It’s something we all get rid of several times a day – and sometimes in the middle of the night – but it’s not exactly a topic of everyday or, let’s face it, polite conversation.
Still, urine, pee – call it what you will – can tell a lot about a person’s health, especially when it comes to colour.
Urine is comprised of waste products and excess fluid that are filtered from the blood by the kidneys. When healthy, these twin fist-sized organs filter up to about 150 litres of blood each day, producing one to two litres of urine that is passed through the tube-like ureters to the bladder for elimination through the urethra.
Story continues below advertisement
How much urine an individual produces depends on many factors, including the amount of liquids and types of foods ingested and how much fluid is lost through perspiration and respiration.
Ever wonder why urine can look amber-coloured in the morning, but range from straw to sunshine yellow at different times throughout the day?
It’s all to do with the amount of water and other liquids a person consumes at any given time, says urologist Dr. Daniel Shoskes of the Cleveland Clinic, which has created an online chart entitled “The Colour of Pee.”
“People may wonder why their urine is a little dark or a little lighter,” says Shoskes, who served as a consultant on the project.
“What the chart sort of helps with is first of all with all the variations of yellow, from very pale to very dark,” he says. “It’s a measure of hydration. So certainly the more you drink, the closer to water it’s going to look like.”
Indeed, if the urine is colourless, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic who created the chart suggest the person is drinking a lot of water and “may want to cut back.”
Pee that’s reminiscent of pale straw or a transparent yellow is considered normal. A slightly darker sunshine yellow is also in the normal range, but the chart recommends drinking some water “soon.”
Story continues below advertisement
Seeing amber– or honey-coloured urine is an indication the body isn’t getting adequate water. “Drink some now,” the chart recommends.
Urine can be darker in the morning because it’s more concentrated, says the American-born Shoskes, who grew up in Toronto and did his medical training at the University of Toronto, followed by a research fellowship at the University of Alberta.
“That’s natural. If you sleep for eight hours, you’re not drinking for eight hours, then you’re going to be relatively dehydrated when you wake up … If you’re very dehydrated, healthy kidneys are very good at being able to conserve water and concentrate urine, so it gets a lot darker.
“And I think the chart shows that that’s pretty much a normal thing.”
What isn’t normal is urine that passes out of the yellow end of the spectrum into various other colours of the rainbow.
Urine that looks like a bottle of dark ale or syrup could indicate severe dehydration or liver disease. If drinking lots of water fails to eliminate the brownish hue and the colour persists, a visit to the doctor is called for.
Story continues below advertisement
Pink to reddish urine should raise a red flag – or at least start one wondering what’s been recently ingested that might account for that blush of colour.
“When unusual colours come out, fortunately sometimes it’s just in response to certain foods and everyone reacts differently,” says Shoskes, a surgeon who specializes in kidney transplants. “I know if I eat fresh beets, I’m going to have red urine that day. That’s me, but that’s not other people.”
Blueberries, blackberries and rhubarb can also leave a crimson tint in some people’s urine, as can dyes used in some foods and certain medications.
For instance, the antibiotic rifampin, often used to treat tuberculosis, can turn urine red. Other medications – among them the antidepressant amitriptyline and the anti-inflammatory painkiller indomethacin can cause blue urine.
“We tend to try to warn patients about this because it’s alarming if they don’t expect it,” Shoskes says.
Medication is not always the culprit: a rare genetic disease called familial hypercalcemia can also turn urine blue; a urinary tract infection caused by a certain bacteria can produce green pee.
Story continues below advertisement
However, seeing pink or red in the toilet bowl can be a sign there’s blood in the urine, says Shoskes, explaining that there are a long list of conditions which can cause that to occur, some of which “are quite insignificant and benign and some of which are very serious.
“Blood needs to be taken very seriously,” he cautions. “Most of the urinary cancers, including kidney, ureter, bladder and prostate can all present with blood in the urine.”
Examining the state of a patient’s urine remains an important screening test for doctors in determining what may be going on in the body. Besides looking for traces of blood that could flag a tumour, large amounts of protein can indicate the first signs of kidney disease or stones.
