My Great Pee Experiment [The surprising answer to how much water we should really be drinking]

by Charlotte on May 26, 2014 · 30 comments


This is so so true for me. 

Colorado is a desert. A high plains desert, but a desert nonetheless. So why are we having this geography discussion (on a holiday, no less)? Not because I doubt your eremological skillz but because apparently I forgot where I live. It turns out deserts are known for being dry places and for the past year that I’ve lived here, while I’ve been slathering on lotion and chapstick to sooth my dry skin, it seems I’ve neglected my dry innards.

Let me back up: To the bathroom. (All good stories start or end in a bathroom.) Friday I started drinking. Not booze – I’m still a Mormon – but water. Lots and lots and lots of water. I’d noticed that the previous day I’d only drank about 8 ounces of water the whole day even though I’d worked out – and that wasn’t an unusual day for me. I just never feel thirsty. Yet eight measly ounces seemed a little nuts even for me so I Googled how much water someone of my height/weight/activity level should be consuming and ended up with the nice round number of 100 ounces, or about 3 liters a day. So I sucked it down. (Not all at once. That’s dangerous. More on that later.)

And waited.

What was surprising was not what happened next but rather what didn’t happen. I figured with all that water-sucking I should be water-spouting. I should have been a veritable fountain of mellow yellow. Yet nothing happened. So after a couple of hours, I went into the bathroom anyhow, hoping for some kind of Pavlovian response to seeing the toilet. I sat on it. Nada.

I tried thinking of waterfalls, running streams, the Kimye wedding – you know, anything that might inspire me to pee a little. I even considered calling my mom and asking her to bribe me with an M&M to make wee-wee in the potty. If I was a good girl maybe she’d even sing me the pee-pee song! Still no luck. So I got up and went about my day, waiting for a man to want to talk to me about a horse. Never happened. By evening, being the good little hypochondriac I am, I started to worry about my kidneys.

But when I went to Google my symptoms, I noticed something. I felt awesome. Seriously, I felt amazing. Happier, clearer, lighter (which was hilarious because 100 ounces of water, un-peed, equals about six pounds). I also felt thirsty. After 100 ounces, my body wanted even more? I took a small drink of water and went to bed hoping I wasn’t in some kind of hyponatremia-induced euphoria.

I dreamed of peeing. The last time that happened, I actually wet the bed so I panicked and jumped up. (True story: I randomly wet the bed when I was 24. Before that I don’t think it had happened since I was 4. And it hasn’t happened since. To this day I don’t know what the deal was except that anytime I dream about water now I wake up and run to the bathroom.) And I finally let it go! (Let it flow! Let it flow! Can’t hold it in anymore! Let it flow! Let it flow! Turn away and slam the [bathroom] door!) Sorry, had to go there.

Anyhow, when I woke up in the morning I swear my skin looked better and the bags under my eyes were less noticeable. And I still felt really good! So Saturday and Sunday I’ve made sure to drink 100 ounces of water a day and I think it’s really helping. I think I didn’t pee at first because my body, dehydrated for so long, was hoarding the water. Now that I’ve filled up all my cells, it’s stopped being so paranoid.

Raise your hand if at any point during this story you wanted to yell “DUH CHARLOTTE!” Me too. I feel like kind of a dummy.

What’s the number one health and fitness tip we always hear? Say it with me now: Drink more water. Every health and fitness professional everywhere agrees that we need mas agua - in fact, it’s probably the only thing they all agree on. Although how much water we’re all supposed to be drinking has been a subject of much debate recently. When I was growing up I was always told to drink water before you got thirsty because once you were thirsty you were already dehydrated. Which seems like it would be technically true but also a really bad mechanism for survival if our bodies couldn’t figure out what they needed until we were already sick. Then, of course, I got told the “8×8″ rule – drink 8 cups of 8 oz of water a day. This was debunked by a 2002 study published in the American Journal of Physiology—Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology

Heinz Valtin, lead author, concluded, “No scientific studies support the “eight x eight” dictum (for healthy adults living in temperate climates and doing mild exercise). In fact, drinking this much or more could be harmful, both in precipitating potentially dangerous hyponatremia and exposure to pollutants, and also in making many people feel guilty for not drinking enough.” (Oh, the guilt!!!)

