Exercise Enthusiasts Should Watch Water Intake, Study Says

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Overdrinking water leads to hyponatremia, which could result in death

This study finds that athletes should avoid overdrinking water or sports drinks.

Athletes who drink too much water or too many sports drinks may want to cut back, according to the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine.

The hazard of “hyperhydration,” or excessive fluid consumption, is that it can lead to exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH). EAH is caused by a lack of sodium in the body that occurs when sodium is drowned out by large amounts of water.

The study, conducted by Dr. Mitchell H. Rosner from the University of Virginia’s department of medicine, cites two high school football players who drank too much water and died from EAH. One of the high school students developed hyponatremia after drinking 16 liters of fluid to alleviate muscle cramps. According to the Mayo Clinic, about three liters of water per day is considered an “adequate amount” for men.

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Rosner notes in the study that drinking only when you’re thirsty will prevent dehydration. Of course, there are case-by-case exceptions: If an athlete is sweating a lot, for instance, it’s not advisable for him or her to wait until he or she is thirsty before drinking water.