Elevated white blood cells and nitrates are typical signs of infection in the urinary tract, says Shoskes.
The lowly urine has been used since the earliest days of medicine – Hippocrates reportedly routinely smelled and even tasted patients’ urine – as a diagnostic tool, and to this day it can tell doctors much about a person’s health.
The colour of pee can act as an initial screening test to decide “what is just a part of normal life and hydration and what might be worrisome and should trigger a discussion with your doctor,” who may follow up with urinalysis and imaging tests, says Shoskes.
Story continues below advertisement
“It still has a very important role in the screening and care of patients.”
- What the Color of Your Pee Says About Your Health
- If your pee is… Red or pink
- If your pee is… Orange
- If your pee is… Pale yellow
- If your pee is… Bright yellow
- If your pee is… Green or blue
- If your pee is… Brown
- If your pee is… Foamy or cloudy
- If your pee is… Clear
- What Is Urine?
- What Does The Color Of My Pee Mean?
- What Does The Clarity Of My Urine Mean?
- Should My Pee Smell Bad?
- Am I Dehydrated?
- Urine And Weight Loss
- Signs of Fat Burning in Urine
- Where Does Fat Actually Go When You Lose it?
- Can Your Urine Signal Fat Burning?
- You Can Measure Ketones in Urine
- What changes to my urine can I expect? How do you get rid of ketones in your urine?
- Urine color and odor changes
- Surprising factors influence urine color and odor including food and medication
What the Color of Your Pee Says About Your Health
Unless you’re stuck in a car 100 miles from the nearest gas station when you feel the urge to pee, you probably don’t spend too much time thinking about your urine. But just like paying attention to changes in the color and consistency of your poop can help you learn about your diet and your health, taking a peek in the bowl on your pee breaks can, too.
You might be surprised to learn that, aside from the basic yellow hue, pee can actually come in a rainbow of colors—some healthy, some not. Jonathan Harper, M.D., a urologist and UW Medicine’s Chief of Endourology and Minimally Invasive Surgery, explains what the spectrum of pee color can mean—and when the color of your pee might signal a serious health problem.
If your pee is… Red or pink
Red or pink urine can be a sign of a mild or serious health issue. The big concern with any sort of pink or red urine is bleeding, called hematuria. This could signal an easy-to-treat urinary tract infection (UTI) or kidney stone—or something more serious, such as urinary tract cancer. If there is obvious blood in the urine, you should contact a healthcare provider.
Before you get too alarmed with any change of urine color, take note of what you’ve eaten. Beets and berries, especially blackberries, can stain your pee a light pink to crimson shade.
If your pee is… Orange
It’s probably a safe side effect of a medication you’re taking. Phenazopyridine, a drug used to relieve symptoms of urinary pain and discomfort, contains a dye that could leave you thinking you drank too much orange fruit punch. Rifampin, which is used to treat tuberculosis, can also have this startling side effect. Carrots have been known to do the same.
If your pee is… Pale yellow
Congrats, your pee is normal! Typically, if you’re well-hydrated, your urine will be a pale yellow hue. If it’s not on the pale side of yellow, it’s not something to be concerned about, it just means you might want to drink a little more water throughout the day.
On the other hand, if you’re dehydrated, your urine will be more concentrated and will be a darker shade of yellow. That’s a sign that you might want to chug some H2O, especially if you are prone to kidney stones.
If your pee is… Bright yellow
Does your morning regimen include popping handfuls of vitamins and supplements? High-dose vitamins can turn your pee a bright, almost neon yellow color. The most common culprit is vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, which is found in most multivitamins. The neon color in pee is just a harmless sign that you’re taking more than your body needs, and the excess is mixing with your pee.
If your pee is… Green or blue
Pseudomonas, bacteria that can cause UTIs, can turn your urine a deep shade of bluish green. It’s pretty unusual, and most often happens in people with catheters, but it’s something to be aware of.
Eating asparagus, which is known to make your pee smell weird, can also tint your pee light green.