Oh and who can forget everyone’s favorite your pee should look like light lemonade, not iced tea axiom that induced all of us to break out the paint chips in the bathroom to try and decide if we were producing Limoncello or Summer Sunrise and what exactly that meant for our health. (I don’t know but if it comes out as Poppy, remember you had beets for lunch yesterday. You’re welcome.)

Of course on the flip side, you have people drinking too much water and ending up with hyponatremia, which can be deadly. If you recall, a 28-year-old healthy woman died during the 2007 Boston marathon from “water intoxication.” Yet people often think hyponatremia just means chugging too much water but it really means low sodium levels in the blood. There are several ways to get low sodium levels and drinking excessive water is only one.

Little known fact: When you’re running long distances, especially if you’re not quite trained for them, your body slows your kidneys way down to increase your blood volume to help deal with the damage you’re doing to your skeletal muscles. Your kidneys normally output 800-1000 milliliters an hour. When you’re doing an endurance sport for more than a couple of hours, that can go down to 100 milliliters an hour. Which means that even drinking a small cup of water can push you over the edge into dangerously low levels of sodium. Indeed, a 2005 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that one sixth of marathon runners develop some degree of hyponatremia.

In fact, according to a study from the Georgetown University Medical Center, most cases of water poisoning do not result from simply drinking too much water. Rather, it is usually a combination of excessive fluid intake and increased secretion of vasopression, an anti-diuretic hormone secreted in times of physical stress (like a marathon or triathlon). 

Have I freaked you out yet?

Obviously too much water is bad, as is too little. Dehydration’s a killer too! So how do you find the sweet spot? Some experts recommend weighing yourself before and after a sweaty workout but without drinking any water so you can then calculate how much water you sweat out per hour and only rehydrate the amount you sweat. (Repeat this little experiment under different conditions so you know your sweat output for a variety of scenarios!) Yeah, too much work for this girl. Which is why the current advice is to simply drink to your thirst. If you’re not thirsty don’t drink.

Unfortunately I think I’m either bad at listening or my body is bad at talking because I clearly needed more water than I was getting and yet I never felt thirsty. I also think that what worked for me in humid Minnesota isn’t working for me in arid Colorado, a fact I forgot to account for. So for now I’m just sticking with a number goal for the day because the difference it’s made in how I feel is, frankly, astonishing. I honestly didn’t know how bad I was feeling until I wasn’t feeling bad anymore! I’d prefer the listen-to-my-body route but for whatever reason that’s not working right now. Hopefully now that I’m getting enough water, my thirst signals will return to normal?

So to all my US readers Happy Memorial Day! And Happy Monday to everyone else! Celebrate with a huge glass of water! Or five!

What’s your policy for water-drinking — thirst, a certain amount, a pee color, number of water bottles full, proximity to a clean bathroom? Anyone else like never ever feel thirsty? Anyone else ever wet the bed as an adult?!

P.S. Speaking of pee, my poor injured cat Luna has peed on our bed TWICE this weekend. Obviously it’s because she’s hurt and traumatized but have you smelled cat pee? HAVE YOU?? It is literally the worst. And the smell is impossible to get out! I’ve tried all the enzymatic cleaners, vinegar, everything. Now our mattress is permanently relocated to the garage and we have to buy a new one. I’m sleeping on the couch and my poor husband is on a foam camping mat. Any advice for either helping her pee in her cat box or getting the smell of cat pee out would be much appreciated!



{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Darwin May 26, 2014 at 1:53 am

With physical awareness I find I am…odd.

I have noted the slightest variation in my eyesight that was so small that my optometrist was quite surprised that I was even aware of it.

I can detect an oncoming flu by my inner monologue, a day or so before flu symptoms show up…

…Because my vocabulary diminishes.

Example: “Today I have go to….that place…

…with books?

