Although dehydration of ≥ 2% body weight (BW) loss significantly impairs endurance performance, dehydration remains prevalent among athletes and may be owing to a lack of knowledge in relation to fluid requirements. The aim of this study was to assess the hydration status of university/club level athletes (n = 430) from a range of sports/activities (army officer cadet training; bootcamp training; cycling; Gaelic Athletic Association camogie, football and hurling; golf; hockey; netball; rugby; running (sprinting and endurance); Shotokan karate and soccer) immediately before and after training/competition and to assess their nutritional knowledge. Urine specific gravity (USG) was measured immediately before and after exercise and BW loss during exercise was assessed. Nutritional knowledge was assessed using a validated questionnaire. 31.9% of athletes commenced exercise in a dehydrated state (USG >1.020) with 43.6% of participants dehydrated posttraining/competition. Dehydration was particularly prevalent (>40% of cohort) among karateka, female netball players, army officer cadets, and golfers. Golfers that commenced a competitive 18 hole round dehydrated took a significantly higher number of strokes to complete the round in comparison with their euhydrated counterparts (79.5 ± 2.1 vs. 75.7 ± 3.9 strokes, p = .049). Nutritional knowledge was poor among participants (median total score [IQR]; 52.9% [46.0, 59.8]), albeit athletes who were euhydrated at the start of exercise had a higher overall score in comparison with dehydrated athletes (55.2% vs. 50.6%, p = .001). Findings from the current study, therefore, have significant implications for the education of athletes in relation to their individual fluid requirements around exercise.
The authors are with the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health, University of Ulster, Coleraine, Northern Ireland.