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Tue, 19 Aug 2008

Risky Excercise Drinking

However, in recent years sports scientists have discovered that it is just as risky to drink too much during exercise. Indeed, in many endurance activities, hyponatraemia - or fluid intoxication - is more prevalent than dehydration. Caused by sodium levels and other body salts (or electrolytes) becoming dangerously dilute, hyponatraemia can result in dizziness, vomiting, respiratory problems and fatigue. "During intense or prolonged exercise, the kidneys are unable to excrete fluid as efficiently as normal," Sutton says. "In extreme cases, water is retained, especially in highly absorbent brain cells, and the pressure causes the body to shut down its primary functions, such as breathing and heart rate. Treatment involves a small volume of highly concentrated salt solution. But it can be fatal."

After the 2003 London Marathon, 14 of the runners taken to hospital had hyponatraemia, and a study by Harvard University researchers found that 13% of competitors in the Boston marathon drank enough to cause fluid toxicity. And despite what bottled water and sports drink manufacturers (sports drinks are as likely to cause water toxicity as water) would have us believe, many top athletes drink only small amounts. According to Dr Dan Tunstall-Pedoe, the emeritus medical director of the London marathon, "it's surprising how little elite runners do drink ... they are able to run 26.2 miles at speed with very little fluid on board."

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