If your pee is… Brown
If your pee is ever cola colored, call your healthcare provider ASAP. It could be a pigment from something you ate, but it could also be a side effect of liver disease. Rhabdomyolysis, which is a release of protein into the bloodstream that’s toxic to the kidneys, is a side effect of extreme exercise or trauma that can turn your pee brown, too.
Brown-looking pee can also be from blood. Blood in the urinary tract may form a clot and turn the urine a very dark color if not peed out quickly. It takes a while for urine to travel from the kidneys, where it is produced, down to your bladder, and not everyone completely empties their bladder every time they pee. If this is the case, you may not have bleeding in your kidneys or bladder right now, but because you did at some point, you should have the issue addressed.
If your pee is… Foamy or cloudy
Maybe you’ve jumped on the ketogenic diet bandwagon or you just love steak. Either way, eating a very high-protein diet can occasionally result in protein in the urine and cause it to appear foamy. This can happen in people with kidney disease, too. In some cases, cloudy or milky-looking urine can also be a sign of infection.
If your pee is… Clear
You get a gold star for hydration, but you might actually be overdoing your water intake. People who get recurring kidney stones should aim to have urine that’s close to clear, but for everyone else, there’s no shame in the yellow pee game.
Talking about your pee can be awkward. But actually, the colour, smell, and frequency of your pee can tell you a lot about your health. But how do you know what it all means? Clear urine, dark urine, clean urine, smelly urine, even red and blue urine…what is your pee telling you? And how are urine and weight loss linked?
Let’s find out.
What Is Urine?
After you digest food and water, their nutrients are circulated into the blood. Your kidneys carefully filter your blood to remove waste products, excess sugars, salts and water from your bloodstream. They pump them down to the bladder through narrow tubes called ureters. Once the bladder begins to fill up, a signal is sent to the brain that you’ve “gotta go!” The bladder contracts and pushes the urine out through the urethra, a smooth narrow tube.
That’s why we can tell a lot about your health from your urine – it is your body’s way of getting toxins out of your body.
What Does The Color Of My Pee Mean?
You will have probably already notice that the color of your pee changes from day to day, if not hour to hour. You might find that your pee is dark yellow in the morning but becomes clear by lunch time. Or you might notice that your urine has no color at all. Here’s what the color of your pee means:
Okay, don’t freak out. Some medications and food dyes can give your urine a blue-green tint. If you haven’t ingested any of those though, you should probably consider seeing your physician, as this could be a sign of infection.
This can be startling, but again, don’t freak out (yet). Been bingeing on beets or berries? The red compounds in these foods may cause your normally healthy urine color to change! If you haven’t eaten these, however, it could be blood in your urine (hematuria).
Hematuria can be caused by extreme exercise, or a number of serious conditions like urinary tract infections (UTIs, especially common among women), kidney infections, liver disease, or even cancer. If you experience anything more than temporarily red urine, you should definitely see your doctor.
Dark yellow pee means you’re dehydrated. You need to drink more water, especially if you want to lose any weight.
It means that you’re not taking in enough water to help your kidneys filter out the trash, so your dark urine is super concentrated with waste products, and there are still more in your body. You may feel sluggish and have low-energy.
You’re getting closer, this is in the “healthy pee” range, but you can do better! The concentration of waste is pretty normal here, but your energy levels may still be suffering. If your pee is this color, you can easily get the benefits of adequate hydration just by sipping some more water throughout your day. Here are 6 Ways to Drink More Water.
Pale Yellow to Transparent
This is what you should be aiming for each day. It means that you’re adequetly hydrated and your kidneys have all the water they need to filter out the bad stuff and keep the good stuff circulating in your system. You’ve probably noticed you’re in a better mood today, and your mind and body are running like the well-oiled (watered?) machine they are.
What Does The Clarity Of My Urine Mean?
You want your urine to be clear, not cloudy. Cloudy or murky urine might be the beginnings of a kidney stone, or a urinary tract infection (UTI). Foamy urine or “fizzy” urine may just mean you have a strong stream (good for you!) but if it is persistent, it could mean kidney damage.
