We all know that hydration is extremely important, but is it possible to indulge in too much of a good thing? Unfortunately, yes. Chugging lots of water while engaging in vigorous exercise can lead to a condition called water poisoning where your body loses vital minerals and electrolytes when you sweat, disrupting cell function.
Ions and Cells
Your cells depend on various nutrients in order to function properly. Things like proteins, carbohydrates and fats are considered to be macronutrients. They make up the majority of the cell’s structural and functional needs. However, cells also need micronutrients. These are things like vitamins, minerals and ions or electrolytes. For example, your nerve cells require a balance of sodium, potassium and chlorine ions in order to send messages properly. If one of these ions is missing and the message doesn’t get sent, you can experience life-threatening symptoms such as seizures or paralysis.
Another scary side effect of drinking too much water is bloating. Not you, but your cells! It sounds harmless, but since we are animals and not plants, our cells aren’t protected by a rigid cell wall. When there’s too much water outside of the cell, all the extra liquid rushes in, which causes the cell to swell and eventually pop. If these cells are red blood cells, you can become anemic.
Drink your electrolytes
You’re probably asking yourself, “Is water poisoning a thing I should be worried about everyday?” Don’t worry, your body must first be pushed to its limits before you succumb to this condition. And we’re not talking about a stressful day at work, we’re talking about extreme exercise like any sort of long-distance endurance exercise (like running a marathon) increases the risk of water poisoning. So, if you push yourself to the limit, make sure to add electrolytes to your water or use sports drinks while you run. These will replenish the ions lost in sweat, as well as keep you hydrated.