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A water tale for all seasons: When it comes to hydration and exercise, the system works

uced performance in temperate air (68F).

"We induced a 3% body weight loss because that's about how much water the average marathon runner loses," Cheuvront noted. The team found that while this much dehydration produced only a minor negative affect at 36F, at 68F it made a significant 8% cut in performance. "We measured performance as work performed (in kilojoules), but the real indicator is time: 8% over the course of a marathon is the difference between finishing in 2 hours 30 minutes or 2 hours 42 minutes and that's a big difference!" Cheuvront said.

He added a quick note of realism, though: "Remember that although we're testing healthy and fit Army recruits, the average competitive runner's performance might not drop as drastically." The other important finding in the experiment was that with hydration kept steady, cold in and of itself did not negatively impact performance.

Some elegant measures of "importance" and exertion

Interestingly, the researchers found that during exercise the subjects "thought" they were working at exactly the same rate of exertion, even though there was a major difference between their actual performances.

Another measure they used is called the "zone of indifference," which can indicate not just whether a finding is or is not "statistically significant, but if it's biologically important or meaningful," Cheuvront said. "In this case the results were both statistically significant and meaningful," he added. The "spirit of this approach, most closely related to equivalence testing in the clinical sciences, has recently been championed as a performance interpretation tool for the exercise sciences by Dr. William G. Hopkins," the paper noted.

Next steps: "The preservation of endurance performance in cold air when hypohydrated may be explained by differences in cardiovascular function and oxygen uptake dynamics," the paper said. "Although the present experiment was not designed to
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2-Sep-2005


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