Hyponatremia, electrolytes, and exercise hydration guidelines

The effects of overhydration (hyponatremia):

Hyponatremia means having too much water relative to sodium content.  Our body prefers to keep blood sodium (and all electrolytes) in a narrow range.  Athletes tend to be at risk for hyponatremia, the fears of dehydration sometimes spur athletes to drink too much by mistake.  While hydration is important, there IS too much of a good thing!

Risk factors of hyponatremia:

Athletes are more are risk for hyponatremia because of their fear of dehydration and over consumption of plain water instead of a balanced electrolyte drink.  

Other instances that are high risk for hyponatremia are water drinking contests and raves or other situations where people are taking Ecstasy

Hyponatremia prevention:

While fluid replacement is crucial, avoid overdrinking or guzzling a lot of water at once.

Plain water is generally fine under normal exercise conditions are short and not very intense.

When replacing a lot of fluid, consider an electrolyte solution instead of plain water.

But what are electrolytes?

Every process in our body depends on electrolytes.  We need them and we need them in the right balance.

Electrolytes are minerals such as potassium, sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium that carry an electrical charge when dissolved in water.  These charged ions conduct currents that let fluid pass through cellular membranes.

If you are sweating a lot you need to replace both fluid and electrolytes.  

Situations when to consider electrolyte enhanced drinks:

Hot, dry, and or high altitude climates, which increase fluid needs and electrolyte losses

Repeated bouts of training (multiple training sessions in one day or tournament competition

  • Endurance training

  • High intensity training

  • Professional and elite athletes

General hydration requirements:

For moderate intensity activity over  2 hours and / or high intensity under 1 hour

Step 1:  Consume ½ liter - 1 (2-4 cups) of water before activity

Step 2:  Consume ½ liter - 1 (2-4 cups) of water during activity

Step 4: Consume ¼ - ½ liter (1-2 cups) of water at each meal

For moderate intensity activity under 2 hours and / or high intensity over 1 hour

Step 1:  Consume ¼ - ½ liter (1-2 cups) of water before activity

Step 2:  Consume 30-45 g Carbohydrate + 15 g Protein + Electrolytes in 3 cups of water every hour during activity

Step 3: Consume 30-45 g Carbohydrate + 15 g Protein + Electrolytes in 3 cups of water every hour after activity

Step 4: Consume ¼ - ½ liter (1-2 cups) of water at each meal




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