Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Protection of total body water content and absence of hyperthermia despite 2% body mass loss (‘voluntary dehydration’) in soldiers drinking ad libitum during prolonged exercise in cool environmental conditions
  1. Heinrich W Nolte1,2,
  2. Timothy D Noakes2,
  3. Bernard van Vuuren3
  1. 1ERGOnomics TECHnologies, Pretoria, South Africa
  2. 2Department of Biokinetics, Sport and Leisure Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
  3. 3UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Heinrich Nolte, ERGOnomics TECHnologies, PO Box 6264, Pretoria 0001, South Africa; heinrich{at}


The extent to which humans need to replace fluid losses during exercise remains contentious despite years of focused research. The primary objective was to evaluate ad libitum drinking on hydration status to determine whether body mass loss can be used as an accurate surrogate for changes in total body water (TBW) during exercise. Data were collected during a 14.6-km route march (wet bulb globe temperature of 14.1°C ). 18 subjects with an average age of 26±2.5 (SD) years participated. Their mean ad libitum total fluid intake was 2.1±1.4 litres during the exercise. Predicted sweat rate was 1.289±0.530 l/h. There were no significant changes (p>0.05) in TBW, urine specific gravity or urine osmolality despite an average body mass loss (p<0.05) of 1.3±0.45 kg during the march. Core temperature rose as a function of marching speed and was unrelated to the % change in body mass. This suggests that changes in mass do not accurately predict changes in TBW (r=−0.16) because either the body mass loss during exercise includes losses other than water or there is an endogenous body water source that is released during exercise not requiring replacement during exercise, or both. Ad libitum water replacement between 65% and 70% of sweat losses maintained safe levels of hydration during the experiment. The finding that TBW was protected by ad libitum drinking despite ∼2% body mass loss suggests that the concept of ‘voluntary dehydration’ may require revision.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding TDN is funded by the University of Cape Town, Medical Research Council and Discovery Health and BvV by the University of Pretoria.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the Research Ethics Committee of the South African Military Health Services (SAMHS) of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.