Consistent foamy urine means there is protein in your pee, and is something you’ll probably want to discuss with your doctor.
Should My Pee Smell Bad?
If you’ve ever had asparagus (one of my favorite fiber-rich veggies) you know that sometimes urine has a strong smell. If you frequently notice sweet smelling urine, it could be a sign of diabetes. Foul or musty smelling urine could also mean infection or poor hydration.
Am I Dehydrated?
You’ve probably heard it everywhere: You should drink more water! But 75% of Americans still may be chronically dehydrated!
Water is like “oil to a machine” in our bodies. When we are dehydrated even slightly, our metabolism slows down, and every part of our body operates at a reduced level.
When you give your body the water it needs, it is much easier for the kidneys to flush out all those built-up toxins and keep things flowing smoothly.
If you’ve ever wondered what happens to all your fat that you lose, (read: do you pee fat?) a very small percentage of it is actually excreted through your urine. Most is actually exhaled in carbon dioxide!
Signs of Dehydration
- Dry, “cotton” mouth
- Low-energy, especially in the afternoon
- Decreased urine output
- Dry skin
Check out Trainer Kami’s 4 Tips for Staying Hydrated
Urine And Weight Loss
So exactly how is urine and weight loss linked? It’s all to do with hydration.
When you’re chasing after your weight loss goals, it’s super important to drink enough water. You do NOT want to get dehydrated. Not only does dehydration makes it more difficult for your body to burn fat, but being dehydrated makes you feel lethargic and tired, which can seriously get in the way of having a good exercise sesh!
Drinking water also helps keep your stomach filled, which can, in turn, help you feel more full and help you to eat less!
Signs of Fat Burning in Urine
You’ve been on your healthy eating diet for a couple of weeks now and your gym sessions are progressing nicely.
You’re feeling stronger, fitter, healthier and above all, slimmer.
But how do you know if you’re really losing fat or whether you’re feeling slimmer because you’ve dropped water or muscle?
Can you tell that you’re burning fat from your urine?
In this article we tell you everything you need to know about the sign of fat burning, and if your urine can be a good indicator of fat loss.
Where Does Fat Actually Go When You Lose it?
You gain fat when your body senses that it has more energy coming in than it needs and has to store some out of the way for a later day.
It’s a simple balance between incoming energy and how much you burn off that decides whether or not you burn fat or store it.
The way that your body uses fat as fuel involves a number of complex physiological chain reactions. Scientists, researchers and clinicians are still learning more and more about fat loss on a daily basis.
But what they do know is that if you eat more than you burn off each day you’ll start to pile on the excess pounds. Burn more off and you’ll melt fat quicker than butter in a hot pan.
Lucky for you, you only need to understand the basics of fat loss science to see what happens to fatty acids when you lose energy from your fat cells.
Fatty acids are a fuel source
You store fat in specific cells called adipose cells.
These cells hold on to little droplets of lipids called triglycerides – a molecule made up of glycerol and three fatty acids.
When you trigger fat loss, the adipose cell allows the glycerol component to split from the fatty acids so that they can travel to specialized organelles called mitochondria where they are used as fuel for energy – a bit like throwing coal into an open furnace.
This process is called the Kreb’s cycle, but is also referred to as the citric acid cycle too.
The thermodynamics of weight loss – fat can’t just disappear
Regardless of whether the fat you consume is a solid, a liquid, it comes from avocado or you get it from bacon, it provides energy for your body.
Fat is an energy source, and as with any energy, it can’t be created or destroyed, only destroyed.
That means that once you’ve used those extra fatty acids as energy, they can’t just cease to exist. They just transform.
You’re losing fat – only it has to turn into something, not just disappear from the face of the earth.
So what happens to fat when you lose it?
Surprisingly, when you oxidize fatty acids in the mitochondria, you eliminate them by breathing them out.
Yep, you heard that right – over 80% of the fat you burn is breathed out .
