To determine if electrolyte or carbohydrate supplementation vs. water would limit the magnitude of dehydration and decline in cognitive function in humans following long-duration hyperthermic-exercise.
24 subjects performed 3 visits of 2hrs walking (3mph/7% grade) in an environmental chamber (33 °C/10% relative humidity). In random order, subjects consumed water (W), electrolytes (Gatorade Zero; E), or electrolytes+carbohydrates (Gatorade; E+C). Throughout exercise (EX), subjects carried a 23kg pack and drank ad-libitum. Pre-and post-EX, body mass (BM) and plasma osmolality (pOsm) were measured. Physiological Strain Index (PSI) and core temperature (TC) were recorded every 15mins. Plasma glucose (GLU) was measured every 30mins. Cognitive processing (SCWT) was measured post-EX and compared to baseline (BL). A subset of 8 subjects performed a normothermic (N) protocol (21 °C/ambient humidity) to ascertain how the exercise stimulus influenced hydration status and cognition without heat.
There were no significant differences between fluid conditions (W, E, E+C) for BM loss (Δ2.5 ± 0.2, 2.5 ± 0.2, 2.3 ± 0.2kg), fluid consumption (1.9 ± 0.2, 1.9 ± 0.2, 1.8 ± 0.2L), pOsm (Δ1.5 ± 2.7, 2.2 ± 2.4, 2.0 ± 1.5mmol/L), peak-PSI (7.5 ± 0.4, 7.0 ± 0.6, 7.9 ± 0.5), and peak-TC (38.7 ± 0.1, 38.6 ± 0.2, 38.8 ± 0.2 °C). GLU decreased significantly in W and E, whereas it increased above BL in E+C at 60, 90, and 120mins (P < 0.05). Compared to BL values (43.6 ± 26ms), SCWT performance significantly decreased in all conditions (463 ± 93, 422 ± 83, 140 ± 52ms, P < 0.05). Importantly, compared to W and E, the impairment in SCWT was significantly attenuated in E+C (P < 0.05). As expected, when compared to the heat-stress protocol (W, E, E+C), N resulted in lower BM loss, fluid consumption, and peak-PSI (1.1 ± 0.1kg, 1.2 ± 0.7L, 4.8, respectively), and improved SCWT performance.
These data are the first to suggest that, independent of supplementation variety, cognitive processing significantly decreases immediately following long-duration exercise in the heat in healthy humans. Compared to water and fluids supplemented with only electrolytes, fluids supplemented with carbohydrates significantly blunts this decrease in cognitive function.