Research: Drinking Too Much Water During Exercise Is Harmful

How much water is enough water during exercise? Do we need to drink any fluids during exercise? Will drinking water help or harm your body? What does the science say about this topic? These are few of the many questions which have been nagging fitness experts over the years.

too much water consumption

Whenever a disciple stands in front of an expert asking him these questions, the specialist has no choice but to give an answer based on his own calculations. While the answer might be right, it could also go wrong resulting in terrible consequences for the person acting on it.

Thankfully, based on a research published in eminent newspaper Wall Street Journal, we are now in the position of answering this question.

The research on how much water is necessary for endurance sports competitors doesn’t have a recent origin. However, it was only the illness of sports scientist Kate Mori during the 2007 London Marathon which forced her fellow colleagues to take notice.

Her illness, which she contracted during the 18th mile, landed Mori in the hospital. To add to the fear of his loved ones, Mori’s legs were constantly mimicking a running motion even when she was treated on in the casualty ward.

While other people opined that it might be the loss of excessive fluids which had done the damage for her, she told a different story.

“I feel ashamed that with my job [she teaches an MA in sports development] I did not have the awareness about this condition,” she adds. “It (over hydration) is far more dangerous than dehydration.” She told the Telegraph in 2012.

What do the Researchers say?

Timothy Noakes is a Professor of Exercise and Sports Science at the Cape Town University, South Africa. He has spent the better part of last three decades researching the topic. According to him, the hazards of dehydration for endurance sports competitors are exaggerated.

He is also of the opinion that when it comes to being dangerous, over consumption of fluids before, during, or after the exercise could be fatal than underconsumption.

Finally, proving the veracity of his statement, he presents hard facts: while 12 people have excessive water intake during exercise, the medical literature of dehydration doesn’t have one single person who died due to underconsumption while running a marathon.

What does the Science Say?

A study, which will be published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, undertook the effort to gauge how over consumption of fluids affects people during exercise.

In the study, the dehydration level of 11cyclists was decreased by three percent. Subsequently, they were asked to give a trial of cycling 20km in a laboratory.

The cyclists, who were kept in the dark about their hydration levels, showed no signs of a drop in performance. Thus, while they didn’t know their hydration levels, their body didn’t show any signs either.

This study is in line with the one published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. It was carried out on marathon runners who took part in a marathon in Paris, France, in 2009. The study compared the performances of two sets of athletes.

The first set comprised of those athletes who were given no fluids during the marathon. The second set was asked to continue their fluid intakes as recommended. Subsequently, the first set of athletes mislaid higher proportion of body weight in comparison to their counterparts from the second set.

When their performances were measured, it was reported that the first set of athletes completed the race in less time than the second set.

What do you need to do?

If you have been paying attention, you might have noticed that both the aforementioned studies were carried out on marathon runners. However, their scope isn’t limited. You can also take help from them if you are an endurance sports competitor.

For marathon runners, only drink the water during the marathon whenever you feel thirsty. For, sticking to a pre-determined drinking plan has the potential to be dangerous.

Also, if it is possible, weight yourself before and after completing your exercises in different environments, weather conditions, and lengths of time.  If your body weight is more (or the same) after you have completed the exercise, it is an indicator that you have drunk too much during the race.

For, during the course of the marathon, it is normal if the runner loses up to 2% of his body weight due to exhausted energy stores.

For cyclists, the experts recommend that you stay away from sports drinks as long as your ride is short (less than one hour), requires less energy, or in cold weather.

However, even if your ride doesn’t tick these boxes, remember that your body needs only three essentials: carbohydrates, fluids, and electrolytes. Hence, stay away from some extraneous sports drinks sold out there.

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