As part of the Kreb’s cycle, those fatty acids are metabolically converted into usable energy called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by taking part in numerous stages where it is broken down into smaller and smaller parts until all that’s left is the actual ATP and some by-products which can then be breathed out as surplus to requirement gases.
What happens to the rest of the fat?
The remaining components leave the body through your sweat, tears, bodily fluid and of course, your urine.
Can Your Urine Signal Fat Burning?
Urine is the by-product of human metabolism. It is the waste left from numerous chemical reactions that is mostly water, but also includes some nitrogenous wastes – urea, uric acid and creation.
It is excreted from the kidneys to the bladder, from where it exits your body via your urethra. It is the responsibility of your kidneys to filter excess waste products from your blood and then eliminate it from the body before it can cause damage.
You don’t technically urinate out your fat
The way in which fat is broken down for energy involves a number of chemical reactions, ultimately leading to some left over hydrogen, oxygen and carbon.
So what you’re left with is essentially water, which leaves your body through your urine, and carbon dioxide, which you simply breathe out.
In a way you could say that urinating more frequently could be a sign of fat burning – but then it could also be a sign of drinking more fluids.
So it’s not that you urinate out fat, it’s more that you urinate out the by-products left over from the breakdown of fat in the body.
You Can Measure Ketones in Urine
The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carb approach to eating.
During keto, you essentially replace your carbs with fats and protein as a way of increasing ketones in your blood.
Ketones are produced by the liver when you restrict carbs and are water-soluble acids left over from fat burning.
They provide you with an alternative energy source to glucose and trigger an increase in fat oxidation because of the lack of carbohydrates in your diet.
Many refer to the keto diet as a shift from glucose burning to fat burning – a little like a metabolic on-switch.
It’s not a diet for everyone and can leave many people feeling tired, lethargic and run down. You run the risk of suffering from low blood sugar and the side effects can outweigh the benefits for most people.
But for the few that do like it, it can help to control calorie intake and lead to fat loss. Whether that’s because of the actual diet or just that you are low on calories overall is up for debate.
Increased ketones in your urine could signal more fat burning
When you drop carb intake your ketone levels increase.
There are three different types of ketone bodies that can be measured – these are called acetone, acetoacetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate.
One way to measure ketones is to test your urine. You’re not measuring fat per se but you are measuring the increase in ketones – a sign of potential fat metabolism increase.
Testing your urine using specialized (and often expensive) ketone strips helps to give you a rough idea of how far into ketosis you are.
By holding the strip in your urine you’ll note a color change if the number of ketones in your body has increased excessively – specifically acetoacetate because it is expelled from the body via urine, as opposed to acetone which is expelled via breathing (one of the reasons why those in ketosis often report having sweet smelling breath).
Whether you feel that such a complicated method as urine strips is worth the time and effort or you’d rather just use a tape measure to check that you are losing inches, or use before and after photos to check your progress is ultimately up to you.
But the bottom line is that you can’t really measure fat loss with your urine.
Try Instant Knockout
Risk Free for
Let us take the risk. If you do not see any results then we will gladly refund your money.
Just order 90 days (3 months worth) or more of Instant Knockout and you will be covered by our cast iron guarantee. So whether you order a 3 month supply or a 12 month supply you will be covered.
Order right now and start cutting fat like the professionals.
Find Out More
- Meerman, R et al. When somebody loses weight, where does the fat go? BMJ. 2014; 349: 7257
What changes to my urine can I expect? How do you get rid of ketones in your urine?
Keto Science & Ketosis
- What Is Nutritional Ketosis?
- What could take me out of ketosis?
- What should my ketone level be in ketosis?
- At what time of the day should you test ketone levels?
- How can I tell if I am in ketosis?
- What does ketosis breathe smell like?
- How do I get started with a ketogenic program?
- What changes to my urine can I expect? How do you get rid of ketones in your urine?
- Won’t I go into “starvation mode” during ketosis?
- What are carb-withdrawal symptoms? What does sugar withdrawal feel like?
- What is “keto flu”? What are the signs of keto flu? How long does it take to get over it?
