Water Intake, Salt Intake, and Junk Science

Posted by Kayla Castro
May 29 2015


With summer coming on, many of you are probably worried about taking in enough water throughout the day and especially at workouts. But you shouldn’t.

The idea that you need to be drinking the recommended “at least eight glasses of water per day” for health and performance results is a) based on junk science, and b) contrary to what we’ve seen succeed for our athletes. As Mark Sisson notes, “…there is no evidence that drinking eight or more glasses prevents constipation, kidney stones, bladder cancer, urinary tract infections or that it guarantees you’ll have clear skin and a toxic-free liver….On the other hand, there are some possible health consequences of overdoing this hydration thing. Chronic over-consumption of water can cause the relative concentration of important electrolytes in the blood to drop, a condition called hyponatremia, which in turn forces water out of the bloodstream and into cells, causing them to swell. Not a big deal for a muscle cell, but catastrophic when it’s a brain cell and there’s no extra space to expand into.”

This leads us to a topic that CrossFit has taken head on: sports drink companies marketing to athletes and the net results being common issues of cramping and in more serious cases Exercise Associated Hyponatremia (which can lead to what Sisson is describing above: swelling of the brain, and possibly death).

Further, many of you have been probably told by your doctor or seen information in the media warning you about excessive salt intake. The science behind the salt is dangerous for your health has been thoroughly debunked by Gary Taubes as far back as 1998. But health professionals and media continue to promote this concept.

The combination of lowering your salt intake and raising your water intake can combine to create a dangerous results. You should drink when you’re thirsty and eat Paleo. If you begin cramping in a workout, you should NOT drink water. As Arlington starts to heat up, you may want to increase your salt intake by simply adding salt to your meals. For some of our more active members, you may want to have some Endurolytes before an especially long workout as well.

[Originally posted Potomac CrossFit 150507]

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