Many female Soldiers choose to “hold it” or avoid drinking water during training or mobilizations. The rationale: to avoid potentially dangerous or awkward situations, like needing to “go” with no facilities nearby.
But this rationale causes more harm than good. Holding urine for long stretches of time has been linked to urinary tract infections (UTIs)—an unpleasant and serious condition that causes burning sensations in your bladder and can lead to a kidney infection.
In turn, not drinking enough water can wreak havoc on your major organs, digestion system, and brain; not to mention your physical and mental performance. The solution? Drink plenty of water, use a female urinary diversion device (FUDD), and do a urine color check.
How Much Water Is Enough?
Every day you lose water through your breath, perspiration, and urine. Drinking enough water keeps your core body temperature cool and stable. Experts recommend that, on average, women drink at least nine cups of water a day.
The amount of water you need depends on your body weight, activity level, whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and weather conditions. Female Soldiers likely need more water than an average civilian woman because they lose more fluids through increased activity and sweat. Figure out how much water you should be drinking with this hydration calculator.
Use the FUDD
The FUDD was designed to encourage female Soldiers to stay hydrated even when there isn’t a restroom nearby. The device makes it possible for users to relieve themselves even in situations like a long convoy ride, training exercise, or while in theater.
Using the FUDD has a bit of a learning curve, so try practicing at home first. FUDDs are available to all female Soldiers. Soldiers are advised to combine FUDD use with proper hydration. Ask your Medical Readiness NCO where you can pick up a FUDD.
Perform a Color Check
Your body tends to send your brain signals of thirst after you’ve already lost about two percent of your water weight. At this point, you may experience dehydration symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and dizziness—none of which improve your performance in the field.
Stay ahead of your thirst by checking the color of your urine [PDF] throughout the day. If it’s light yellow to clear, you’re well hydrated. If it’s dark yellow or slightly brown, you’re dehydrated and need to drink water.
Another tip: try sipping slowly throughout the day instead of chugging a lot of water at once. Your body will absorb and retain water better when you’re sipping versus gulping.
Get the scoop on when to drink water versus sports drinks.