- Common terms and abbreviations on a ketogenic diet.
- What is the Restricted Ketogenic Diet (RKD)?
- What is the Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD)?
- What is the Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD)?
- How long does it take to get into ketosis?
- Is it good to be in ketosis?
Weight Loss & Diets
- Is it possible to gain weight on a low carb keto diet?
- Do I have to exercise to lose weight on the ketogenic diet?
- Will a ketogenic diet help me get rid of cellulite?
- What is the lowest body fat percentage that is still healthy?
- Do calories matter on keto? Do I need to count them?
- What happens to your body when you are in ketosis? How does the keto diet work?
Keto Food & Nutrition
- What are fat bombs?
- Are tomatoes ketogenic?
- Are beans ketogenic?
- Are artichokes ketogenic?
- Are bananas ketogenic?
- Are nitrates in bacon safe?
- Are fermented foods allowed on keto?
- What about sugar alcohols on keto?
- Can I drink alcohol on keto?
- Can I drink coffee, black tea and eat dark chocolate during keto? How about caffeine?
- What can you drink on the keto diet?
- What foods are high in ketones?
- Are peanuts ketogenic?
- Can I eat nuts on keto?
- How much magnesium do I need on keto?
- How much potassium do I need on keto?
- Do our bodies need carbs? Doesn’t our brain need glucose?
- What’s the difference between impact and non-impact carbs?
- What is the difference between total carbs and net carbs? Which should I count?
- How much and how often should I eat on keto?
- How much protein should I be eating on a ketogenic diet?
Fasting & Exercise On Keto
- A Person Following a Keto Diet is Most Concerned With Avoiding What?
- Should I be worried about low blood sugar on keto or during intermittent fasting?
- What is MCT oil in bulletproof coffee?
- Do I need to take fiber supplements on keto?
- How do I replenish electrolytes on keto?
- Should I take raspberry ketones on the ketogenic diet?
Keto Health & Medicine
- Where can I buy keto strips?
- Is the keto diet safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding?
- Can a ketogenic diet cause hair loss?
- How does the ketogenic diet impact the liver?
- Is a ketogenic diet safe for the kidneys?
- Can a ketogenic diet cause diarrhea?
- Is a ketogenic diet safe for people with high cholesterol?
- Is a ketogenic diet anti-inflammatory?
- Can ketosis lead to ketoacidosis? What is the difference between ketoacidosis and ketosis?
- Can a ketogenic diet cause diabetes?
- What are the health benefits of ketogenic diets?
Keto Troubleshooting & Tips
- Why am I still not in ketosis? And what can I do about it?
Keto Motivation & Success
- How do I deal with sugar cravings on keto?
- Is a keto diet going to cost me more than the way I eat now? Can you do keto on a budget?
- What is the impact of having carb-up days / cheat days every now and then?
Sometimes it’s lighter, sometimes it’s darker, sometimes it’s clear, sometimes it’s cloudy. So what’s causing the changes, and what do they say about your health? We asked London-based physician Lauren A. Bumby, MD, what to look for when you “gotta go.”
Your urine can give you a general idea about your health status—more specifically, your hydration. A lighter color is definitely better than a dark color. When our urine turns dark (like the color of iced tea), that either means you are dehydrated or your kidneys may not be working properly. Our urine turns dark when we are dehydrated because the kidney regulates our water balance. It senses that we need to retain water and therefore it decreases the amount of urine we make. The less water we get rid of and the less water that we have in our urine, the more concentrated the urine becomes and it turns darker. Ideally, urine should be either light yellow or clear.
Frequency and Control Frequency of urination could mean several things. It could mean a urinary tract infection, diabetes, drinking a lot of water, caffeine or alcohol. But it also could be the result of pregnancy—natural childbirth can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, which control the urine flow. A common problem is “stress incontinence”—a loss of bladder control with coughing, sneezing or laughing. This can happen as a result of the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. “Kegel exercises” (in which you squeeze, hold and release your pelvic muscles) can help to strengthen these muscles so bladder control is improved. Other options to improve bladder control include surgery or medications.
