Drinking Too Much Water While Exercising is Risky, Scientists Warn

Chances are that your workout gear--whether you’re heading to a spin class, hitting the Stairmaster, or setting up for a round at the gym lifting weights—includes a full bottle of water, maybe even several. But new research says that might not be a good idea at all. In fact, the experts warn that it could be putting your health at risk.

According to a panel of experts writing in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, excessive fluid intake during physical activity brings a great risk.

"Fluid intake recommendations suggesting that athletes begin to drink fluids before the onset of the sensation of thirst were targeting those exercising in situations where high sweat rates were present and dehydration could evolve rapidly with known medical and performance outcomes," the panel wrote. "Unfortunately, this advice fostered the misconception that thirst is a poor guide to fluid replacement in lower sweat rate situations. We believe that this has facilitated individuals choosing to inadvertently adopt overdrinking."

Among the risks, overdrinking during physical activity can include lightheadedness, confusion, and nausea, and more serious injuries such as cerebral edema, where the brain swells from too much water. “At least 14 athletes — including a woman who died two days after completing the Marine Corps Marathon in 2002 — are believed to have died from drinking too much during exercise in a condition known as exercise-associated hyponatremia or EAH,” reports the Washington Post.

While instances of cerebral edema are rare, it’s still a warranted consideration for watching fluid intake and drinking only when thirsty. The experts recommend avoiding reflexive drinking, such as when you finish a rep as well as avoiding excessive water consumption immediately before or after intense physical activity. If you’re properly hydrated—drinking enough water throughout your day—you shouldn’t need to consume excess water during exercise.

 Image: GabrielP93

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