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Keywords:

  • sweat;
  • sodium;
  • water;
  • hydration;
  • exercise

Dehydration, if sufficiently severe, impairs both physical and mental performance, and performance decrements are greater in hot environments and in long-lasting exercise. Athletes should begin exercise well hydrated and should drink during exercise to limit water and salt deficits. Many athletes are dehydrated to some degree when they begin exercise. During exercise, most drink less than their sweat losses, some drink too much and a few develop hyponatraemia. Athletes should learn to assess their hydration needs and develop a personalized hydration strategy that takes account of exercise, environment and individual needs. Pre-exercise hydration status can be assessed from urine frequency and volume, with additional information from urine color, specific gravity or osmolality. Changes in hydration status during exercise can be estimated from the change in body mass: sweat rate can be estimated if fluid intake and urinary losses are also measured. Sweat salt losses can be determined by collection and analysis of sweat samples. An appropriate, individualized drinking strategy will take account of pre-exercise hydration status and of fluid, electrolyte and substrate needs before, during and after a period of exercise.