To examine controversies about hydration strategies, participants (383 starters) of a 161 km ultramarathon (maximum temperature 39.0°C) underwent body weight measurements before, during and after the race; and completed a post-race questionnaire on drinking strategies and sodium supplementation use during 4 race segments. Drinking to thirst was the most common (p < 0.01) drinking strategy (used by 67.0% during at least one segment) and most runners (95.6%) used sodium supplementation during at least one segment. There was no difference in the extent of weight loss (mean 2.0-3.1%) or the weight change pattern when comparing groups using different hydration strategies. Among top-10 finishers, half had lost more than 2% of starting body weight by 90 km. We conclude that weight loss greater than 2% does not necessarily have adverse consequences on performance, and use of sodium supplements or drinking beyond thirst is not required to maintain hydration during ultra-endurance events with high thermal stress.
Keywords: dehydration; endurance exercise; exercise; sodium; water-electrolyte imbalance.