Drink more water! That's what we're told over and over again.
But guess what? Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing for your health--even too much water.
Of course, it's important to stay hydrated, especially in the summer or when working out year round.
But when you drink too much water, it can cause overhydration or hyponatremia--and it can kill you. More common in endurance athletes than couch potatoes, hyponatremia causes the blood to become diluted when more water is consumed than the body can handle. Sodium in the body is also diluted, and that causes cells to swell.
Hyponatremia can be difficult to diagnose. "Symptoms can be very vague and not unlike symptoms one might experience after running a race or performing any athletic event [including] fatigue, even confusion or exhaustion," says Dr. James Winger, a sports medicine doctor at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago.
Here's the good news: It is totally preventable. That is, as long as you don't believe any of the following myths about hydration, reported by The Huffington Post:
1. Feeling thirsty means you're already dehydrated.
When you feel thirsty, your body is telling you it's trying to conserve water--not that your body has run out of water.
- Advice: Drink water only when you feel the need.
2. Your performance will not suffer if you're not 100 percent hydrated.
When you're active, it's normal to get a little dehydrated, and mild to moderate dehydration will not affect your performance in most sporting endeavors.
- Advice: Mild dehydration is a natural part of exercise and is not necessarily something you should try to prevent.
3. You should drink until your urine is clear.
Urine color is a poor marker of hydration or dehydration.
- Advice: If you drink enough water to consistently dilute your urine, you're drinking too much.
4. Muscle cramps are a sign of dehydration.
Muscle cramps don't always mean you're dehydrated; instead, they probably mean you are fatigued.
- Advice: Just because you feel a cramp, don't reach for the sports drink or water bottle. Instead, take a nap.
The preceding advice was published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.
--From the Editors at Netscape