During endurance exercise, two problems arise from disturbed fluid-electrolyte balance: dehydration and overhydration. The former involves water and sodium losses in sweat and urine that are incompletely replaced, whereas the latter involves excessive consumption and retention of dilute fluids. When experienced at low levels, both dehydration and overhydration have minor or no performance effects and symptoms of illness, but when experienced at moderate-to-severe levels they degrade exercise performance and/or may lead to hydration-related illnesses including hyponatremia (low serum sodium concentration). Therefore, the present review article presents (a) relevant research observations and consensus statements of professional organizations, (b) 5 rehydration methods in which pre-race planning ranges from no advanced action to determination of sweat rate during a field simulation, and (c) 9 rehydration recommendations that are relevant to endurance activities. With this information, each athlete can select the rehydration method that best allows her/him to achieve a hydration middle ground between dehydration and overhydration, to optimize physical performance, and reduce the risk of illness.
Keywords: dehydration; drinking; hyponatremia; marathon; overhydration; sodium; sweat; thirst; triathlon.