Wednesday, April 17

Drinking Too Much Water Too Fast Can Be Lethal, New Study Says to Drink Only When Thirsty

A healthy human being is capable of drinking about three gallons (48 cups) of water per day. However, drinking too much water too quickly when doing strenuous exercise can lead to hyponatremia, a potentially fatal condition.

Following the deaths of at least 14 deaths of marathon runners, football players, and other athletes, a panel of 17 experts from across the world worked together to publish new guidelines in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine outlining the safest way to consume water without overdoing it.

Simply put, they say to drink only when you’re thirsty.

“Our major goal was to re-educate the public on the hazards of drinking beyond thirst during exercise,” Dr. Tamara Hew-Butler, the guideline’s lead author, said in a statement. “Every single [exercise-associated hyponatremia] death is tragic and preventable, if we just listen to our bodies and let go of the pervasive advice that if a little is good, than more must be better.”

Exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH) happens when a large quantity of liquid — be it water or sports drink — overwhelms the kidneys. The body’s naturally occurring sodium can’t keep up with the water, which causes the cells to swell. in severe cases, death.

In order to prevent hyponatremia, the panel recommends that athletes, who are at the most risk, get in tune with their bodies, and drink no more, no less than what they need to quench their thirst.

“Using the innate thirst mechanism to guide fluid consumption is a strategy that should limit drinking in excess and developing hyponatremia while providing sufficient fluid to prevent excessive dehydration,” the guidelines say.

Athletes should drink extra water, however. Because they’re sweating, athletes should consume between one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half extra cups of water to compensate for loss of fluids. Sports drinks are particularly helpful, as they can help replace sodium that’s lost in sweat.

Although they may want to stay hydrated, it’s best that athletes do not preemptively drink water or sports drinks. To prevent this potentially fatal condition, athletes need only drink when they need to, not when they think they should.

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