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To present the recent research that underscores the value of preventing both dehydration and hyperthermia. Such efforts will improve the athlete's capacity to perform physical activity and reduce the risk of heat-related problems.
Data were drawn from an extensive review of the scientific literature over the past 50 years with an emphasis on recent research (> 1990) that focuses on the physiological and performance benefits of fluid replacement.
Even low levels of dehydration (eg, less than a 2% loss of body weight) impair cardiovascular and thermoregulatory response and reduce the capacity for exercise. Heat exposure also reduces the athlete's ability to train and compete, an effect that can be independent of hydration status. Even if athletes are well hydrated, hot weather alone will reduce their capacity to exercise. Optimal performance is possible only when dehydration and hyperthermia are minimized by ingesting ample volumes of fluid during exercise and by taking common-sense precautions in keeping cool. Recent research has demonstrated that consuming fluid in volumes approximating sweat loss maintains important physiological functions and significantly improves exercise performance, even during exercise lasting only 1 hour. Carbohydrate ingestion also improves exercise performance, an effect that is independent of, and additive to, preventing dehydration.
Athletes should follow an aggressive fluid replacement and temperature regulation regimen. Successful implementation of this regimen requires that athletic trainers, coaches, athletes, and support personnel are made aware of the benefits of adequate fluid replacement, that appropriate fluid replacement strategies are developed and implemented, that athletes have the opportunity to train themselves to ingest larger volumes of fluid more frequently, and that other practical steps are taken to keep athletes cool during both training and competition.