3 Quick Hydration Tips for Cyclists
One of the most important actions you can take to facilitate your success as a cyclist is to stay properly hydrated during all of your workouts and events. You can do this by following 3 simple steps:
1. Determine your hydration needs. Generally speaking, you should drink 4-8 oz of fluid every 15 minutes, depending upon your sweat rate. For most people, this adds up to about one bottle per hour (more on a hot, humid day). This is perhaps the most important step you can take to ensure a successful ride. Dehydration has a dramatic, negative effect on cycling performance. For instance, dehydration of only 2% of your total body weight can impair performance. Dehydration of 5% can reduce work output by as much as 10%. As a general rule of thumb, bring two full bottles on every ride, especially if it is a hot day. For high temperature rides of more than an hour, consider using a hydration system. This serves a dual purpose. First, it allows you to conveniently carry a large volume of liquid. Second, by freezing the water (or filling it with ice), the hydration pack can help lower your core temperature. Remember, it is very important to practice using the hydration pack prior to an important event or competition. They can be a bit cumbersome.
2. Weigh-in before and after workouts. Get in the habit of weighing yourself before and after every workout. This serves two purposes. First, it helps you determine your sweat rate. A 60-minute workout is a good indicator. If you weigh two pounds less after a workout, then you are down about 32 ounces of water. Second, it helps determine how much fluid you need to drink per hour. In this instance, the goal for future workouts (in similar heat and humidity conditions) is to drink 32 ounces of fluid per hour. Frankly, not everyone will drink this much so drink lots of fluid before and immediately after your workouts. Remember, your goal should be to weigh the same after post-workout hydration and nutrition as you did before the workout.
3. Decide what to drink for a particular workout or competition. For events or workouts that will last an hour or less, water is sufficient. For endurance exercise that lasts over an hour, use a sports drink to replace carbohydrates and electrolytes. There are many to choose from and most of them work effectively. Just make sure they contain about 6% to 8% carbohydrate and some sodium for electrolyte replacement. To determine which drinks work best, select three and try each one in a similar type of workout or event (e.g., same intensity and duration). First, determine if any of the drinks cause gastrointestinal distress (e.g., bloating). If one of them does, eliminate it from consideration (note: drinks with more that 8% carbohydrate may be more likely to cause stomach distress). Second, you should consider taste. You are more likely to use a drink if it tastes good.
Follow these simple steps and you should always be well hydrated for your cycling workouts and events.