How Drinking Too Much Water Can Be Dangerous

If you're an athlete, it's absolutely important that you drink water before, during, and after your training. Water will replenish lost fluids, and will help to keep your body working well throughout your workout. But is there such a thing as "too much water"? Can you really drink so much water that you are unable to continue training? Is it possible to do HARM to your body by drinking too much? Below, you will find everything you need to know…

Water During Training: The Problem

If you've ever made the mistake of drinking a lot of water during your training, you know how painful things can get. You'll often end up with a cramp or a stitch in your side, and it's all thanks to the water you drank. You may also feel the water sloshing around in your stomach, making it hard to keep working out. That's why it's better to limit your water intake during your training. This will help to reduce the risk of stitches or cramps, and will keep you working hard. Just the occasional sip to replace lost sweat is more than enough.

The Serious Risks of Too Much Water

According to a group of German researchers, drinking too much water can be potentially fatal in cases of endurance athletes--such as Ironman and triathlon athletes. While these athletes do need to drink water in order to prevent dehydration, drinking too much water can have negative consequences. Excess water intake can cause hyponatremia, or seriously low sodium levels.

Hyponatremia can be fatal, as one London Marathoner discovered in 2007. Even if the effects aren't truly life-threatening, they can be very serious--including nausea, blood pressure drop, weakness, and even seizures. Your body NEEDS sodium in order to function properly, so drinking too much water can reduce the sodium in your body to a dangerous level.

How Can You Find the Balance?

Your body cannot function without water, so it's vital that you keep hydrating while training. However, it's just as important to limit your water intake, particularly during long-distance endurance running and performance. You should try to drink water when your body needs it (you'll feel thirsty), but only drink enough to wet your whistle and keep your body going for the race. Too much water, and you could end up suffering from potentially serious problems as you run the final stretch of your long-distance race.

Another Simple Solution: Electrolytes

The beauty of drinking electrolyte-rich liquids is that they can help to replenish the sodium you have lost. Sports drinks are rich in electrolytes, but they contain a balance between sodium and potassium (the other electrolyte). This will ensure that your body is getting enough of BOTH of the minerals you need in order to keep running. Electrolyte solutions and sports drinks can help you to keep going, and can reduce your risk of too-low sodium levels resulting from drinking too much water.

How much of these sports drinks should you consume? Once again, the answer is simple: just enough to keep your thirst at bay. If you drink too much, you'll end up with that same cramp/stitch, which could affect your running performance. Your goal is to drink no more than a mouthful at a time, and you can often spit out half of the mouthful. Swish it around a bit to let it hydrate your mouth (which often gets dry during the run), and swallow enough to replenish your electrolytes. You can drink as often as you need to in order to stay hydrated during the race.

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