Athletes are encouraged to begin exercise well hydrated and to consume sufficient amounts of appropriate fluids during exercise to limit water and salt deficits. Available evidence suggests that many athletes begin exercise already dehydrated to some degree, and although most fail to drink enough to match sweat losses, some drink too much and a few develop hyponatremia. Some simple advice can help athletes assess their hydration status and develop a personalized hydration strategy that takes account of exercise, environment, and individual needs. Preexercise hydration status can be assessed from urine frequency and volume, with additional information from urine color, specific gravity, or osmolality. Change in hydration during exercise can be estimated from the change in body mass that occurs during a bout of exercise. 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, but athletes losing large amounts of salt are likely to be aware of the taste of salt in sweat and the development of salt crusts on skin and clothing where sweat has evaporated. An appropriate drinking strategy will take account of preexercise hydration status and of fluid, electrolyte, and substrate needs before, during, and after a period of exercise. Strategies will vary greatly between individuals and will also be influenced by environmental conditions, competition regulations, and other factors.
The authors are with the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, LE11 3TU, United Kingdom.