How Drinking Too Much Water During a Marathon Can Kill You

How Drinking Too Much Water During a Marathon Can Kill You

Love running and preparing yourself for a marathon? All those hills and intervals will pay off. Drinking a lot of water during your race might not, though.

According to Dr. James Muntz, internal medicine service chief with The Methodist Hospital in Houston, drinking too much water in too little time can actually kill you.

It’s a condition called hyponatremia,

“This…occurs when you have low sodium in your body,” says Dr. Muntz. “When sodium levels drop in the fluids outside the cells, water will get in there and attempt to balance the concentration of salt outside the cells.”

It’s a rare condition but not unheard of. In fact, during the 2002 Boston Marathon, 13 percent of individuals who finished the race developed it. They reported “feeling fine” once the race finished, but in truth, they actually felt a bit nauseous and weak, they later admitted.

Related: 3 Common Mistakes New Runners Make

Thinking this was due to dehydration, the individuals continued to consume more water.

So, be on the lookout. The signs of hyponatremia include:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Restlessness/fatigue
  • Abnormal mental status (hallucinations, confusion, change in personality, etc.)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Convulsions

Muntz says that during a marathon a good rule of thumb to follow during a marathon or any other event that’s physically taxing is to drink about one cup of fluid every 20 minutes. And to make it tasty.

“You don’t want to drink too much during the race, but if you do, sports drinks like Gatorade that contain salt, would be better than a lot of water,” he says. “If you experience any symptoms, see a physician immediately.”

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