Why Hydrate Yourself?

This is a short essay about why I decided to create "Hydrate Yourself". It is a free app for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPod which tracks water intake and helps encourage a healthier lifestyle.

According to webmd.com [1] and the US National Library of Medicine [2], symptoms of dehydration include: Dizziness, Lethargy, Lightheadedness, Headaches, Fainting, Weakness and (naturally) a Dry mouth. Other symptoms even include heart palpitations (that feeling of your heart jumping or pounding).

So why is it that water intake is such a secondary concern to so many adults? All it takes is a little attention throughout the day, such as keeping track of how much water you are drinking or carrying a water bottle with you at all times. I strongly believe that drinking enough water is one of the easiest ways to improve your health. But how much water is enough?

Its hard to say, since so many foods we eat every day contain water. Common "rules of thumb" include 8-10 glasses a day, or your body weight divided by two. In reality it will always vary from person to person depending on their lifestyle. For example if you drink a lot of diuretics, like coffee or caffeinated sodas, you will retain some of that water but not all, which skews how much you need to drink. Another factor is your personal activity levels, anything which causes you to sweat causes you to lose more water which needs to be replenished.

One of the most accurate litmus tests for determining whether you should drink more water or not is the color of your urine [3]. The web page urinecolors.com has a color chart stating that if your urine is light orange or darker that you need to drink water immediately.

With all of that known it is easy to see why you should make an effort drink enough water. I spent the last three months of 2010 creating a program to help with just that. After being unsatisfied with the alternative water tracking applications I designed "Hydrate Yourself" from the ground up. There were three key features that needed to be done right: Easy to use multiple containers, multiple calculators for recommended intake, reminders throughout the day to drink more water.

I added two daily intake calculators and an option to enter a custom amount. These calculations can then be used or customized to fit your ideal intake amount. There is a simple calculator that is based off just your weight and basic activity levels (low or high), then there is a complex calculator which is based on your weight, daily minutes of activity, climate, illnesses and more. Of course you can also skip all that and enter a direct amount - maybe your doctor made a recommendation.

A problem with the alternatives is that it can be difficult to use multiple containers, or modify them on the fly. Taking this into account I added a configurable spot on the main page for three containers (such as a water bottle, your favorite glass, and a drinking fountain). From there you can just tap the icon and have it logged or press and hold to get extra options - add a partial serving (half a water bottle), change the default portion size (a new waterbottle holds 32oz instead of 20oz) or add a serving that you forgot to enter earlier (I often forget to add my first glass in the morning).

Perhaps the most useful feature is the ability to add customizable reminders. The hardest part about drinking water throughout the day is remembering to drink it at all. To help with that I added a reminder. It goes off a customizable amount of time after you add a portion, or finish using the app. If it goes off I know that its time to get myself some more water.

[1] http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/dehydration-adults
[2] http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000982.htm
[3] http://www.urinecolors.com/dehydration.php