Not a bookstore…

But the one you need a card for?


When that happens I start having meals of garlic and onion sandwiches (which are natural antibiotics, and also…I am not married or dating) and this most often nips the cold or flu in the bud.

I began loooong runs in the 1980′s. I did sixty miles on the flat-lands (much like Minnesota) and thirty miles in Utah (not dissimilar to Colorado).

I found I needed more salt. Craved french fries or a bag of chips.

Of course, since this was the 80′s, anybody I discussed this with assured me I was nuts.

“Salt was BAD!”


“It will kill you where you stand!”

I ignored them.

I didn’t overdo it. I just had what I needed.

I took a desert survival class at BYU, and on our survival weekend in the desert I was the only one not dying of thirst.

I was also not starving.

(Or freezing at night…because as cold as the desert gets it was a wimpy cold,

I find I can do without for longer periods than most find comfortable without any adverse effects.

My mind processes “scarcity of resources” and my body adapts by not demanding more
(realistic expectations for the circumstance?) and uses what is available more efficiently.

I call it my “lets deal, and move on” mode.

I also eat like a horse when so moved.

But I don’t “go without” on anywhere near a regular basis, and I don’t eat like a horse very often.

I drink when I am thirsty, and I add some more when I KNOW I should need more.


Motorina May 26, 2014 at 4:00 am

Washng powder. biological washing powder. Make a strong solution and soak the offending area. When little boy cat decided that a corner was the perfect spot, this was the only thing that worked.


Stephanie May 26, 2014 at 4:07 am

If I don’t drink ‘enough’ water everyday (at least 3 32-ounce jugs, I get digs under my eyes. It’s NOT pretty… And the fear of it keeps me hydrated.

We’re actually potty training my younger son this weekend and letting him drink— wait for it—JUICE! Anything to get him to practice peeing in the potty. He’s quite delighted.

How interesting that you don’t feel thirsty!


Sarah May 26, 2014 at 7:15 am

I’m in New Mexico, and it is interesting to watch how much little kids drink in the desert. Not every kid is the same, of course, but now that our youngest is tall enough to get her own water from the fridge instead of waiting for us to fill a cup, she drinks ALL THE TIME. That could be partially the novelty of using the water dispenser, but after six months of being able to do so, you would think it would have worn off some.

Anyway, my thought is that it might be helpful to observe your kids and see how often they are drinking and poke yourself to drink when they do.


Naomi/Dragonmamma May 26, 2014 at 7:33 am

I hate drinking water. Anytime I’ve tried to force myself to drink more, I do not feel amazingly better, I just feel bloated and need to pee more. I’ve tried it for a couple months at a time without seeing any benefit. So, I don’t force myself to drink water any more.


Liz May 26, 2014 at 7:34 am

My cat has intermittently been peeing on the bed since she was 9 weeks old. It’s not a health issue, it’s a behavioral one that we haven’t been able to break despite trying everything (including calling a pet pyschic – we were desperate!) so now we manage it. We use anti icky poo enzyme cleaner which works better than nature’s miracle. We also cover our bed in washable incontinence pads if we know something stressful will happen (people coming to stay, us going on vacation, the vacuum cleaner -_-). It’s been a long road but she’s such a sweetheart that we just tolerate it.


Meg Go Run May 26, 2014 at 7:45 am

Cat pee is the worst. Our Chrissy boy starts peeing in corners once spring rolls around because he likes to mark his territory. We finally bought Feliway, which is like a glad plug in for cats that releases pheromones to calm the kitty. I don’t think Luna would need that because clearly it is related to her injury. Make sure the litterbox is easily accessible and somewhere she feels safe going. Maybe even add a litterbox- just for now. That sucks about your mattress. When Christmas started going on his peeing tirade I bought waterproof mattress covers because the last thing I wanted him to ruin was was a $500 mattress! Good luck Charlotte, be patient!


