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 Too Much Water May Be Deadly To Athletes
Submitted by Pretender :: Thu Apr 14, 2005 7:12 am
Runners and other athletes are frequently encouraged to drink plenty of water during exercise, but some may be taking that advice too far. While inadequate fluid levels can cause dehydration and other problems, too much water can also lead to trouble. Very high rates of water intake can lead to a serious condition called hyponatremia, in which the excess water dilutes the salt level in the body. Researchers who studied 488 runners in the 2002 Boston Marathon found that 62, or more than one in eight, had a serious fluid and salt imbalance from drinking too much water or sports drinks. Three of them had extreme imbalances, and one 28-year-old woman died after the race from the condition. The study was reported in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.


Bricks
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Chicago
Joined: 09 Dec 2004
Posts: 222

Re: Too Much Water May Be Deadly To Athletes Posted: Fri Apr 15, 2005 11:20 am 

This seems to be all the rage right now. I read article after article about this and every time the advice is over reactionary basically telling everyone to drink less or they'll die from hyponatremia. My understanding is that it takes a severe imbalance to cause this and isnít very easy to do. I personally see more of my inexperienced friends miserable from being dehydrated after a race because they aren't hydrating properly than I see lying on their death beds from drinking too much. Invariably I urge them to eat and drink something and they resist due to the nausea but eventually force some down and feel better soon there after. I picture the same conversation with those friends having them site some article on hyponatremia they read so thatís why they didnít drink during or after the race. I agree it is a very serious concern, but I feel thereís a heck of a lot more runners out there getting dehydrated then overhydrated. Ultimately a lot of the people having this problem are first timers and the people out there for much longer who might need less but have way more time to take in too much. I think the key is getting people as educated on both issues and practicing hydration in training runs, etc. But scaring people about dehydration urging them to drink as much as they can has brought upon an increase in hyponatremia and I think in turn scaring people that overhydrating is more dangerous is going to cause a lot of runners to skip water stops they otherwise shouldnít.

mfox

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: Too Much Water May Be Deadly To Athletes Posted: Fri Apr 15, 2005 10:31 pm 

I've read many articles as well about this topic. I don't think anyone is saying to drink less. They say it's important to stay hydrated but not with just water. Ingesting a lot of water dilutes your electrolytes. If your urinating frequently and/or sweating heavily and/or exercising intensely then your electrolytes are decreased that much more. If you're just drinking water then you're losing electrolytes and not replacing them. Every long race I've been in (1/2 marathon or more) has offered a combination of water and something like gatorade. I don't think the threat of hyponatremia is that significant for shorter races and thus drinking just water should be fine for shorter races. Though even some of the short races I've run have offered some sort of electrolyte drink at the end of the race...especially during the warmer season. They advise that if you can't get some sort of electrolyte drink during your race (or run) you should hydrate before and after with something other than water.

In most races that have a combination of water and gatorade available you find that water is available at every fluid station where as the gatorade is only available at every other station of fewer. When I have a choice, I always take the gatorade drink over water. But if I'm thirsty I don't skip the water-only fluid station and wait until I get to a a fluid station with the gatorade...I take what I can get. Typcially, for me, in a marathon I usually only take fluids ever other mile and they usually coincide with where the gatorade fluid stations are. So I focus on taking in mostly gatorade. I'll take some water every now and then just to wash away the lingering after taste of the gatorade. I also try to monitor how my stomach is feeling and back off of the gatorade if I'm my stomach is starting to feel uncomfortable (which usually means I'm drinking TOO much).

During my long training runs I fill my Camelbak with an electrolyte mix and don't drink any plain water; it seems to work well for me.

The bottom line is, if you are consuming just water when during long runs/races you're an idiot. Not so much because of the threat of hypomatremia but because you'll perform and recover better if you keep a steady balance of electrolytes in your system (as well as carbs and protein...but that's another topic).


Bricks
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Chicago
Joined: 09 Dec 2004
Posts: 222

Re: Too Much Water May Be Deadly To Athletes Posted: Sat Apr 16, 2005 9:29 am 

mfox wrote:
The bottom line is, if you are consuming just water when during long runs/races you're an idiot.


this pretty well sums it up as far as i'm concerned.


Pretender
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Kansas, OK
Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 100

Re: Too Much Water May Be Deadly To Athletes Posted: Mon Apr 18, 2005 12:17 pm 

On long runs (and a marathon I plan on running this Sunday) I drink water and supplement with salt pills ("Endurolytes" by Hammer -- actually sodium, potassium, etc) and also some GU's.

I used to drink sports drinks and probably drink too much. I was having to pee all of the time. An owner of a running store told me about his theories and they seemed right to me. He said the key is to be well hydrated all week. Not just the day you run. That way you don't have too much gatorade sloshing around your gut making you heavy and making you pee. I drink probably less than what some recommend, but I don't have to stop and pee anymore. I drink about 16oz of water every 45 minutes and pop a couple of the salt pills.

Here's an interesting point that the study made though: this isn't really a problem with elite runners. It tends to be those out there for 4 hours or more. I guess they elite are done running before this really has a chance to set in or something.

Lastly, I totally agree with mfox's comments about drinking just water. Idiocy. I just like the pill's and GU's so I get a measured dose I can count on. And I don't have to get my Camelbak sticky. :o)


Minnow


Joined: 20 Jan 2005
Posts: 19

Re: Too Much Water May Be Deadly To Athletes Posted: Mon Apr 25, 2005 5:46 pm 

Interestingly, one of the side effects of too much salt in the diet is high blood pressure ;> From what i have heard, any electrolytes lost during exercise are more than replenished with just a simple meal of meat + veggies, and any extra supplements of salt etc are unnecessary. However, in some cases, such as Pat Rafter the Australian tennis player, he found that towards the end of a long tournament he was suffering from cramps. This was a result of him sweating excessively, and his electrolyte loss seemed to accumulate over the tournament and affect him in the last few days. Personally, i believe that as long as you have a good diet and proper hydration, most of us do not need to add salt / electrolyte supplements (including sports drinks!). In fact, most people could benefit from reducing the amount of salt intake in their diet. For more info on salt intake + high BP go to http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/guides/hyper.htm

mfox

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: Too Much Water May Be Deadly To Athletes Posted: Mon Apr 25, 2005 6:30 pm 

I think I eat a pretty balanced diet but it doesn't seem to be enough to aid my hard workout or recover without supplementing with a energy/recover supplement. My experience has been that if I fail to properly take in some sort of energydrink during a long run/race my performance suffers. Likewise, if I fail to take in a recovery drink (a mix of protein and carbs) after a long training run (15+ miles), or intense workout, my body doesn't recover as well. I subscribe to the notion that the protein/carb drink should be taken within the first hour after the long run or intense workout.

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