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Core temperature and hydration status during an Ironman triathlon
  1. P B Laursen1,
  2. R Suriano2,
  3. M J Quod3,
  4. H Lee3,
  5. C R Abbiss1,
  6. K Nosaka1,
  7. D T Martin3,
  8. D Bishop2
  1. 1School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, WA, Australia
  2. 2School of Human Movement and Exercise Science, University of Western Australia, Perth, WA, Australia
  3. 3Department of Physiology, Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, ACT, Australia
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Laursen
 School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Building 19, Room 162, 100 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup, WA, Australia 6027; p.laursen{at}


Background: Numerous laboratory based studies have documented that aggressive hydration strategies (∼1–2 litres/h) are required to minimise a rise in core temperature and minimise the deleterious effects of hyperthermia on performance. However, field data on the relations between hydration level, core body temperature, and performance are rare.

Objective: To measure core temperature (Tcore) in triathletes during a 226 km Ironman triathlon, and to compare Tcore with markers of hydration status after the event.

Method: Before and immediately after the 2004 Ironman Western Australia event (mean (SD) ambient temperature 23.3 (1.9)°C (range 19–26°C) and 60 (14)% relative humidity (44–87%)) body mass, plasma concentrations of sodium ([Na+]), potassium ([K+]), and chloride ([Cl]), and urine specific gravity were measured in 10 well trained triathletes. Tcore was measured intermittently during the event using an ingestible pill telemetry system, and heart rate was measured throughout.

Results: Mean (SD) performance time in the Ironman triathlon was 611 (49) minutes; heart rate was 143 (9) beats/min (83 (6)% of maximum) and Tcore was 38.1 (0.3)°C. Body mass significantly declined during the race by 2.3 (1.2) kg (−3.0 (1.5)%; p<0.05), whereas urine specific gravity significantly increased (1.011 (0.005) to 1.0170 (0.008) g/ml; p<0.05) and plasma [Na+], [K+], and [Cl] did not change. Changes in body mass were not related to finishing Tcore (r  =  −0.16), plasma [Na+] (r  =  0.31), or urine specific gravity (r  =  −0.37).

Conclusion: In contrast with previous laboratory based studies examining the influence of hypohydration on performance, a body mass loss of up to 3% was found to be tolerated by well trained triathletes during an Ironman competition in warm conditions without any evidence of thermoregulatory failure.

  • dehydration
  • sodium
  • hyponatraemia
  • fluid replacement
  • urine specific gravity

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  • Competing interests: none declared