What is Third Spacing of Fluids and how does it relate to swimming?

Another of the joys of Long Distance swimming in salt water is bloating.

It’s a combination of factors including Third Spacing, more properly called (apparently), “Third Spacing of Fluids”.

Prolonged exposure to salt water causes the body to swell, making marathon swimmers look bloated after a long swim. There is also electrolyte loss causing Third Spacing as fluid leaves the the blood vessels and builds up in the intracellular spaces, when it’s normally confined to the tissues (75% of fluid) and plasma (25%).

I don’t know precisely how prolonged immersion needs to be before bloating becomes obvious (though I’ve read 2 hours), but it’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

The picture is of Grant Hackett before and after the 10k 2008 OW World Championships that purports to display the effects of Third Spacing on him.

So get your pictures taken BEFORE your swim… 😉


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