Hypohydration and human performance: impact of environment and physiological mechanisms.


November 2015



Body water losses of >2 % of body mass are defined as hypohydration and can occur from sweat loss and/or diuresis from both cold and altitude exposure. Hypohydration elicits intracellular and extracellular water loss proportionate to water and solute deficits. Iso-osmotic hypovolemia (from cold and high-altitude exposure) results in greater plasma loss for a given water deficit than hypertonic hypovolemia from sweat loss. Hypohydration does not impair submaximal intensity aerobic performance in cold–cool environments, sometimes impairs aerobic performance in temperate environments, and usually impairs aerobic performance in warm–hot environments. Hypohydration begins to impair aerobic performance when skin temperatures exceed 27 °C, and with each additional 1 °C elevation in skin temperature there is a further 1.5 % impairment. Hypohydration has an additive effect on impairing aerobic performance in warm–hot high-altitude environments. A commonality of absolute hypovolemia (from plasma volume loss) combined with relative hypovolemia (from tissue vasodilation) is present when aerobic performance is impaired. The decrement in aerobic exercise performance due to hypohydration is likely due to multiple physiological mechanisms, including cardiovascular strain acting as the ‘lynchpin’, elevated tissue temperatures, and metabolic changes which are all integrated through the CNS to reduce motor drive to skeletal muscles. Sports Med. 45(Suppl 1):51-60.

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