Dehydration and endurance performance in competitive athletes

Nutr Rev. 2012 Nov;70 Suppl 2:S132-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00530.x.


The field of research examining the link between dehydration and endurance performance is at the dawn of a new era. This article reviews the latest findings describing the relationship between exercise-induced dehydration and endurance performance and provides the knowledge necessary for competitive, endurance-trained athletes to develop a winning hydration strategy. Acute, pre-exercise body weight loss at or above 3% may decrease subsequent endurance performance. Therefore, endurance athletes should strive to start exercise well hydrated, which can be achieved by keeping thirst sensation low and urine color pale and drinking approximately 5-10 mL/kg body weight of water 2 h before exercise. During exercise lasting 1 h or less, dehydration does not decrease endurance performance, but athletes are encouraged to mouth-rinse with sports drinks. During exercise lasting longer than 1 h, in which fluid is readily available, drinking according to the dictates of thirst maximizes endurance performance. In athletes whose thirst sensation is untrustworthy or when external factors such as psychological stress or repeated food intake may blunt thirst sensation, it is recommended to program fluid intake to maintain exercise-induced body weight loss around 2% to 3%.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Performance / physiology
  • Body Water / metabolism*
  • Dehydration / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Thirst / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance / physiology*