It's getting hot out! Time to drink ALL THE WATER right?
Before you chug that gallon of water, you should ask yourself: Am I hydrating properly? Improper hydration can lead to something called hyponatremia.
Hyponatremia literally means low sodium and refers to too-dilute levels of sodium in our body.
What causes Hyponatremia?
This occurs when we "overhydrate." Our bodies require an adequate sodium balance for transmitting nerve impulses and maintaining proper muscle function.
During exercise, sodium is lost via sweat. If we are replacing the fluid lost by drinking water only, the concentration of sodium in the blood will decrease.
Symptoms of Hyponatremia
Early hyponatremia symptoms include:
- muscle cramps
- slurred speech
Unfortunately, these mirror the symptoms of dehydration and cause many runners to drink even more water, which only makes the problem worse.
Extreme symptoms include seizures, coma, and even death as the result of swelling in the brain.
Treatment of hyponatremia
Hyponatremia treatment typically includes drinking sodium-containing beverages like sports drinks, taking SaltSticks, and eating salty foods in an effort to restore the sodium balance in the blood.
NOTE: just like your training program, your hydration protocol should be personalized to your needs. Sweat rates (and therefore sodium and fluid loss) vary considerably among individuals. It is important to experiment with water and sports drink consumption early in your training so there are no surprises on race day.