Measuring Hydration: How do you REALLY know if your body is thirsty?


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By Richard Shope, Ed.D.

Flashback, May 1969: I had advanced in the Minnesota High School Regional Tennis Tournament to the point that, had I won that afternoon, I would have competed in the finals. The match went to the third set. It was one of those deceptively warm Minnesota afternoons, sunny and breezy. I had worked up a sweat as I played hard for every point. I seemed to have the edge. My opponent had a temper. I seized the emotional advantage with my penchant for spins and surprise drop shots in a game where power plays dominated. As it turned out, something went wildly haywire. As the set inched closer to the end, I began to feel cramps. In my legs. In my arms. In my hands. I shook them off to finish the match…but they took their toll. I lost. A few minutes later, things went even more haywire. My coach looked on helplessly as cramp after cramp seized my whole body, disabling me as I sought to walk it off, as I gulped down water. What was going on? In a word: dehydration.

We all know the importance of water. Our bodies are comprised of 75% water. Even without the pressure of high performance athletics, we need to replenish our systems with water throughout the day to supply our cells with the raw materials from which our mitochondria produce our metabolic energy at the cellular level.

How do we know when we need more water? By the time we feel thirsty, we are likely already dehydrated. But how can we know exactly how dehydrated we are? Well, we can check the color of our urine. The clearer the urine, the more hydrated we are. The yellower, the darker, the more dehydrated we are. In our everyday life, these informal measures are good enough, but the more engaged we are in high intensity workouts, high performance athletics, or intense outside work conditions, the more we need better data, more rapidly obtained.

High school athletics, College athletics, Professional athletics, or any High Performance Physical Activity. As the stakes intensify, performers, players, and coaches alike need to know in real-time– time enough to intervene, if necessary– to stave off an acute episode that could put one’s health, or even one’s life, at risk.

Thank goodness for dedicated researchers and entrepreneurs like Brian Bender, who has made it his mission to develop innovative technologies to solve big problems. Supported by Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants from NSF (National Science Foundation) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) and savvy participation in the LA BioStart bootcamp for bioscience entrepreneurs, he and his team at Intake Health have successful developed and brought to market a real-time hydration monitoring product, known as InFlow, initially to serve the world of professional and college athletics.


Michael and in 2019, took part in the fifth cohort of Cal State LA’s BioStart bootcamp for bioscience entrepreneurs, directed by Dr. Howard Xu. LA BioStart provides five weeks of intensive training, mentoring and nuts-and-bolts business knowledge essential to creating and sustaining bioscience ventures. “One great thing about having participated in the BioStart program is the long-term network we’ve joined,” says Bender. “We’ve brought cohort members on to the team to help with technical work, we’ve shared contacts and resources with other members, and we continue to get guidance and opportunities passed our way by Professor Xu.” Dr. Xu is the founding director of the LA BioStart Bootcamp in his role as Director of Incubator Development & Programming, and Professor of Microbiology Department of Biological Sciences at California State University, Los Angeles.

Intake Health entered the BioStart bootcamp with grants from the NIH and the NSF and was focused on healthcare applications. “We were getting positive feedback from doctors,” says Brian. “But without much experience with the FDA or selling through healthcare channels, we were facing a huge uphill battle.”

“We pivoted our market, and our technology, shortly after the BioStart program,” says Bender. “And a big reason we decided to make this pivot was based upon the lessons learned and processes practiced during LA BioStart.”

LA BioStart emphasized best startup practices alongside healthcare-specific challenges like regulatory and reimbursement considerations. Crucial to any new venture that was particularly valuable to Bender’s startup, was customer discovery– doing the detective work of finding out what customers really want and need. How viable is a great idea if no one wants or needs it?


Fortunately, Bender recognized that at the outset. He sought and won a grant from the National Institutes of Health to participate in a program called I-Corps in order to conduct a feasibility study. “Where,” he says, “we did nothing but get out of the building and talk to people.” Turns out, LA BioStart started him off on the right path “Although an abbreviated version of I-Corps, it was exactly the same process with exactly the same goals and was ultimately critical for getting to where we are today.”

Customer discovery interviews led to conversations with coaches and trainers from the world of athletics, who already had routine urine testing practices for hydration testing. “The connections instantly clicked, and after much debate, our team decided to switch gears and see if they could serve this market application instead.”

So, what is the innovation that Intake health brings to the world? Advanced urine testing technologies for various health and wellness applications, to minimize, or completely eliminate, user testing burden, in order to make data collection as simple as possible.

How does it work? It’s a device attached to a urinal by suction cups that takes the inflow of urine from the athlete and with light signals, instantly communicates the level of hydration: Green means ready-to-go; Yellow means replenish immediately; Red means replenish immediately and keep replenishing. The system resets immediately for the next person. Right now it’s just for those who can use a urinal, but not to worry, a toilet version is coming soon.

Intake Health soon validated their new technological approach as they continued interviewing customers to ensure they would meet demand and align the appropriate product features. After several product iterations and time spent beta testing and working their way through production manufacturing processes, research results demonstrate high fidelity accuracy, giving athletes a fast read on the state of hydration and what measures to take to replenish.

Intake Health officially launched their product, InFlow, in August, 2022, and quickly started making sales to teams in all major professional leagues, including the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and MLS, as well as NCAA college athletic programs.

“It’s still early,” Bender says, “but we’re excited to have our product in the marketplace and to see customers responding with statements like ‘Our players love it!’”

As Intake Health continues to expand production and sales activity in the athletics market, its next goals are to expand into new markets with InFlow and continue research and development into new features and technologies to continue its mission of extending health spans.

For inquiries, please contact Brian Bender, [email protected]