Quick urination quiz: how often you go in a day? How much do you go at a time? Are you within “normal” ranges?
For most of us, urinating is probably at inconvenience at best. But being aware of your body – even how it eliminates waste – can be an important way to monitor your health now and protect it in future. So what’s “normal” when it comes to peeing? We took the question to our awesome physical therapists, Brianna and Meagan.
Urination: why is it important to know your normal?
According to our PTs, keeping your body’s urination patterns within normal ranges is useful for a couple of very important reasons: first, it means you’re correctly hydrated, which is always good. Second, it avoids putting undue pressure on your pelvic floor, bladder, and kidneys, which can help you avoid incontinence and leakage issues in the future.
30 – 40% of women in midlife experience incontinence
Knowing the normal ranges – and especially when you fall outside them – can help you determine when it’s time to change your habits to be healthier.
How much should we be drinking?
According to Bri, one of the first things she asks her clients is how much they drink and of what? “Most folks aren’t drinking enough,” she says. “A rough rule of thumb is to divide your body weight by two, and that’s how many ounces of liquid you should drink in a day. Two-thirds of that should be plain, unflavored, uncarbonated water. The rest can be something else.”
Got that? For a 150-pound person, that’s 75 ounces of liquid a day, 50 ounces of plain water, 25 ounces of other liquids.
Drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces: 2/3 water, 1/3 other
To help, Bri and Meagan give clients a water bottle with the ounces marked on it. “People are shocked by how much they’re not drinking. But when they pay attention to their intake, they do better.”
Sure, 75 ounces of water sounds like a lot, but for those who drink beer, for example, three to four 12-ounce beers is 36 – 48 ounces. A two-liter bottle of soda is nearly 70 ounces. Seventy-five ounces really isn’t that much; we happily consume that amount of liquid when it’s “fun.”
“Part of the problem is that water isn’t ‘fun,’” Meagan adds. “There’s a sort of psychological block to drinking water because it doesn’t taste like a soda or a cocktail. It may not be exciting, but water is what our body needs to be its healthiest.”
How often should we pee?
Five to eight voids in a 24-hour period is a good range, says Meagan. If you’re 65 or younger, you shouldn’t have to get up more than once per night, if at all. And that’s the same for men and women, menopause notwithstanding.
Interrupting sleep for pee breaks is irritating at best, but you can train your body to do better. Says Meagan, “If you’re otherwise healthy, but you’re outside that normal range, check environmental triggers. If every time you touch your lamp to turn it off, you find you have to pee, that’s a trigger. Try to avoid establishing poor bedtime habits, because your body will learn them and expect them.”
When you drink is almost as important as what you drink, our PTs agree, both for uninterrupted sleep and general good urinary health.
“Fluid timing really matters,” Meagan says. “Nurses and teachers are a good example. They have really busy days, often they don’t drink or void much during the day, then they get home in the evening and make up time by slamming 48 ounces of water. Now the kidneys have to do a bunch of work at once rather than spreading it out over the day.”
Bri adds, “Our patients get concerned because they have to pee a bunch of times during the night, but when we look at their intake, they’re drinking a couple of liters’ worth of liquid, all after work. Of course you have to pee! Re-education can really help them time their fluid better and urinate at healthy intervals.”
How much should we pee?
If you’re drinking the right amount (roughly half your body weight in ounces, remember), you should be eliminating roughly the same amount.
Our morning void is usually the biggest, Meagan says, because our bodies have been making urine all night. “A normal pee first thing in the morning should be somewhere in the realm of 1-2 cups or 8-16 ounces. Healthy daytime voids are around 6-10 ounces each.”
For clients with concerns, Bri and Meagan provide a “measuring hat.” You may have seen these in the hospital: it’s a container that looks (sorry) a bit like that juice-box-for-grownups you get on airplanes. They’re marked with ounces, so you can measure the urine captured.
“Measuring hats are awesome,” Bria says, “because you can be pretty exact about how much you’re eliminating. We give them to our clients, with a ‘this is yours to keep!’ because we really don’t want that back, thanks!”
For those of us who want a more convenient way to measure our output, Brianna says to count out loud in seconds (one-one thousand, two-one thousand, etc.). Ten seconds or more is normal for most of us. If you’re having lots of little voids, that’s a warning sign.
It is OK to wait a bit?
Don’t avoid the void! According to Meagan, you should never wait more than five hours, maximum. “If there’s no problem with urgency, if you have a normally functioning bladder and kidneys, when nature calls, pick up the phone. If you wait too long, you’ve overstressed your bladder, and now you may be facing an urge that will cause a leak or pain because of muscle spasms.”
Other ways to know we’re “normal”?
You should never have urgency, our PTs agree. “You should always be able to walk to the bathroom at a comfortable pace,” Meagan says. “If you’re in good working order, putting the right things in in the right amounts and respecting your body’s signals, you should always be able to walk calmly to the bathroom. And any leakage, any time ever, is an issue, even if it’s just a drop.”
If you’re outside the normal range, or if you’re already having issues, talk to your doctor. Ask for a referral to a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor issues. They can help you develop better habits and retrain your body.
It’s basically pretty easy stuff, right? Do the math to know how much to drink and drink it. (Hint: contigo makes a 32-ounce bottle with markings to help you track your intake and is way better for our environment than disposable water bottles.) Choose water 66% of the time. Track your trips to the bathroom and count how long it takes to void each time.
If that’s all it takes to help prevent incontinence in the future, why wouldn’t we do it? So, reusable water bottle in hand, we toast to your better health!