Explaining variation in sweat sodium concentration: effect of individual characteristics and exercise, environmental, and dietary factors


December 2022

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This study determined the relative importance of several individual characteristics and dietary, environmental, and exercise factors in determining sweat [Na+] during exercise. Data from 1944 sweat tests were compiled for a retrospective analysis. Stepwise multiple regression (P < 0.05 threshold for inclusion) and T values were used to express the relative importance of each factor in a model. Three separate models were developed based on available independent variables: model 1 (1,944 sweat tests from 1,304 subjects); model 2 (subset with energy expenditure: 1,003 sweat tests from 607 subjects); model 3 (subset with energy expenditure, dietary sodium, and V̇o2max: n = 48). Whole body sweat [Na+] was predicted from forearm sweat patches in models 1 and 2 and directly measured using whole body washdown in model 3. There were no significant effects of age group, race/ethnicity, relative humidity, exercise duration, pre-exercise urine specific gravity, exercise fluid balance, or dietary or exercise sodium intake on any model. Significant predictors in model 1 (adjusted r2 = 0.17, P < 0.001) were season of the year (warm, T = −6.8), exercise mode (cycling, T = 6.8), sex (male, T = 4.9), whole body sweating rate (T = 4.5), and body mass (T = −3.0). Significant predictors in model 2 (adjusted r2 = 0.19, P < 0.001) were season of the year (warm, T = −5.2), energy expenditure (T = 4.7), exercise mode (cycling, T = 3.6), air temperature (T = 3.0), and sex (male, T = 2.7). The only significant predictor in model 3 (r2 = 0.23, P < 0.001) was energy expenditure (T = 3.8). In summary, the models accounted for 17%–23% of the variation in whole body sweat [Na+] and energy expenditure and season of the year (proxy for heat acclimatization) were the most important factors.

NEW & NOTEWORTHY This comprehensive analysis of a large, diverse data set contributes to our overall understanding of the factors that influence whole body sweat [Na+]. The main finding was that energy expenditure was directly associated with whole body sweat [Na+], potentially via the relation between energy expenditure and whole body sweating rate (WBSR). Warmer months (proxy for heat acclimatization) were associated with lower whole body sweat [Na+]. Exercise mode, air temperature, and sex may also have small effects, but other variables (age group, race/ethnicity, fluid balance, sodium intake, relative V̇o2max) had no association with whole body sweat [Na+]. Taken together, the models explained 17%–23% of the variation in whole body sweat [Na+].

J Appl Physiol (2022) 133(6):1250-1259

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