How Endurance Athletes Can Avoid Hyponatremia

EndurElite Chief Endurance Officer Matt Mosman discusses what hyponatremia is, the signs and symptoms, and how runners, cyclists, OCR, and other endurance athletes can avoid it.

Video Transcription:

How Runners And Cyclists Can Prevent Hyponatremia

Behold the crown jewel of Spearfish, South Dakota, EndurElite family of fast, Lookout Mountain with the second highest peak in city limits behind this bad boy, right here if the peak were eight inches tall. Besides, I'm not really quite sure biceps win races when it comes to running. Maybe obstacle course racing, I'll give them that, but running, not so much. 

But I'm not here today to talk about mountains or my lack of a bulging bicep. I'm here today to give you a quick and dirty endurance fast fact on hyponatremia basically, what it is, the signs and symptoms of it, and how to avoid it. But if you wanna a more in-depth explanation on hyponatremia, I'm gonna link an article below in the comments written by Peter Davos for OCR athletes. But a lot of the information in the article can translate over into runners and cyclists as well.

What Is Hyponatremia & Why Should Endurance Athletes Avoid it?

So let's get right to it. So, in the simplest sense, hyponatremia is drinking way too much water, while not consuming enough sodium or electrolytes. And it's more than likely gonna occur in longer distance races that go over two hours, compared to like a 5K. So it's more likely to happen with things like marathons, a longer spartan race, or a longer cycling or mountain bike race. 

Moderate & Severe Signs Of Hyponatremia In Runners, Cyclists, and OCR Athletes

Now, the moderate signs of hyponatremia are bloating, nausea, fatigue, vomiting. There can be involuntary contractions of the legs from time to time. So that's kind of the moderate symptoms. Now, the more severe symptoms, and this is where it gets pretty bad, can be altered mental status, coma, seizure. And in the worse case scenario, death can happen as well.

How To Prevent Hyponatremia As An Endurance Athlete

So what you really wanna do to avoid hyponatremia, and this is according to the American College of Sports Medicine, is you wanna do four different things. Now, I don't necessarily know if I agree with all these, but they're pretty good general guidelines. So the first one they say is not to underhydrate or overhydrate. What the fuck does that mean? They recommend drinking 16 to 20 ounces of fluid, with electrolytes, as exercise goes over two hours. Now, I really don't like this because 16 to 20 ounces could be way too much or way too little, depending on the weather conditions. 

You know, I drink up to like 32 ounces of water during really hot and humid conditions. So instead of saying, you know, don't underhydrate or overhydrate and drink X amount of water, the best practice that is tried and true is to drink to your thirst. So, if you feel like taking a drink, take a drink, if you don't, don't. 

The second guideline is to calculate your sweat rate. And, again, I don't like this because your sweat rate can be varied, again, depending on the weather and the conditions, and whatnot. So, you know, if it's hot and humid, it might be different from when it's cold. 

The other guideline is to drink on a schedule. So, you know, again, I don't like this, but I kinda do. And my point here is don't just chug a bunch of water or fluid all at once. I mean, definitely try to space it out and time it out, as opposed to like slamming 24 ounces of water, you know, about an hour into your race.

And then, the last guideline is to eat salty food or consume salty beverages. But, again, you don't wanna go overboard on the saltier because that can have negative consequences as well. So what I recommend, especially as exercise goes over two hours, is you consume an electrolyte-based and carb sports drink, or get a gel or chew with carbs and electrolytes. And you can take that with water or you can take the sports drink by itself.

So that is the 411 on hyponatremia, my endurance friends. If you have a friend that drinks way too much fluid during training and racing, please share this video with them. If you want other videos like this, please subscribe to our EndurElite YouTube channel, or go on over to the EndurElite blog at Get social with us on Instagram and Facebook. And until next time, my endurance friends, stay fueled, stay focused, stay fast, and stay informed.