 fl oz              226                              51

Grape juice                                                8 fl oz              213                               155

Cantaloupe                                               1 cup                144                               57

Grapes                                                        1 cup                129                               114

Orange                                                     1 medium          122                               65

Watermelon                                            1 cup                146                               50

Milk lowfat 1%                                         8 fl oz              220                              102

Yogurt low fat                                         8 fl oz              194                               127

Chocolate low fat milk                          8 fl oz              211                               158

Cream of celery soup                            1 cup                214                               165

Clam Chowder                                          1 cup                211                               163

Gatorade                                                      8 fl oz              240                              50

Water from a fountain                         1 mouthful        30                                0


SOURCE: Adapted from J.A.T Pennington, Bowes and Church’s Food Values of Portions Commonly Used, 15th ed. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1989).

*Contains caffeine which may have a dehydrating effect.

Strategies for Hydration: Pre and During and Recovery Exercise

  • Drink about 17 ounces of fluid 2 to 3 hours before exercise.
  • Drink about 8 to 10 ounces of water 10 to 20 minutes before exercise.
  • Drink about 5 to 10 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes or so during your workout. You may find sipping water throughout your workout works as well (a mouthful is about 1 ounce).
  • If you exercise for more than an hour, consider a sports drink.
  • In hot weather you can weigh before exercising & weigh after exercising. For every pound you lose during exercise drink 20 – 24 ounces of fluid per pound to rehydrate.


#1        Adequate Urine Output on a daily basis, you should make sure that you drink an adequate amount of fluids.  You can determine if you’ve had enough to drink by your urine output: the amount, color and smell of your urine.

1. Your urine should be clear.  Your first void of the morning is usually  yellow but as the day goes on it should be pale to clear.

2. If your urine is dark and has a bad odor, it is concentrated with metabolic wastes, and you are dehydrated.  You need to drink more fluids.  Drink until your urine is pale to clear.

#2       Weight Loss Indicator of Mild Dehydration: Weigh Yourself Before and After Long Runs.

Note: For each pound of weight loss during your long runs, you should drink 20 to 24 ounces of fluid to become rehydrated.

#3       A throbbing heart beat may be indicative of dehydration.

#4       Experiencing a mild headache in combination with the other  symptoms like chills, nausea, and/or “cotton mouth”.

#5       Chronic fatigue.


There are three different levels of heat injury: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (this being the most serious).  Be sure to weigh yourself before and after each long run and drink back 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for rehydration.


Clinical Symptoms:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Thirst and cramps in stomach, arms and legs


What to do:

*  Drink water or fluids containing electrolytes like Gatorade or Powerade

*  Rest and get to a cool spot in shade or air-conditioned


HEAT EXHAUSTION (occurs if you don’t treat heat cramps!)

Clinical Symptoms:

  • Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
  • Heavy sweating
  • Faintness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weak,  rapid pulse
  • Low blood pressure upon standing

What to do:

*  Stop exercising and try to get in a cooler environment.

*  Drink cool water or sports drink

Note: symptoms should improve within an hour, if not seek immediate medical attention.


HEAT STROKE (if heat exhaustion is not treated it can lead to heat stroke. This is life threatening!)

Clinical Symptoms:

  • Excessively high body temp (over 104 F)
  • Lack of sweat
  • Nausea and vomiting (or feel sick at your stomach)
  • Flushed skin
  • Racing heart rate
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Muscle cramps begins then may go rigid or limp

What to do:

*  Call for emergency medical treatment. This is serious!

*  Move to a shaded location & remove excess clothing.

*  Until help arrives, place ice packs or cold wet towels on the person’s head, neck, armpits, and groin.

*  Get into a cold shower, if possible,  use cold water sprays or use a fan with cold water sprays.

**Information adapted from

Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N., is a registered dietitian with a Master’s Degree in clinical nutrition.  The former publisher of Kentuckiana HealthFitness Magazine, Kentuckiana Healthy Woman magazine and radio show host of Health News You Can Use, Barbara has over 30 years of experience in promoting healthy lifestyles to consumers.  Barbara worked as Nutrition Consultant to the Navy SEALs (8 years) and the University of Louisville Athletic Department (10 years). Barbara has private practice, DayByDay Nutrition,, where she counsels clients on weight loss, cholesterol management, performance nutrition and an array of other medical issues.  Visit Barbara’s new website which is an on-line health & wellness magazine, Barbara writes nutrition and health columns for as well as a weekly nutrition column for the Southeast Outlook. She also designs and presents employee wellness programs to small and large businesses. Barbara is a runner, cyclist, hiker and a mother and grandmother to 12 grandchildren.    



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