In healthy individuals, water is the largest single component of the body. Although water balance is regulated around a range of volumes rather than a finite set point, its homeostasis is critical for virtually all physiological functions. To further ensure proper regulation of physiological and metabolic functions, the composition of the individual body water compartments must also be regulated.

Humans continually lose water through the renal system, gastrointestinal system, skin, and respiratory tract, and this water must be replaced. Thirst is implicated in our water intake, but behavioral habits also have an important influence on drinking.

When exercise is undertaken or when an individual is exposed to a warm environment, the additional heat load is lost largely due to sweating and this can increase greatly the individual's daily water loss and therefore the amount that must be consumed. Sweat rates on the order of 2 to 31 per hour can be reached and maintained by some individuals for a number of hours and it is not impossible for total losses to be as much as 10 l in a day. These losses must of course be replaced and when they are so extreme, the majority must be met from fluid consumption rather than food ingestion. A variety of drink types and flavors are likely to be favored by individuals who have extreme losses to replace. Sports drinks have an importance role in this recovery when no food is ingested by their contribution to sweat electrolyte loss replacement which is crucial for retention of the ingested water.

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