Can You Drink Too Much Water?


Can You Drink Too Much

Water is vital for health. The body is made up of about 60 percent water, and every system and organ relies on this liquid to survive. Water helps transport nutrients and oxygen from your digestive tract to the rest of your body and eliminates waste products.

Water also helps regulate body temperature and lubricate joints. Additionally, it cushions fragile organs like the brain and spinal cord. Without enough water, brain tissue contracts and pulls away slightly from your skull. This can place enough pressure on nerves to cause a headache, a common sign of dehydration.

Hydration is important since you’re constantly losing water through sweat, urine, and breath, and you need to replenish it for your cells to function properly. With water being so essential for health and hydration, you might wonder if you can drink too much of it. You might be surprised!

Can You Drink Too Much Water?

Despite its importance, it’s possible to drink too much water. When you drink more water than your body needs, it can cause a condition called water intoxication. When you’re overloaded with water to the point of intoxication, it dilutes the sodium content of your blood. This is risky to your health and can be fatal. Water intoxication is sometimes called hyperhydration.

The most common way people develop hyperhydration is by drinking too much plain water during exercise or when playing vigorous sports. It can also occur if you drink large quantities of water before exercise or continue to consume it during a workout.

Hyperhydration is most common among athletes who participate in endurance sports like marathon running and triathlon; long-distance cyclists; professional football players at hot training camps; or military personnel on long marches under extreme conditions.

How Does Hyperhydration Occur?

When you sweat, you lose electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, and chloride, along with water. The water you drink for hydration replaces fluid but not the electrolytes you lost. That causes dilution of sodium and other electrolytes.

The most serious complication of hyperhydration is hyponatremia, dilution of sodium in the bloodstream. The normal range of sodium in your bloodstream is 135 to 145 mmol/liter. If the concentration of sodium in your bloodstream drops below 135, cells will start to swell. When there’s too much water in your bloodstream, it moves into cells, causing them to expand and swell.

Hyponatremia can be fatal when it occurs in endurance events like marathons and triathlons. Plus, you lose sodium, potassium, chloride, and magnesium when you sweat. This can cause symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, headaches, and confusion. Severe hyponatremia may lead to seizures or coma.

If you’re taking certain medications, you may be at higher risk of water intoxication. These include medications used to treat some mental health conditions and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, like ibuprofen. Certain medical conditions also increase the risk including kidney disease, liver disease, and congestive heart failure.

How to Tell If You’re Hyperhydrated

When you’re hyperhydrated, you may experience a headache, nausea, fatigue, muscle cramps, muscle twitching, a drop in blood pressure, and confusion. If you feel dizzy or faint after drinking too much water in a short period of time, it could also be from hyperhydration. Headache is another common sign of hyperhydration or water intoxication. Drinking too much water causes swelling in brain cells too, which can trigger headaches and, in severe cases, seizures.

One way to monitor for hyperhydration and water intoxication is to check the color of your urine. If you’re optimally hydrated, your urine should be pale yellow in color. If it’s only faintly yellow or almost clear, you’re overhydrated and should cut back on the amount of water you’re drinking and continue to monitor your urine.

Also, weigh yourself before and after a workout. The difference corresponds to how much fluid you lost and need to replace. This will give you an idea of how much you need to drink after a workout and help you avoid overhydrating. The amount of water you need daily varies with factors like the intensity of the exercise you do, your age, the medications you take, and the climate you live and work out in. So, it’s difficult to make broad generalizations. However, men usually need more water daily, roughly 3.7 liters per day while women need around 2.7 liters per day. (on average)

How to Prevent and Treat Hyperhydration

If you’re experiencing symptoms of hyperhydration, stop exercising and rest. Also, reduce your water consumption for a few days to help restore a healthier balance and allow your sodium level to re-equilibrate. It’s also helpful to eat more sodium-rich foods. Some healthcare providers also prescribe diuretics for more severe cases of water intoxication. If you have confusion, lightheadedness, or repeated nausea and vomiting, seek medical attention right away.

To lower your risk of hyperhydration and water intoxication, switch to drinking a sports drink or other electrolyte-rich beverage if you’ll be exercising longer than 90 minutes. These drinks will help replenish the electrolytes you lose through sweating, so you’re less likely to develop hyponatremia. Know what medications you’re taking too and how they can affect fluid and electrolyte balance.

The Bottom Line

Water is essential for good health. However, it is possible to drink too much water, and when this happens, a person can develop potentially severe complications. Water intoxication and hyperhydration are caused by drinking excessive amounts of water over a short period of time. When you drink too much water, your body’s sodium levels decrease which can have serious consequences.

Drinking too much water is a real phenomenon and one that you should be aware of if you do long periods of exercise or participate in marathons. Dehydration is dangerous but so is hyperhydration. Consider drinking a sports beverage if you know you’ll be active for a long period and consume more sodium-rich foods beforehand.


  • “Overhydration – Hormonal and Metabolic Disorders – Merck Manuals ….” https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/water-balance/overhydration.
  • “Chugging Water All the Time? How to Avoid Overhydration – Healthline.” 27 Jun. 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/drink-water-overhydration.
  • Noakes TD, Goodwin N, Rayner BL, Branken T, Taylor RK. Water intoxication: a possible complication during endurance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1985 Jun;17(3):370-5. PMID: 4021781.
  • “Hyponatremia – Symptoms, causes, treatment | National Kidney Foundation.” https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/hyponatremia.

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