Over the last three weeks, the Hydration Summit has featured a constant stream of valuable information on the importance of hydration in the outdoors while also focussing on new hydration bladder technology. From interviews with prominent scientists, discussions about hydration enhancers the problem of cross-contamination in the backcountry and more, the Hydration Summit contributors have covered it all.
By now, we know the importance of keeping our bodies properly hydrated. We know that the individual needs to hydrate before, during and after exercise, and that improper hydration can result in a virtual flood of problems. Whether you’re at your desk, or out on the trail, dehydration can result in muscle cramping, decreased strength, and reduced endurance. The lack of sufficient hydration can also result in reduced mental function which can have negative implications for motor control, decision making and concentration.
What many people don’t know is that in some extreme cases, over-consumption of fluids can actually also be a bad thing. That’s right, just like Thanksgiving dinner, or ice-cream cake (well, maybe not ice-cream cake) having too much of a good thing can be can extend to drinking water as well.
Hyponatremia, also called water intoxication, is generally the result of drinking excessive amounts of fluids which causes a low concentration of sodium in the blood. When this happens, your body’s water levels rise, and your cells begin to swell. This swelling can cause many health problems, from mild to severe, and can potentially prove to be fatal.
After a study in the New England Journal of Medicine listed overhydration as a serious health issue of some runners at the Boston Marathon, the issue of over hydration and hyponatremia has bounced in and out of headlines in recent years.
Granted, we’re talking about the consumption of a significant amount of water. For most people who read this post, this will never be an issue. However, for endurance athletes and outdoor enthusiasts overly concerned with staying hydrated in the summer heat, it is in fact possible to consume too much liquid.
On June 19th Outside magazine posted a discussion topic on the issue of overhydration in endurance sports. In the interview, the crew from Outside magazine chats with Dr. Tim Noakes, author of Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports discussing his ideas for the new rules of hydration during endurance exercise, which he points out are actually old rules. You can read the full interview HERE.
The consequence of drinking too much while truly pushing our limits is obviously more serious than you might have thought, but as long as you stick to the simple rule of drinking only when you are thirsty, and sipping consistently, there is no true reason for most athletes to worry. For more information about the potentials of over hydration, consult your health professional. Also, spend some time on the Hydration Summit site where tips on proper hydration and hydration techniques are readily available.
In the end, whether you are out crushing fire trails, or knocking out long runs under the unforgiving summer sun, listen to your body to stay properly hydrated and refreshed at all times. Now what are you waiting for? Go out there and get your adventure on!