Sodium and water loss during, and replacement after, exercise-induced volume depletion was investigated in six volunteers volume depleted by 1.89 +/- 0.17% (SD) of body mass by intermittent exercise in a warm, humid environment. Subjects exercised in a large, open plastic bag, allowing collection of all sweat secreted during exercise. For over 60 min beginning 40 min after the end of exercise, subjects ingested drinks containing 0, 25, 50, or 100 mmol/l sodium (trials 0, 25, 50, and 100) in a volume (ml) equivalent to 150% of the mass lost (g) by volume depletion. Body mass loss and sweat electrolyte (Na+, K+, and Cl-) loss were the same on each trial. The measured sweat sodium concentration was 49.2 +/- 18.5 mmol/l, and the total loss (63.9 +/- 38.7 mmol) was greater than that ingested on trials 0 and 25. Urine production over the 6-h recovery period was inversely related to the amount of sodium ingested. Subjects were in whole body negative sodium balance on trials 0 (-104 +/- 48 mmol) and 25 (-65 +/- 30 mmol) and essentially in balance on trial 50 (-13 +/- 29 mmol) but were in positive sodium balance on trial 100 (75 +/- 40 mmol). Only on trial 100 were subjects in positive fluid balance at the end of the study. There was a large urinary loss of potassium over the recovery period on trial 100, despite a negligible intake during volume repletion. These results confirm the importance of replacement of sodium as well as water for volume repletion after sweat loss. The sodium intake on trial 100 was appropriate for acute fluid balance restoration, but its consequences for potassium levels must be considered to be undesirable in terms of whole body electrolyte homeostasis for anything other than the short term.