Not sufficiently hydrating may have dire consequences for athletes, but the risks associated with overhydrating seldom get the same attention – even when too much water can also prove fatal.
The old adage of drinking eight glasses (or more or less two litres) of water still rings true, but overshooting this limit can cause damage to the body, too.
How much is too much?
Essentially, drinking more water than the recommended daily amount cancels out the benefits that drinking water hold because the body does not absorb the water as efficiently, flushing away sodium. This imbalance in the body’s sodium levels may lead to a condition known as hyponatremia, which can lead to death.
It is for this reason that David Nieman, professor of public health at Appalachian State University and director of the Human Performance Lab at the North Carolina Research Campus recommends that athletes try and combine drinking water with having a snack.
According to Nieman’s research, the body better absorbs fluids when it is accompanied by food or nutrients. When water is drunk on its own, it tends to go through the human digestive system – and this is especially true when water is drunk on an empty stomach.
Nieman recommends that athletes and sports enthusiasts opt for a banana together with their water after a strenuous workout or game. This is because ingesting water alongside other minerals, amino acids and fats helps the body to retain optimum amounts of H2O, especially after periods of exertion.
“People who are drinking bottles and bottles of water in between meals and with no food, they’re probably just peeing most of that out,” says Nieman.
Always keep an eye out for signs of overhydration: despite its praises often being sung, clear urine is a good indicator that the body is hydrated too much. While you should certainly never dehydrate on purpose, there is precious little to show for drinking too much water.