Nicole May 26, 2014 at 7:59 am

Funny story about hyponatremia…years ago my Mom was backpacking the grand canyon, and since they had signs up EVERYWHERE reminding people to drink water and talking about how dangerous it was to get dehydrated and overheated, she drank water. LOTS of water. And when she started feeling crappy, she drank even MORE water. And luckily, about when she sat down in the shade and started preparing for a serious water chugging session because she felt so awful she couldn’t walk anymore, a doctor happened by and went “holy sh*t don’t drink any more water!”. She had managed to give herself water intoxication in the grand canyon- land of dehydration! Since then, my whole family has put electrolytes in our water if we are planning to be out for a long time. Not the sugary crap through- the good all-natural stuff with no added sugar that tastes kinda funky.

However, I know that when I am working I NEVER drink enough water.


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Kat May 27, 2014 at 5:18 am

NOT appropriate to post this here!


KCLAnderson (Karen) May 26, 2014 at 8:27 am

For every expert/study, there’s an equal and opposite expert/study! :-)

I’ve always been a water drinker…I adore it. So I am rarely thirsty because I’ve always got a glass of it nearby. I’ve never had a bad experience from drinking the amount that I drink (I probably average about 80-100 ounces per day), but I have had bad experiences with what I believe was dehydration (cold sweats, intestinal upset, dizziness).

On a separate note: imagining strumming a guitar or banjo (especially to the tune of Dueling Banjoes) always makes me pee. You don’t want to know how/why I know this LOL


Darwin May 26, 2014 at 9:15 am

This is interesting.

Some people HAVE left in the midst of my guitar playing…Next time my feelings won’t be so quick to be hurt!


Perhaps I should suggest a “potty break” for all present beforehand?

I was once engaged to a girl whose bladder was triggered by temperature change.

Step outside, run back inside.


Angie May 26, 2014 at 8:43 am

I’m wondering if maybe there isn’t a set amount of water for anyone…even though there are recommendations according to your weight, for me, 8-10 glasses of water a day takes some SERIOUS effort. And I hate knowing where every public restroom is (and having to use it) everywhere I go. I don’t sweat a lot, so maybe I don’t need 8 glasses of water a day. Maybe my magic number is 5-6…which I could handle. Also, we have to look at the type of water we’re drinking…maybe our tap water is making us feel bloated and gives us a sick feeling. What about all the different water sources out there? Filtered water; spring water; distilled water; alkaline water; vitamin water; etc, etc, etc…Something to look into as well I think. :)


Kat May 27, 2014 at 5:22 am

very good ideas!


JavaChick May 26, 2014 at 10:38 am

I have found that Nature’s Miracle Enzymatic cleaner works well, but you say you have tried enzymatic cleaners already, so I don’t know.

If she keeps going back to the same spot to pee, you could try putting down puppy pads for now, and put a litter box near that spot to remind her. Is she having trouble getting around? She had her back legs in casts didn’t she? Maybe getting in and out of the litter box is difficult.


Redhead May 26, 2014 at 12:03 pm

I drink more water than most people. I work out probably 5 days a week, a typical amount. Nothing crazy. But I drink on average about 6 liters a day, and I feel dehydrated and sick if I don’t. I checked with a doctor before who tested for diabetes and then basically said meh, everyone’s different with what they need. As she pointed out, if you eat a lot of high fiber foods, you need more water to digest them (in addition to climate and workouts affecting water levels). It’s like food-everyone’s bodies need different things.


Heather @ PrettyHealthyMostoftheTime May 26, 2014 at 3:12 pm

I can’t believe I’m sharing this on the internet but … I totally peed the bed last month. What the heck?! That is the only time I remember this happening in my adult life. I woke up so confused haha!

As for the water, I drink tons of water just naturally. I especially drink a lot whenever I eat. I’ve never actually measured how much I drink in a day but now I’m curious.


Amalia May 26, 2014 at 3:36 pm

I drink a TON of water when I am at work (but then an 8 hour shift usually results in 25000+ steps so that kind of makes sense).

The rest of the time I aim for about half my body weight in ounces up to 100 ounces. Someone once told me that more than 100 oz is bad for you, but if I’m thirsty, I drink.

