Drinking Too Much Water Can Be a Problem Too

Are you an aquaholic? Doctors tell us to drink more water but drinking too much can be even worse

4 min read
Hindi Female

The “rules” of hydration have been drilled in your system since you were a kid: drink 8 to 12 glasses of water every day; hydrate before you get thirsty. While it is a good advice, it might be a little misguided.

A report on overhydration shows that by encouraging kids to drink, drink, drink, we might be putting them at a risk for serious health complications - and in some cases even death.

There’s no scientific method behind the number of glasses of water one should drink. It is a baseless myth which refuses to die. And the recommendation doesn’t take into account gender, environment, altitude, fitness level – factors that could affect fluid intake needs.
Heath Matthews, Sports Physiotherapist, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital

Aquaholics Watchout!

The study published in Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, done by a panel of 17 sports and nutrition experts concludes that too much water puts people at a risk of overhydration, or hypotremia.

And the condition hits athletes the most.

For them the big worry is that dehydration leads to muscle cramping and heat strokes. So to keep the sportsperson healthy and safe, they are pressed to guzzle fluids; before, during and after a practice, whether they feel thirsty or not. And now this study proves, dehydration during sports is rarely dangerous, but overhydration undeniably is.

Are you an aquaholic? Doctors tell us to drink more water but drinking too much can be even worse
The dangers of overdrinking can be serious and range from lightheadedness, confusion or nausea to cerebral edema in which the brain swells due to excess water 
(Photo: iStock)

So, when you drink too much water too fast (especially during an exercise regimen) your blood concentration gets lowered.

Taking in more fluid than the body can get rid of, creates an imbalance in the sodium level and the kidney becomes overloaded and are unable to excrete the water load. Cells begin to absorb the water.

To cut a long story short. Your body can’t cope. You can get seizures, coma or even cerebral edema, where your brain herniates out of your skull causing death. Though it can happen to anyone, the condition tends to be more common among high endurance athletes.

Till now, there are documented cases of at least 14 athletes, (including a woman who died two days after completing the Marine Corps Marathon in 2006 in US), who are believed to have died from drinking too much water during exercise.

No such study has been done in India, but a research analysed the 669 Boston marathon finishers in 2013. 18.5% of them were dehydrated and 35% were overhydrated: that’s 1 in 6 runners.

Bottomline, there is no need to stay ahead of your thirst, drink water when you feel thirsty; not before or after you feel sated.

All You Need to Know About Hydration

Are you an aquaholic? Doctors tell us to drink more water but drinking too much can be even worse
Drinking large amounts of water very quickly can mean that the kidneys become unable to function properly and salt levels in the blood drop, causing headaches or water intoxication (Photo: iStock)

Symptoms of Water Poisoning

The symptoms of water intoxication are exactly like those of heat exhaustion. So if you feel confused, in an altered state of mind, dizzy, nauseatic or notice sudden, rapid heart beat after fuelling yourself on too much water, seek medical aid immediately.

No way does this study imply that you should drink less than normal amount of water. The practical takeaway is to nab yourself a drink, when your body runs low.

How Much Fluids Do You Need in a Day?

Are you an aquaholic? Doctors tell us to drink more water but drinking too much can be even worse
Listen to your body and drink water whenever you feel thirsty (Photo: iStock)

The National Health Services, UK recommends 1.6 litres of fluids for women a day, and around two litres for men, to keep the body working efficiently.

And by fluids, all drinks except alcohol count: including tea, coffee, milk, fruit juices and even the water contained in foods such as fruits and vegetables.

Myth: Feeling thirsty means you’re already dehydrated

Contrary to popular belief, thirst is a good thing. Drinking only when you feel the need, instead of forcing yourself to stop at every water station on the course will keep you sufficiently hydrated, while ensuring you don’t overdo it.

Myth: Drink Water Till Your Pee is Clear

Turns out my mother was right. Again!

If your pee is dark coloured then you are dehydrated, but if you drink gallons of water to make it clear, there’s going to be a problem. Anything from straw coloured to pale is normal. And uff, stop staring in the towel bowl!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and drink water.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)


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Topics:  Running   Dehydration   Hydration 

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