Excessive water in your system can dilute your body fluids so much that the sodium levels become life-threateningly low.
Water may be the elixir of life, but it sure can send your health into a tailspin, even endanger your life, if you drink too much of it. While packaged water, juice and cola companies hard-sell their thirst-quenchers to you through TV and print advertisements, the truth is that drinking too much water can do you more harm than good.
Due to excessive water consumption, people have died of over-hydration, which goes by the name of Exercise-Associated Hyponatraemia (EAH). In simple terms, it means that you have drank too much water and the excess has diluted your body fluids so much that the sodium levels have become life-threateningly low, causing cells to swell. That includes brain cells leading to loss of consciousness, seizures and even coma and death. For long-distance runners, this can be a particular hazard. With half-marathons and marathons being all the rage, runners while practicing must resist the temptation to tank themselves up with too much water.
Water intoxication is always on the cards if you believe you have to ‘stay ahead of thirst’ by drinking excessive quantities of fluids. To do so is entirely un-physiological. Drinking more water than you need increases your total blood volume and also pressures you kidneys into working overtime so as to filter excess water out of your circulatory system. It is, however, incredibly rare for someone to die of dehydration in a temperate climate, not even sportsmen who sweat a great deal.
The right way to drink water is on your TV screen. When Tennis legends Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal play five gruelling sets of tennis in the baking sun, sweating profusely, how do they drink? They sip. They may sip at every end change, but they certainly don’t gulp. While exercising, you should balance how much water you drink to how much you are sweating out.
All runners should know that over-consumption of fluids, whether it’s water or sports drinks, can be fatal. EAH due to excessive hydration has caused at least a dozen deaths worldwide and there have been more than 1,600 documented cases of it around the globe.
The International Marathon Medical Directors Association advocates ‘drinking to thirst’ and no more. That means 0.03 litres per kilogram. So, for a 100 kg person that’s a maximum of three litres. The average man is around 70 kgs. Work out the math. Five reasons to kick the cola
1. You will flash a prettier smile. The sugar and acid in soft drinks dissolves tooth enamel while the colouring in darker fizzy drinks leaves dark stains on teeth.
2. You will reduce your risk of heart disease. The high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in many soft drinks increases the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
3. You will reduce your risk of osteoporosis. The phosphoric acid found in soft drinks can loosen a tight bolt, eat away metal, and leach calcium from the bones.
4. You will reduce your risk of diabetes. The connection between excess sugar consumption and type 2 diabetes is well-known.
5. You will stabilise blood sugar and energy levels. Simple sugars, the most harmful of which are HFCS, are carbs that cause a rapid energy spike followed by a sudden plummet. Adding caffeine, a cola essential, intensifies this roller-coaster effect.