AIS Sports Nutrition

Effective hydration strategies for sweat loss

Maintaining fluid balance, or hydration, is an important factor in preserving various body functions and supporting exercise performance. During exercise, fluids are lost, mainly through sweating (some water will also be attributable to respiratory water loss, which can be substantial during hard work in hot environments). Unless the athlete consumes fluid to replace these losses, a fluid deficit will occur. To help develop a fluid intake plan, both during and after exercise, athletes need to know about the magnitude of their sweat losses.

How can sweat losses be estimated?

In the laboratory, sweat losses and sweat rates can be measured using various sophisticated techniques.  In the field, the most practical way for athletes to monitor their sweat loss is to measure changes in body mass, with corrections made for fluid/food intake, as well as urine losses.
In monitoring changes in body mass, athletes should weigh themselves prior to training in minimal clothing.  Immediately after training, they should towel dry and weigh themselves again in identical dry clothing on the same set of scales. The weight of any food/fluid consumed should then be added to the calculated change in body mass, before estimated urine losses are subtracted. This will provide estimate of sweat losses over the whole session. Dividing the total sweat loss by the duration of exercise will provide an estimation of the rate of sweat loss (NOTE: Each kilogram of weight loss is approximately equal to one litre of fluid deficit).

For example:
Pre-exercise weight - 55 kg
Post-exercise weight - 53.5 kg
Volume of fluid consumed during exercise (1 L) - 1 kg estimated urine losses – 500ml
Exercise duration - 2 hrs

Calculations:
Fluid deficit (L) = 55 kg - 53.5 kg = 1.5 kg
Total sweat loss (L) = 1.5 kg + 1 kg - 500ml = 2 kg
Sweat rate (L/h) = 2 kg/2 h = 1 L/h

Factors influencing sweat rates in athletes?

Individual sweat rates and fluid losses vary widely.  Body size, gender, exercise intensity, environmental conditions, the amount of clothing worn, level of aerobic fitness and the acclimation status of the athlete will all influence sweat rates. The best way for athletes to gain information about their sweat rates for a given event or training session is to actually monitor their losses over a number of sessions under similar conditions. However, this is not always possible. Values representing average losses for a given type and intensity of exercise, in a given environment, will provide rough guidelines for expected sweat loss when it is not practical for athletes to undertake their own fluid balance assessment.
In the following tables, mean fluid losses for sportsmen and sportswomen under varying conditions with different sporting activities are given.

AFL

Sex Intensity Sweat rate (L/h) Ambient temperature  (°C) Relative humidity (%)
m - 1.4 12-15 55-88
m - 1.8 27 52

BASKETBALL

Sex Intensity Sweat rate (L/h) Ambient temperature  (°C) Relative humidity (%)
m Competition 1.6 23 41
m Competition 1.6 19 36
f Competition 0.9 26 60
f Competition 1.0 17 58
m Training 1.4 27 34
m Training 1.0 20 24
f Training 0.7 25 43

CRICKET

Sex Intensity Sweat rate (L/h) Ambient temperature  (°C) Relative humidity (%)
m - 0.5 23 65
m - 0.7 33 22
m - 1.4 33 30

CYCLING

Exercise type Sex Intensity Sweat rate (L/h) Ambient temperature  (°C) Relative humidity (%)
80 min m 70% VO2max 1.1 20 -
3 hours m 60% VO2max 1.21 31 22
3 hours (intervals) m 33-44% VO2max 0.62 33-44 28
2 hours m 50% VO2max 1.25 30 -
40 km f 30 km/h 0.75 19-25 -
m 32 km/h 1.14 19-25 -
1 hour m 50% VO2max 0.39 25 53
17 min m 35-45% VO2max 0.29 30 45

NETBALL

Sex Intensity Sweat rate (L/h) Ambient temperature  (°C) Relative humidity (%)
f Competition 1.0 22 66
f - 0.9 16 43
f Training 0.7 28 36
f Training 0.7 19 30