Odor The odor of your urine could really change depending upon your diet. For instance, everyone knows that asparagus causes a rather unusual smell. Unless you have other symptoms such as frequency, urgency, burning and pain, then the odor does not matter too much.
Red Flags Several red flags that indicate something more serious may be wrong (such as kidney dysfunction or bladder disease) are blood in the urine, persistent dark tea-colored urine, pain with urination, strong odor to the urine and excessive urination.
Your Health In General Overall general good health will improve bladder health, including eating fruits and vegetables, drinking enough water, exercising and maintaining a healthy body weight. The classic advice is to drink eight glasses of water each day, but more or less may be necessary due to your diet, activity level and body weight. The most important thing is to monitor the color of your urine, make sure you never feel thirsty (which means you are already dehydrated), maintain a healthy body mass index and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- Everything You Need to Know About Water
- What Your Hands Say About Your Health
- The 5 Germiest Places to Be
Credit: Astronaut Images / Getty Images
Urine color and odor changes
Surprising factors influence urine color and odor including food and medication
Updated: July 13, 2018Published: June, 2010
Many things can alter the look and smell of your urine. When should you be concerned?
Nearly six and a half cups — that’s how much urine the average person produces a day, usually in four to eight trips to the toilet. The ritual is so routine that most of us pay little attention to our urine — that is, unless it happens to look or smell different than usual.
Urine consists of excess water and waste products that your kidneys filter from your blood. Its color usually ranges from pale yellow to deep amber, depending on its concentration — the proportion of waste products to water. That, in turn, depends partly on how much fluid you consume. The yellow comes from urochrome, a substance generated by the breakdown of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells.
A surprising number of things can affect the color and odor of your urine. The most common ones are harmless and temporary, including foods, vitamins, and certain medications. But sometimes changes in urine signal a medical problem, which may range from relatively benign (a urinary tract infection) to serious (kidney or bladder cancer). Here are some suggestions on when you can relax and when you should consult your clinician.
Why does asparagus change urine odor and color?
Asparagus sometimes gives urine a greenish tinge and a distinctive smell, said to resemble rotting cabbage. The cause of this smell is a matter for speculation. Some blame it on the sulfur-containing fertilizers used on asparagus plants (there is no record of the vegetable causing urine odor before such fertilizers were introduced). Others suggest that only people who carry a particular gene break down the sulfur-containing proteins in asparagus and release the odor. Still another view is that the smell of everyone’s urine undergoes a change, but only some of us notice it. The current consensus seems to be that some of us produce smelly urine after eating asparagus, and some of us do not, while some can detect the odor (in their own or others’ urine) and some cannot.
Beets, blackberries, and rhubarb can temporarily turn urine pink or red, which can be alarming, because it may be mistaken for blood. The pigment that gives beets their deep magenta color is stable only at certain levels of stomach acidity and is usually too faint to show up in most people’s urine. The phenomenon — dubbed “beeturia” — occurs in only about 10% to 14% of the population. Even if you’re in that select group, eating beets won’t always have a visible effect, because the acidity of your stomach (and therefore your urine) depends on when you ate and what else you ate. Rhubarb can also turn urine dark brown or tea-colored, as can fava beans and aloe. Carrots, carrot juice, and vitamin C can color urine orange, and B vitamins can turn it a fluorescent yellow-green.
Medications change urine color and odor, too
Various prescription and over-the-counter medications can change the look of your urine (see “Medications associated with changes in urine color”). So can certain medical conditions, most commonly urinary tract infections (UTIs), which affect about half of all women at least once during their lives. The mucus and white blood cells associated with UTIs can turn urine cloudy and cause an offensive odor. Symptoms include a frequent and urgent need to urinate, burning pain with urination, and abdominal pain. Contact your clinician if you experience these symptoms, which usually disappear quickly after you start oral antibiotics.
Blood in the urine?
