OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of a water + electrolyte solution versus plain water on changes in drinking behaviors, hydration status, and body temperatures during wildfire suppression.
METHODS: Eight participants consumed plain water, and eight participants consumed water plus an electrolyte additive during 15 hours of wildfire suppression. Participants wore a specially outfitted backpack hydration system equipped with a digital flow meter system affixed inline to measure drinking characteristics (drinking frequency and volume). Body weight and urine-specific gravity were collected pre- and postshift. Ambient, core, and skin temperatures were measured continuously using a wireless system. Work output was monitored using accelerometry.
RESULTS: There were no differences between groups for body weight, drinking frequency, temperature data, activity, or urine-specific gravity (1.019 +/- 0.007 to 1.023 +/- 0.010 vs. 1.019 +/- 0.005 to 1.024 +/- 0.009 for water and water + electrolyte groups pre- and postshift, respectively; P < .05). There was a main effect for time for body weight, demonstrating an overall decrease (78.1 +/- 13.3 and 77.3 +/- 13.3 kg pre- and postshift, respectively; P < .05) across the work shift. The water group consumed more total fluid (main effect for treatment) than the water + electrolyte group (504 +/- 472 vs. 285 +/- 279 mL.h(-1) for the water and water + electrolyte groups, respectively; P < .05).
CONCLUSION: The addition of an electrolyte mixture to plain water decreased the overall fluid consumption of the water + electrolyte group by 220 mL.h(-1) (3.3 L.d(-1)). Supplementing water with electrolytes can reduce the amount of fluid necessary to consume and transport during extended activity. This can minimize carrying excessive weight, possibly reducing fatigue during extended exercise.