ROWING

Sex Intensity Sweat rate (L/h) Ambient temperature  (°C) Relative humidity (%)
m Training 2.0 32 -
f Training 1.4 32 -
m Training 1.2 10 -
f Training 0.8 10 -

RUBGY UNION

Sex Intensity Sweat rate (L/h) Ambient temperature  (°C) Relative humidity (%)
 
m - 2.2 18-20 18-20
m - 1.7 21-23 78-85
m - 2.2 20-22 74-82
m Forwards 2.6 24-25 30-32
m Backs 1.6 24-25 30-32

RUNNING

Exercise type Sex Intensity Sweat rate (L/h) Ambient temperature  (°C) Relative humidity (%)
10 km f 12.8 km/h 1.49 19-24 -
m 14.6 km/h 1.83 19-24 -
30 km - - 1.25 9-17 30-90
2 hours m 63% VO2max 1.41 22 40-45
42.2 km

 

- 9.3-15.5 kg/h 1.1 21-26 50-60
f 9-12 km/h 0.54 6-24 45-85
m 9-12 km/h 0.81 7 45-85
m 8.7-16.1 km/h 0.96 10-12 73
m 15.9 km/h 1.52 20 37
- 9.8-15 km/h 0.69-1.27 12-23 -
56 km - 10.4-14.8 km/h 0.96-1.00 11.3-25.8 -
80 min m 70% VO2max 1.43 20 -

SOCCER

Sex Intensity Sweat rate (L/h) Ambient temperature  (°C) Relative humidity (%)
f Competition 0.8 26 78
m Competition 1.2 25 41
m Competition 1.0 10 56
f Training 0.8 30 35
m Training 1.0 25 41
m Training 0.7 9 61
m - 2.1 33 40
m - 0.8 13 7
m - 2.0 13 7
m - 1.3 19 55

VOLLEYBALL

Sex Intensity Sweat rate (L/h) Ambient temperature  (°C) Relative humidity (%)
m Training 0.8 Summer -
f Training 0.8 Summer -

WATERPOLO

Sex Intensity Sweat rate (L/h) Ambient temperature  (°C) Relative humidity (%)
m Competition 0.8 27 -
m Training 0.3 27 17

Do men sweat more than women?

The information above shows that most of the published information concerns male athletes.  In general, women sweat less than men, even when data are expressed as a percentage of body weight.  However, this does not mean that women regulate body temperature better than males.  In fact, since the sweat rate is lower and provides less opportunity to dissipate body heat, body temperature may actually rise more in women during a given exercise bout at a particular relative intensity.  Women may then need to take other measures to aid in heat regulation.  These may include sponging the body with cool water, wearing clothes that do not hold heat and if all else fails, reducing exercise intensity.

Does sport influence sweat loss?

Sweat losses vary according to the type of activity, the intensity of exercise and environmental conditions.  The tables show that the rate of sweat loss increases with higher intensity exercise.  For example, running at 10 km race pace will produce a higher sweat rate than running at marathon pace, all other things being equal.  Of course, total sweat losses in a marathon will probably be greater since the athlete will exercise for a longer time.  Heat and humidity play an obvious role in determining sweat rates - as athletes competing in summer-based sports or events located in hot environments will surely attest.  In some sports, airflow provides an opportunity for convective loss of heat and can reduce sweat losses (e.g. cycling versus running in the same environment or running with the wind versus against the wind).  On the other hand, playing sport in a stadium may provide an artificial environment and prevent airflow.  Some athletes do not realise that they can sweat while undertaking exercise in water. However studies on waterpolo and swimming show a small-moderate sweat rate when the intensity is high.

Adapted from: Rehrer, N. J., and L. M. Burke. Sweat losses during various sports. Australian Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics. 53(4): S13-S16, 1996.

Written by the AIS Sports Nutrition, last updated July 2009. © Australian Sports Commission

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