Fluid-electrolyte balance during labor and exercise: Concepts and misconceptions

Yoram Epstein, Lawrence E. Armstrong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Body water and electrolyte balance are essential to optimal physiological function and health. During exercise, work, or high temperatures, a significant level of dehydration can develop, and the ratio of extracellular to intracellular fluid can change, despite an ample supply of water. Physical and cognitive performance are impaired at 1-2% dehydration, and the body can collapse when water loss approaches 7%. Because fluid needs and intakes vary, formulating one general guideline for fluid replacement is difficult. Knowing the amount of water lost in sweat may enable predicting fluid needs via mathematical models for industrial, athletic, and military scenarios. Sodium imbalance might result from excessive Na+ loss or from gross overhydration. In most work or exercise lasting < 3-4 hr, the major concern is that fluid be available to prevent heat-related illnesses, which can be prevented if fluid and electrolyte losses are balanced with intake, using the recommendations presented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Sport Nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Body temperature
  • Body water
  • Extracellular fluid
  • Gastric emptying
  • Heat illness
  • Hypohydration
  • Hyponatremia
  • Performance
  • Sodium
  • Thirst


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