Deadlier than Dehydration… Hyponatremia

Updated: Dec 27, 2019

After my most recent race, I realized that this is a topic that is very important and needs to be discussed. Staying hydrated while running is very important especially on those hot summer days but what people don’t realize is that drinking sodium is just as important.

You have been told time and time again to replenish the water in your system that you sweat out. So you drink lots of water even when not thirsty.  Don’t play catch up or else you will be in trouble, that’s what they say.  But when you are running, especially in the heat and sweating all of the liquids out of your system and only putting water back into your body you are diluting the blood and decreasing the salt. When you have diluted all of the salt out, you start to experience Hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is a major problem amongst newbies and veterans alike. Hyponatremia is an electrolyte disturbance in which the sodium concentration in the serum is lower than normal.  Hyponatremia occurs as a result of excess body water diluting the serum sodium and sometimes it may be a result of overhydration. If you are drinking a lot of water and sweating out all of the salt in your system you can crash just as bad as when you get dehydrated and don’t drink enough water.

Exercise associated hyponatremia (EAH), however, is not uncommon. Researchers found, that 13% of the athletes who finished the 2002 Boston Marathon were in a clinically hyponatremic condition. EAH is marked by a low blood sodium concentration and can cause the brain to swell, causing nausea and vomiting, fatigue, muscle weakness, spasms, or cramps, confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures or coma. Some people are lucky and can be cured by putting sodium back in the system shortly thereafter diagnosis. Others are not so lucky. There have been time and time again where people have died shortly after running a race because they diluted their system so much.

So you are probably wondering what about dehydration? Isn’t that dangerous? Dehydration occurs when the body’s normal water content is reduced and its balance of salts is upset. But according to many medical experts, thousands of runners could be risking their health if not their lives by drinking too much rather than too little. So make sure if you are running a race and it is very hot out, stop for both Gatorade and water. And even if you don’t want to, feel your face, look at your arms, if you can see/feel/taste the salt that means you need to replace it. So drink a little Gatorade, Accelerade, cytomax, salt tablets because I guarantee you will feel better and be safer. And if you feel too hot, throw some water on your head, neck, body period to cool down.

Since beginning my career in endurance sports, I have really started to love Gatorade and anything that replenishes lost sodium and electrolytes. Not just for safety purposes but because they give you a boost of energy and also make you feel much better.

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