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Drinking Behaviors of Elite Male Runners During Marathon Competition

Beis, Lukas Y.*; Wright-Whyte, Moray BSc*; Fudge, Barry PhD; Noakes, Timothy MD, PhD; Pitsiladis, Yannis P. PhD*,§

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: May 2012 - Volume 22 - Issue 3 - p 254–261
doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31824a55d7
Original Research

Objective: To describe the drinking behaviors of elite male marathon runners during major city marathons.

Design: Retrospective analysis of drinking behaviors.

Setting: Institutional.

Participants: Ten (9 winners and 1 second position) male marathon runners during 13 major city marathons.

Main Outcome Measures: Total drinking durations and fluid intake rates during major city marathons.

Results: The ambient conditions during the 13 studied marathon races were 15.3°C ± 8.6°C and 59% ± 17% relative humidity; average marathon competition time was 02:06:31 ± 00:01:08 (hours:minutes:seconds). Total drinking duration during these races was 25.5 ± 15.0 seconds (range, 1.6-50.7 seconds) equating to an extrapolated fluid intake rate of 0.55 ± 0.34 L/h (range, 0.03-1.09 L/h). No significant correlations were found between total drink duration, fluid intake (rate and total), running speed, and ambient temperature. Estimated body mass (BM) loss based on calculated sweat rates and rates of fluid ingestion was 8.8% ± 2.1% (range, 6.6%-11.7%). Measurements of the winner in the 2009 Dubai marathon revealed a BM loss of 9.8%.

Conclusions: The most successful runners, during major city marathons, drink fluids ad libitum for less than approximately 60 seconds at an extrapolated fluid ingestion rate of 0.55 ± 0.34 L/h and comparable to the current American College of Sports Medicine's recommendations of 0.4-0.8 L/h. Nevertheless, these elite runners do not seem to maintain their BM within current recommended ranges of 2%-3%.

*College of Medicine, Veterinary and Life Sciences, Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom

English Institute of Sport, EIS Performance Centre, Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom

UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sport Medicine, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town and the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa

§International Centre for East African Running Science (ICEARS), Moi University, Eldoret, Kenya

Corresponding Author: Yannis P. Pitsiladis, PhD, College of Medicine, Veterinary and Life Sciences, Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, West Medical Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8QQ, United Kingdom (

The authors report no conflicts of interest or financial interest.

Received August 2, 2011

Accepted January 9, 2012

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.