Biking while dehydrated is bad.
Look online for biking or cycling hydration tips and this is the one bottom-line theme that everyone, from professional dieticians to hard-core bikers can agree on.
But before we get to that bottom-line agreement, there are dozens of articles containing tips, factoids and stats that can make your head spin more quickly than your bike wheels could ever hope to.
In honor of May’s distinction as Bike Month, and this week’s distinction as Bike Week in our Minneapolis-area headquarters, we’ve gone out and found what we consider to be the most straight-forward, make-sense and definitive cycling hydration tips.
While this may not be a comprehensive list of all the information out there, that’s kind of our point. These tips are designed to stop your head from spinning from all the advice so you can get out there, get hydrated and get biking!
Think Ahead and Think Simple:
One to two hours before you start pedaling, fill your tank with about 20 ounces of fluid, up to 50 grams of carbs, and a little sodium. It could be in the form of a sports drink, powdered lemonade with a pinch of salt, or plain water with a bagel and jam, or a bowl of cereal.
What you eat during the ride depends on the duration. If you’re heading out for just an hour, water is fine. Any longer and you need to plan for about 30 grams of carbs per hour. That could be a 16-ounce sports drink or water plus an energy gel or chew. After a ride, your goal should be to rehydrate, replenish energy, and eat some protein to rebuild muscles. Chocolate milk has become the gold standard for a reason. It’s relatively cheap, tastes good, and has an optimal ratio of carbs to protein.
– Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, director of sports nutrition at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, as shared with Bicycling Magazine
Test Your Level of Hydration Before You Start Pedaling:
“Your starting level of hydration is likely to be important. If you start a race already partially dehydrated, than the amount you need to drink to satisfy thirst and prevent performance declines will likely be greater. If this volume exceeds what’s practical to carry or comfortably consume than performance degradation will occur.”
– Alan McCubbin is an Accredited Sports Dietitian, Accredited Practicing Dietitian and the President of Sports Dietitians Australia.
Remember That Hydration May Be A Science, But It’s Also As Easy As The ABCs
A. Weigh yourself naked on an accurate scale before an hour-long high-intensity activity, such as biking at your target pace. Write down your body weight in kilograms. (To convert from pounds to kilograms, divide pounds by 2.2)
**Drink a measured amount of a beverage of your choice during the activity if/when you’re thirsty. It’s important that you keep track of exactly how much fluid in ounces that you took in during the activity.
B. After biking, weigh yourself naked again on the same scale. Record your body weight in kilograms.
C. Subtract B from A.
D. Convert your total in C to grams by multiplying by 1,000.
E. Write down the amount of fluid you consumed during the run in milliliters. (To convert from ounces to milliliters, multiply ounces by 30.)
F. Add E to D.
– Formula provided by Douglas Casa, Ph.D, CamelBak hydration advisor and COO of the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI), as shared with Cristina Goyanes of Shape
Adhere to the World’s Easiest and Most Proven System:
Set an alarm for drinking and eating. It’s easy to set an alarm on your watch or bike computer to go off every 30 minutes to remind you to take on energy gels, bars or food and wash them down with water.
– Tom Eeles, Brevet Alpine Cycling Adventures
Don’t Save Hydration Until The Last Minute:
Drink when you feel good not when you feel bad. Don’t wait until you are thirsty. Every time you feel good, admire a nice view or change onto a new road, form a habit of taking a sip. Drink little and often to keep well hydrated.
– Tom Eeles, Brevet Alpine Cycling Adventures
Don’t Forget The Electrolytes – And Don’t Forget That You Don’t Have To Shell Out For Gatorade To Get Them:
I’ve started adding 1 pinch of unrefined sea salt per liter of water. Adding a pinch of unrefined sea salt is supposed to help your body better absorb and utilize the water you drink. This means you pee less of it out so you can get more out of the water you do drink.
– James Wilson, Pinkbike
Juice/salt and water works well: 350ml juice, 150ml water and 1/8 tspn salt. There are many recipes around. Just look for 6–8g of carbohydrate per 100ml of fluid and 300–700mg sodium per litre. Too much sodium will make the drink unpalatable and you won’t drink it. So some adjustment may be needed here to suit individuals likes/dislikes.
– Melissa Heagney, Ride On
Remember That It’s Not About What Works For Anyone Else:
Hydration is unique to you. So experiment with it to find what works for you.
– David Heatley, CyclingInform
What tips do you have for staying hydrated on the bike? We invite you to share them via a comment below.
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