Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Can You Drink Too Much Water?

It’s hot. You need to drink more water, right? Most of us do need more water at this time of the year but surprisingly you can drink too much. When people drink too much water, it dilutes the sodium in the blood to a level that's too low. Low blood sodium is called "hyponatremia". This very low level of blood sodium can cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, convulsions, the brain to swell, and even death. Some of these symptoms are the same as dehydration, which is also dangerous. So how do you know if you’re drinking enough, but not too much, water?

Water & fluid guidelines: 

Follow your thirst. Thirst is actually a good indicator of whether or not you need fluids. An exception to this is older people who can become fluid deficient quickly, particularly in hot weather. 
Drink fluids during activity. Whether you’re out walking, gardening, or running a marathon, you should drink fluids before and during activity – roughly 4 to 6 ounces every 20 minutes. You don’t need gallons of water during activity – which is where some people have gotten into trouble with over hydration.

Weigh yourself after your workout. Wouldn't it be nice if that weight you sweat off wasn't just sweat? If your workouts are intense, you might find you've lost several pounds afterwards. Drink 16 ounces of water for every pound lost during exercise to replace what you've lost.

Check your urine. When you are well hydrated, your urine should be pale to clear. This is the best way to tell if you've had enough water. Don’t drink excessive fluids beyond this. If your urine is dark or very small in volume, then you need more fluids!

The 8-cups of water myth. While the average fluid lost from our bodies does turn out to be around 8 cups a day, you don’t need to replace all of it with plain old water. We get water replacement from fruits, vegetables, and other beverages such as milk, tea, soda, and yes, even coffee! However, water is the best fluid for boosting body fluids because it is absorbed the fastest of all the fluids!

Beth Kitchin PhD RDN
Assistant Professor, Nutrition Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham 

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