Purpose: This work examines whether sodium supplementation is important in prevention of hyponatremia during continuous exercise up to 30 h and whether any distinguishing characteristics of those developing hyponatremia could be identified.
Methods: Participants of the 161-km Western States Endurance Run underwent body weight measurements before, during, and after the race, completed a postrace questionnaire about drinking strategies and use of sodium supplementation during four race segments, and underwent analysis of postrace serum sodium concentration.
Results: The postrace questionnaire was completed by 74.5% of the 376 starters, a postrace blood sample was provided by 61.1% of the 296 finishers, and 53.0% of finishers completed the postrace survey and also provided a postrace blood sample. Among this population, the incidence of hyponatremia among finishers was 6.6% and sodium supplements were used by 93.9% of the runners. Postrace serum sodium concentration was found to be directly related to the rate of sodium intake in supplements (r = 0.24, P = 0.0027) and indirectly related to the percentage change in body weight from immediately before the race start (r = -0.19, P = 0.010). There was no difference in rate of sodium intake in supplements between the hyponatremic and normonatremic finishers, and none of the hyponatremic finishers lost >4.3% body weight. Hyponatremic finishers were not distinguished from normonatremic or hypernatremic finishers by other runner characteristics considered, drinking strategies, or gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
Conclusions: We conclude that a low sodium intake in supplements has minimal responsibility for development of hyponatremia during continuous exercise up to 30 h, whereas overhydration is the primary characteristic of those developing hyponatremia. Therefore, avoiding overhydration seems to be the most important means for preventing hyponatremia under these conditions.