Water is amazing! It’s necessary for life to exist, makes you healthier, and it’s incredibly refreshing – especially after an intense workout. But is water intoxication a real thing? Can you drink too much water?
We’re often told to drink around 8 glasses of water a day to stay healthy – but the honest truth is that this specific number is somewhat arbitrary, and no scientific research exists to support it. Regardless, we know water is incredibly important; in fact, every organism we know of requires water to survive. Not only does it help the human body to bring oxygen and nutrients to the cells, regulate body temperatures and aid metabolism, but it flushes waste out of the body. Sweat out too much during a sporting event, and you’ll start to feel a bit woozy. Three days without water, and you likely won’t survive.
So how could such an essential substance hurt us? Consuming a lot of water in a short period of time creates a large concentration difference. As a result, water is drawn into the cells in an attempt to dilute the concentration and even out the proportion of electrolytes, and this causes the cells to swell.
So should you be worried? Not likely! Cases of water intoxication are very rare, though they do happen in extreme circumstances. Close to 1/6th of marathon runners develop mild cases in their careers, with all endurance athletes at a higher risk.