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Athletic Performance and Serial Weight Changes During 12- and 24-Hour Ultra-Marathons

Kao, Wei-Fong MD*†‡§; Shyu, Chih-Ling BS§; Yang, Xiu-Wu MD¶∥; Hsu, Teh-Fu MD*‡; Chen, Jin-Jong PhD§**; Kao, Wei-Chun MS, DDS§; Polun-Chang PhD¶; Huang, Yi-Jen MS††; Kuo, Fon-Chu MS‡‡; Huang, Chun-I MD*‡; Lee, Chen-Hsen MD*‡

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31815cdd37
Original Research

Objective: The principal objective of this study was to evaluate serial weight changes in athletes during 12- and 24-hour ultra-marathons and to correlate these changes with athletic performance, namely the distance covered.

Design: This was a prospective study.

Setting: The 2003 Soochow University international ultra-marathon.

Participants: Fifty-two race participants.

Interventions: 12- or 24-hour ultra-marathon.

Main Outcome Measurements: Body weight changes were measured before, at 4-hour intervals during, and immediately after the 12- and 24-hour races.

Results: Significant overall decreases in body weight were apparent at the conclusion of both races. The mean relative body weight change after the 12-hour race was −2.89 ± 1.56%, ranging from 0 to 6.5%. The mean relative body weight change after the 24-hour race was −5.05 ± 2.28%, ranging from −0.77% to −11.40%. Of runners in the 24-hour race, 26% lost greater than 7% of baseline body weight during the race. During both the 12- and 24-hour races, the greatest weight change (decrease) occurred during the first 4 hours. Weight remained relatively stable after 8 hours, although a further decrease was apparent between 16 and 20 hours in the 24-hour participants. Weight change had no bearing on performance in the 12-hour race, whereas weight loss was positively associated with performance in the 24-hour race.

Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate that the majority of weight decrease/dehydration in both the 12- and 24-hour races occurred during the first 8 hours. Hence, to maintain body weight, fluid intake should be optimized in the first 8 hours for both 12- and 24-hour runners and in 16 to 20 hours for 24-hour marathon runners.

Author Information

From the *Section of Emergency Medicine; †The Institute of Bioinformatics, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan; ‡Department of Emergency Medicine, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan; §Taipei City Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan; ¶The Institute of Health Informatics and Decision Making, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan; ∥Department of Emergency Medicine, Cheng Hsin Rehabilitation Medical Center, Taipei, Taiwan; **Institute of Physical Therapy, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan; ††Department of Physical Education; and ‡‡Department of Computer Science, Soochow University, Taipei, Taiwan.

Submitted for publication March 9, 2007; accepted September 14, 2007.

Reprints: Wei-Fong Kao, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, Veterans General Hospital-Taipei, 201 Shih-Pai Road, Section 2, Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C. (e-mail:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.