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Q & A

Got a question about some aspect of mind-body-spirit fitness? Ask! It can be as earthly as "Can a heart monitor really enhance my workout?" (the short answer to that is yes) or as heady as, "Don't I need to sell all my worldly goods and go live on a mountain top to find enlightenment?" (the short answer here is no). Needless to say, we can't answer every question we receive, but we will take one every month and answer it here. If you've got a burning need to know about something, email us, and you may find your query featured next time around.

I've recently gotten back into running, so I've upped my water intake. The only problem is it seems like I spend all my time in the bathroom! Why is this, and do I really need to drink so much water?

You haven't said how much water you are drinking, but it is possible you are drinking too much. It doesn't happen often, but some people do overdo it with the water. As a result they suffer from water toxicity, in which their blood sodium levels drop dangerously low. Symptoms of this potentially fatal condition include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. If this were the case, however, frequent trips to the bathroom would be the least of your problems.

(Article continued below.)

Even if you aren't at a huge risk for water toxicity, too much water can still deplete your sodium levels, which isn't good. If you are an active individual, especially one who sweats a lot, you may consider drinking beverages that contain electrolytes, which will help your body replenish its sodium levels - Gatorade, for example. If you don't want the calories that Gatorade has, there are a number of fitness waters on the market that contain electrolytes, such as Reebok Fitness Water, and some of the Glaceau and Elements products. How much exercise do you need to be doing to really be concerned about your sodium levels? Generally, more than an hour's worth of exercise, a bit less in hot weather. If your exercise regime isn't quite that intense, you can probably get by with just plain old water and maybe a small snack of some salted nuts later in the day.

Now, onto the bathroom dilemma. Yes, people who work out need to drink more water than sedentary individuals and, yes, they generally go to the bathroom more than sedentary individuals, too. Some fitness competitors have even admitted to finding it difficult to sit through a movie without making a trip to the restroom. There have been reports recently that people can get away with drinking 6 8-ounce glasses of water or less a day. That's fine for couch potatoes, but active people, especially runners, need more fluid - 8 to 10 8-ounce glasses or more, depending on your weight, more in summer (you can include fitness water in those 8-10 glasses). The most important time to drink water is during your workout, because that's when your body is losing the most fluid. But you should still sip some - a cup every hour or so - throughout much of the day. If you're new to drinking this much water, you will be running to the bathroom pretty frequently, as your body flushes out toxins and excess fluid it has been storing. Eventually, however, your body will adjust to a more reasonable level of bathroom visits.

While you may not be thrilled about making more bathroom runs, do keep in mind the benefits that all that water is bringing you - clearer skin, less wrinkles, more energy... and it may even help you lose weight. When your body is constantly thirsty it retains water. Keep it properly hydrated and it will let go of the excess water it has been hanging onto. Your body will also metabolize fat more effectively. That's worth an extra couple trips to the restroom, isn't it?

Interestingly, the people with this complaint always seem to be women. There could be any number of reasons for this - for one, it's a lot easier for men to relieve themselves. They just need a handy bush and a few quick seconds. For women it's a little more complicated and time-consuming. There could also be medical reasons, so anyone who is concerned about the amount they are urinating should speak to her doctor. The reasons could involve something other than your kidneys, by the way. You also might check with your gynecologist - occasionally a woman may have a uterine fibroid or other abnormality that's putting pressure on the bladder. That could be something to look into. Once again, consult with a physician if you feel it is a real concern.

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