Saturday, August 05, 2006

what I think happened yesterday

Every time I've done a triathlon, I think I've had some issues after the race with sodium balance, known as hyponatremia. Hyponatremia occurs most often in long-distance triathletes, like Ironman competitors, but I seem to be somehow more susceptible to it, because just a short race can cause problems for me.

I thought that this time I had beaten it and maybe that I had imagined it all the other times, but yesterday I started to have the familiar symptoms: splitting headache, nausea, feeling hot and chilled, not sweating, feeling dehydrated but not wanting to drink water. We have had an extreme heat wave here, and my race was on a very hot and humid day. In the days following the race, I had continued to exercise in the heat: One day I helped a friend move for three hours, I did a swim in the quarry, and I ran and biked on the other days. All that exercise made me thirsty, so I had been drinking a lot more water than usual.

I felt OK yesterday until a couple of hours after my bike ride, when I started to develop a bad headache. I sometimes have headaches like this and usually I drink more water and take a nap and some ibuprofen to help them. Yesterday this didn't work. I woke up hot but not sweating, feeling trembly and nauseous. I put the air conditioning on higher and drank some of my leftover Gatorade (unfortunately the horrible purple stuff) and took some prescription meds I had left over from an injury, naproxen sodium.

I was starting to feel a little better, but what really cured it was going to the movies with my husband and splitting a movie popcorn (no butter) and large Coke with him. Obviously not typical Weight Watchers fare, but it did finally kill off the symptoms. Maybe I sound like a hypochondriac, and I'm not ruling it out, but every time I have had this problem, I have been able to cure it with salty food and some non-water beverages.

This all sounds a little crazy, but I don't tend to eat a lot of salt in my normal diet. I really don't use a lot of processed, packaged foods. I put a little salt on my food when I'm cooking, but I don't like things to be really salty. I drink a lot of water and I sweat a lot when I exercise or work in the heat, and I think I lose a lot of salt in my sweat. I really don't like sports drinks or gels, so I tend not to use them even though I know I really do need them.

Most athletes have it in their head that they need to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. And usally that is a good idea. But in this case, you can get enough of a good thing. After my next triathlon, I am going to celebrate afterward with beer and tortilla chips, just to be safe.


  1. This was very interesting to read and I really didn't know much about it except for knowing that Gatorade is good in moderation.

  2. I couldn't find the flavors of Gatorade that I like at the store (pink lemonade or strawberry kiwi) -- if I had, I don't think I would have had as much trouble this time.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07