I like to think there is no one size fits all solution to this whole thing.


kfg May 26, 2014 at 4:37 pm

“So to all my US readers Happy Memorial Day! . . . Celebrate with a huge glass of water!”

I visited a cemetary.


Janet May 26, 2014 at 6:43 pm

Cat Attract litter may help. Also, would a waterproof mattress cover for the next bed help? Nature’s Miracle Enzymatic cleaner is supposed to help. The advice I’ve seen is don’t put water first or anything else, just follow directions on bottle or internet exactly. Good luck.


Monica H May 26, 2014 at 10:16 pm

I have often wondered why I don’t drink more and why I seem not to know that I’m thirsty. I thunk a big part of it is that I don’t actually LIKE drinking water, so I tend to ignore the thirsty signals so habitually that they stop seeming like signals. Kind of like if your alarm clock was going off for a long time, after a while you don’t hear it anymore. What I found is that if I generally drink something I DO like , I drink more and seem more tuned in. Herbal tea works great for me. For long duration exercise, Gatorade keeps me drinking (and keeps up my electrolytes).


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Cavy May 27, 2014 at 10:30 am

OK, first I just have to say this made me cry a little. I honestly thought I may be the only one who randomly wet the bed once waaaay past the age where I should. Ever since, I have been extremely paranoid about it. When I first got married, I lay awake all night, getting up to pee every 30 minutes or so, convinced I’d wet the bed and freak my new husband out and he’d know just how crazy I am . . . Thank goodness, 3 years of marriage later I am over it and have not wet the bed once in that time. Reading that this has happened to someone else just made me feel so much better.

As for water consumption, I drink a LOT. I just started drinking water, and pretty much nothing but water, when I was 12. My body just seems to want lots of it, or else I’m secretly diabetic (although my glucose is always normal when I go to the doctor). I also can’t stand drinking anything but water when I’m actually thirsty. When I say I’m thirsty and someone offers me a soda I look at them like they have an extra head. Thirsty. Not craving sugar. THIRSTY. Conversely, I think everyone thinks I’m crazy because I rarely drink anything but water. I don’t think anyone believes me when I say it’s my favorite drink!


Lisa Reed May 27, 2014 at 11:29 am

Natures miracle is the only product that works to remove cat urine smell


Lois May 27, 2014 at 11:41 am

It could be that climbing in and out of the box is painful or even standing in/scratching the litter, given that she injured both back legs . You might try putting some puppy pads down on the floor and see if she’ll use them.


purelytwins May 27, 2014 at 7:26 pm

we are with you and drink when thirsty. We aim to get around half our bodyweight in oz which is what read is a good starting point


Ataia May 27, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Try Ewww. It ‘s an enzyme cleaner that comes in a black bottle at Petco and Petsmart.

I never remember to drink enough. It ‘s very frustrating because I ‘m sure that is the cause of my constant fatigue, and I’m doing it to myself. By the end of the day I’m so thirsty that I fill up on water, run out of room in my stomach and sit there wishing I could have some quick IV fluids. It’s ridiculous.


Sarah May 28, 2014 at 2:49 am

I only like water when it is very cold and taste of nothingness. So consequently I have a hard time drinking enough plain water. I have found that I can drink Crystal Light in certain flavors (the lemonades and the strawberry mixes) by the gallon. I drink a hot cup of water with lemon first thing in the morning, Crystal Light thru the day (usually about three liters) and when I work out it’s either ice cold filtered water or Propel Zero (yeah, yeah, I don’t need the artificial sweetener lectures please & thanks). I make sure I drink at least 2 liters plus my morning hot water – and like you, I don’t get thirsty so it’s a numbers game for me as well.

As far as cat pee – I work in rescue and I have had no fewer than 3 cats at all times my entire adult life and at least one dog. I foster puppies, kittens, dogs, & cats. Potty trained & not, some in the process. I have my own 4 cats & 3 dogs (mine are potty trained except my puppy who is 98% there), plus fosters of both the feline & canine variety. So I know all about pee and cleaning it up. Nature’s Miracle is total junk. It also makes things sticky. You may not notice it to feel or right at first, but that spot will attract dirt like magic because of the Nature’s Miracle.