UTIs can also cause blood in the urine (hematuria). If the amount is very small, the urine appears normal, and the blood is visible only under a microscope. Larger amounts can cause urine to appear pinkish, red, or cola-colored.
Another possible cause of hematuria is kidney stones — hard, crystalline masses ranging in size from a grain of sand to a pearl that form within the urinary tract or kidney. A stone may cause hematuria if it irritates the ureter (the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder). Kidney stones can also cause extreme pain in your back or side, and fever, chills, and vomiting, for which you should seek immediate medical attention. But most stones will pass out of the body without medical intervention.
Hematuria can also result from an injury to the upper or lower urinary tract (for example, in a car accident or bad fall). Strenuous exercise (especially running) can sometimes cause hematuria because the repeated jarring damages the bladder. Less common sources of hematuria are bladder cancer and kidney cancer or other kidney disease — which is why you should check with your doctor if your urine appears reddish for no apparent reason.
Another urine change worth mentioning is the frequent passing of sweet-smelling urine, a classic sign of diabetes. When the body cannot process sugar, its level rises in the blood and thus in the urine.
Image: © Max2611 | GettyImages
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
I’d like to relate my experience today as a reminder of the importance of hydration before attempting the WOD, or any intense exertion that pushes one’s physical limits.
About 5.5 hours after completing the Jan 10 WOD my urine was the color of iced tea – very dark brown – and slightly cloudy. While I am experiencing myalgia it is not more extreme than expected, given the past three WODs. I feel slight muscle weakness and nausea. I was astonished by the color of my pee.
I researched rhabdo for a presentation I gave at the end of my Anatomy & Physiology II class last semester, and just now reread the forum posts that a search brought up. What made today’s WOD different from the past two, both of which seemed to make similar demands as today’s, seems clear to me: dehydration.
I’ve been pretty well dialed in on the Zone for several months now, and I chose today as a cheat day since a friend wanted to take me to Sammy’s Wood-Fired Pizza to celebrate my acceptance into nursing school. I woke up very late and chose to wait on breakfast since she was on her way over to pick me up. I drank 22 oz of water at this point. While waiting to be seated, I went next door to Starbucks and drank a single espresso. At the pizza place I ate 3/4 of their famous BBQ chicken pizza and drank a pint of pale ale and no water.
I drank another 22 oz of water roughly 30 minutes before heading to the gym to complete the WOD. I felt good throughout the workout… no desperate gasping for air or falling down afterwards or between rounds. No pukie, but several moments of nausea that quickly passed just after each round of swings.
Drove home and immediately drank 16 oz soymilk (very atypical for me) then about an hour later ate the rest of my pizza and started braising a marinated chuck roast. I started feeling more nauseous about an hour after the pizza. Soon after this was the first time I urinated since returning from the gym, and was when I was shocked to see brown.
Worried, but not freaking out, I skimmed the rhabdo threads here and read the word document Eugene posted at: http://www.crossfit.com/discus/messages/3499/10661.html
Happy that my symptoms were nowhere near as severe as those experienced by his friend, I decided to drink a lot of water and see if the brown went away. It’s been about 1.5 hours now and I’ve put away nearly 3 liters at this point. I just returned from the bathroom and my urine was light brown… significantly lighter, but still with a clearly visible brown tinge like diluted iced tea. I’m happy with that.
I am feeling some weakness when I do an A2A squat, but it’s not prohibitive. Myalgia still present but nothing unusual. I had decided to go to the emergency room if my second urination was still remarkably brown and, since it wasn’t, I’m here posting my anecdote to remind all (especially those new to Crossfit) to fully hydrate well in advance of the WOD.
I plan to keep drinking 1-2 liters per hour until I sleep and continue aggressive oral hydration through tomorrow at least. I’ll post an update if things don’t get better, or if the muscle weakness increases.
Never thought my first post would be about a slight case of rhabdo.. hah.
I would like to thank Coach for Crossfit. This protocol has transformed me in ways that go beyond the physical. I started by struggling through the CFWUx3 in November 05! And a thanks to all the message board posters… I’ve spent hours and hours… and hours reading all I could here.