Urine specific gravity (USG) is used as an index of hydration status. Many studies have used USG to estimate pre-exercise hydration in athletes. However, very little is known about the pre-exercise hydration status of recreational exercisers. The purpose of the present study was to measure the pre-exercise USG in a large sample of recreational exercisers who attended 2 different fitness centers in the United States. In addition, we wanted to determine if factors such as time of day, geographic location, and gender influenced USG. We tested 166 subjects in Chicago and 163 subjects in Los Angeles. Subjects completed a survey of their typical training regimen and fluid-replacement habits, and thereafter voided and delivered a urine sample to the investigators prior to beginning exercise. Samples were measured on site for USG using a hand-held refractometer. The mean (SD) USG was 1.018 (± 0.007) for all subjects. Males had a higher average USG (1.020 ± 0.007) when compared with females (1.017 ± 0.008; p = 0.001). Despite differences in climate, no difference in mean USG occurred based on location or time of day. Based on standards used for athletes (USG ≥ 1.020), 46% of the exercisers were likely to be dehydrated.
Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 31(3):320-327.