Dehydration is a word we hear alot. Everyone is advised to drink plenty before, during, and after a run to prevent dehydration. Simply stated, dehydration occurs when you lose more water than you ingest, in other words, there is not enough water in your body - an easy scenario for any sweaty runner. The symptoms of dehydration are dry mouth, no tears, less sweating, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, heart palpitations, and light headedness. So should you just gulp down the water and run until your heart's content?
There is a less known and very dangerous condition that can plague runners called hyponatremia. Have you heard of this one? Hyponatramia occurs when there is not enough sodium in the body. A sweaty runner ingesting plain water may increase the water in her body, but the sodium levels are being further diluted and she is getting closer and closer to hyponatremia. The symptoms are confusion, fatigue, headache, irritability, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. Severe hyponatremia can result in coma or death.
If you look closely, some of the symptoms of dehydation and hyponatremia overlap so what do you do if you start experiencing some of these ambiguous symptoms? Slow down and take care of yourself. The main thing is to run smart and hydrate smarter! If you are new to running or an elite runner running longer distances, make sure you are hydrating with a sports drink that replenished the essential electrolytes, such as sodium. And most importantly, don't just gulp without reason. The best way to hydrate is to listen to your body and drink on demand. Your body will tell you when you are thirsty.