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Healthy Balance

Exercise and Overhydration: How Much Water Is Too Much?

For years, I’ve followed the you-can’t-drink-too-much-water adage, especially when exercising. I’m the person accidentally kicking my water bottle during pilates and heading straight for the water station after 5Ks.Drinking too much water during exercise can lead to exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH).

But new sports medicine guidelines indicate that actually, you can overhydrate while exercising, and the subsequent low salt levels in your blood can be deadly. Last summer, two young football players died from this condition, known as exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH). Although the condition used to mainly affect marathon and triathlon participants, doctors are now seeing it in other athletes.

The solution? “We recommend using your thirst as a guide,” says Mitchell Rosner, MD, who led the guideline development group. “If you drink when thirsty, you will not become hyponatremic and you will not suffer from significant dehydration.”

Sports drinks might reduce your risk slightly, he adds, but you’re still mostly drinking water.

Learn more about the research and hyponatremia symptoms.

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