Drinking Strategies: Planned Drinking Versus Drinking to Thirst

Sports Med. 2018 Mar;48(Suppl 1):31-37. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0844-6.


In humans, thirst tends to be alleviated before complete rehydration is achieved. When sweating rates are high and ad libitum fluid consumption is not sufficient to replace sweat losses, a cumulative loss in body water results. Body mass losses of 2% or greater take time to accumulate. Dehydration of ≥ 2% body mass is associated with impaired thermoregulatory function, elevated cardiovascular strain and, in many conditions (e.g., warmer, longer, more intense), impaired aerobic exercise performance. Circumstances where planned drinking is optimal include longer duration activities of > 90 min, particularly in the heat; higher-intensity exercise with high sweat rates; exercise where performance is a concern; and when carbohydrate intake of 1 g/min is desired. Individuals with high sweat rates and/or those concerned with exercise performance should determine sweat rates under conditions (exercise intensity, pace) and environments similar to that anticipated when competing and tailor drinking to prevent body mass losses > 2%. Circumstances where drinking to thirst may be sufficient include short duration exercise of < 1 h to 90 min; exercise in cooler conditions; and lower-intensity exercise. It is recommended to never drink so much that weight is gained.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes / psychology*
  • Dehydration / etiology
  • Dehydration / prevention & control*
  • Drinking*
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Sweating / physiology
  • Thirst*
  • Water*
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance


  • Water