Staying Hydrated

We’re starting a new series here on the blog. Each day we’ll be posting on a different topic:

  • Monday: weekend racing recaps
  • Tuesday: nutrition, fuel and food
  • Wednesday: training and racing tips
  • Thursday: a look back in cycling history
  • Friday: look ahead to the upcoming weekend racing

This is new for us and we hope to provide you with a diverse range of posts on all things cycling. We are looking for guest bloggers so if you have a zest for words and bikes, post in the comments and we’ll follow up with you. To kick things off for our first in our nutrition, fuel and food post, we’ve got an article about hydration.

Chances are you’ve got two bottle cages on your frame. These bottle cages are your friend. As important to your bike as the brakes, gears, and tires. These trusty yet overlooked cages are your answer to long rides, successful work-outs, and overall healthy and happy riding. But for so many cyclists, these bottles and what goes in them and when to drink from them is overlooked.

In the midst of the heat of the summer, it is hard to know what to drink, how much to drink and when. At the basic level, for rides of two hours or less, plain water in your bottles is fine. But this is completely variable by individual. This is where it gets a bit tricky. Every cyclist has different hydration needs based on physical make-up, sweat rate, salt retention levels, and level of exertion during the ride.

Equally important with making sure you get enough to drink when riding, is to ensure you’re hydrated before your ride and that you top up your hydration levels post-ride. Guzzling a couple of liters before your ride won’t do much more than give you a bloated and distended belly, this is because, our stomachs only drain about one liter of water per hour.

To get ready for your Saturday morning group ride, try drinking two cups (500 ml) of fluid before your ride and another cup or two an hour before your ride. Drinking this early gives you a chance to go to the bathroom before riding. Then post-ride you need to drink two cups of fluid for every lost pound during your ride. If you think that you’re not drinking enough before, during and after your rides, a good habit is to weigh yourself wearing minimal clothing before and after your ride, this way you can really measure if you’re losing fluid during your rides.

If you’re racing a road race or criterium in the middle of August at the hottest part of the day, you’ll want something more than water in your bottle. This is when sports drinks and electrolyte powders are useful and valuable. Make sure you like what you have in your bottles – otherwise you won’t want to drink it. And above all else – don’t try something new on race day or on the day of a big long ride.

At the minimum, make sure you have water in your bottles. If you’re going for longer rides or out on a hot day, be sure you put more than water in your bottles – experiment with different sports drinks until you get a taste and energy level that you can tolerate. Be sure to stay hydrated through-out the day and if you think you’re drinking too much or not enough, hop on the scale before and after each ride. Remember, those shiny bottle cages are for more than looking sharp – they’re your friend and hold one of the keys to a long and healthy season of riding, racing, and touring.