Most athletes, whether recreational or professional, are more concerned about dehydration than overhydration during the warmer months of the year. This can be especially true when the temperature increases rapidly and humidity is high. While dehydration is a big concern and lots and lots of water sounds like a good solution, drinking too much can create a problem. Overhydration, clinically called hyponatremia, is a serious problem often confused with its opposite, dehydration, that also has real dangers, especially for long distance runners.
Overhydration occurs when the level of sodium in your blood is abnormally low. Sodium is an important electrolyte that helps regulate water and fluid levels both in and around your body’s cells. When the concentration of sodium drops below normal, hyponatremia ensues, causing the body’s water levels to increase and cells to swell. This swelling can lead to numerous health problems and can eventually result in death. While problems and death are more commonly related to dehydration during the hot, summer months, it’s important to know the signs of overhydration and how to prevent it.
Hyponatremia or Overhydration Symptoms:
- Nausea, vomiting
- Muscle weakness, cramps or spasms
Preventing Hyponatremia or Overhydration:
- Maintain consistent levels of hydration, not feeling ‘full’ of liquids.
- Eat a banana before a workout, it will provide the potassium your body needs without any digestive issues.
- For workouts over 60 minutes, include a sports drink with sodium and potassium.
- Eat something salty, like pretzels, before and after a long, hot workout.
- Steer clear of aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen before or during any workout because it can thin blood and interfere with kidney function.
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