I know a few fellow rescue friends use Ewww and are pretty happy with the results, however I know that most of us in the local rescue community use one of three products: Fresh N Clean Oxy Strength (there are 3 kinds – a general cat/dog/odor one, one specific to cats, & one specific to dogs), Rocco & Roxie Stain and Odor Remover, or locally made here in Indiana: DooDoo VooDoo ( )- which, by the way, is not only eco-friendly, but I also wash my workout clothes in & it makes the funk disappear so they last longer and my mom washes my dad’s work out stuff in it for the same funky reason & had the brilliant idea to use it on rancid milk in her car trunk & the smell totally went away so it’s multi-purpose!

And like others mentioned, I have a water proof, washable fitted mattress cover that goes right over the mattress pad under the fitted sheet & I don’t even know it’s there. Since I always have furry friends on the bed it’s just a good idea as a precaution, plus I’m a sweaty sleeper (You should see me when I really work out – I sweat like a high school dude during two-a-days in August … tmi?) so it protects the mattress from me too ;-)


Anica June 4, 2014 at 10:17 pm

I find I drink a lot of water when I eat – like an entire Nalgene full – though I’m not sure why I like to drink so much when I eat. (In the past I’ve had soda at a restaurant and had 3-4 glasses of it during my meal, so it seems to be whatever liquid is available, not just water.) I’ve requested water pitchers at restaurants before and actually tip based off how full they keep my water glass, because I sometimes have to stop eating if I run out of water, since I can’t enjoy my food as much without the beverage.

That seems very strange now that I’ve written it out. Hmm…

Anyway, between that and the random drinking throughout the day I stay pretty hydrated. I have found though that if I’ve haven’t been drinking a lot for whatever reason, and go back to the 100 oz a day, I pee a ridiculous amount for a couple days until the body re-acclimates.

As for the cat pee, I would just throw it out. Yes, there are cleaners, but man, that smell never really goes away. I’m assuming it’s too difficult for her to get to the litter box right now, because generally cats will go in their litter box unless it’s not possible. If it keeps up I’d talk to the vet about it. (It’s one of the best indicators of any kind of UTI infection, kidney stones, etc.) You might need to move the litter box so it’s more accessible until she’s in better shape, or temporarily put more out so she doesn’t have to go as far to get to one.

And finally, I too have peed the bed as an adult! I’ve found when I have to pee in the middle of the night, I will go to the bathroom in my dream. And then a few minutes later I will go somewhere and go the bathroom again. And then about the third time I think, “if you push harder and really let go, then you won’t have to go again,” since I’m frustrated I keep having to pee. This is usually where I wake up and realize I have to actually pee, but when I’m really, really exhausted, I won’t make the connection between dream world and real world and will push a little harder and relax more (aka actually start to pee in real life), and then wake up real quick. I haven’t let out a whole bladder worth, and sometimes it’s barely enough to moisten the undies, but there was at least once that had some sheet damage.

And while we’re airing embarrassing pee stories, Cavy I actually peed on my ex-boyfriend by accident while we were dating. :/ I was having a, uh, certain kind of dream involving him, and he woke me up and I pounced on him. (I mean, it’s nice when you have that kind of dream and can then follow up with real life activities.) Unfortunately this was first thing in the morning, and the bladder was full, and some of it leaked out. I didn’t realize it and didn’t actively pee, but yeah. Puddle on the bed and he noticed and said something. I was horrifically mortified and felt so terrible about it. We hadn’t been intimate for long and I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to look at him in the face again.

When we were in the shower later, I noticed something and looked up from my shame look and he was peeing on me! I know that sounds kind of gross, but we were in the shower anyway, and he said we were even and I thought it was the sweetest thing ever. It helped me get over the mortification and he never brought it up again. (I actually forgot about it until reading your post.) I just thought that might make you feel better. :)


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