Body water and electrolyte balance are essential to optimal physiological function and health. During exercise, work, or high temperatures, a significant level of dehydration can develop, and the ratio of extracellular to intracellular fluid can change, despite an ample supply of water. Physical and cognitive performance are impaired at 1-2% dehydration, and the body can collapse when water loss approaches 7%. Because fluid needs and intakes vary, formulating one general guideline for fluid replacement is difficult. Knowing the amount of water lost in sweat may enable predicting fluid needs via mathematical models for industrial, athletic, and military scenarios. Sodium imbalance might result from excessive Na+ loss or from gross o verity dration. In most work or exercise lasting < 3-4 hr, the major concern is that fluid be available to prevent heat-related illnesses, which can be prevented if fluid and electrolyte losses are balanced with intake, using the recommendations presented.
Lawrence E. Armstrong is with the Human Performance Laboratory and the Department of Physiology and Neurobiology at the University of Connecticut, U-110,2095 Hillside Rd., Storrs, CT 06269-1110. Yoram Epstein is with the Heller Institute of Medical Research at the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, 52621, Israel.