Friday, 22 March 2013

“Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.”

There is no doubt that water is essential for life considering that 60-70% of our bodies is made up of water. Consuming just the right amount of water is paramount in not only regulating body temperature, but building new cells, eliminating waste and playing its’ part in producing energy.

But can you ever have too much of it? The simple answer is yes, especially if you are working out or competing in endurance type events. Over-drinking especially during exercise can lead to hyponatremia, a condition in which the sodium concentration in the blood drops because there is too much water in the bloodstream and an inadequate excretion of water in urine. Basically, the sodium in the body gets diluted. (Hypo means too small; natremia means sodium status.)

A lot of distance and endurance events, including triathlons, ultra-distance and marathons, are almost always concerned with dehydration of their participants, and therefore have water stations located at various distances throughout the course. Research shows that unless you are sweating profusely, and feeling moderately thirsty, that the athlete should actually bypass some stations and not get caught up in over hydrating as this can lead to hyponatremia. Unfortunately, it is the inexperienced and novice that tend to overdo the fluid intake and are most at risk.

Some of the symptoms of hyponatremia can include:
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling of fullness
  • Unable to urinate
  • Confusion and lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness, spasms or cramps
  • Seizures
  • Coma and death (in extreme cases)
Hard to believe, but even water can be considered a poisonous substance when over-consumed, just like any substance that can throw the water-sodium balance off-kilter. Finding the water balance for each participant is key and also requires practice.