Proper Hydration Leads to Better Bike Rides: 5

Everyone knows that when you exercise hard you need to rehydrate to keep the human machine rolling smoothly. The question is how much to drink, when and what? Those are the real important questions. When it comes to hydration there is no lack of articles and information out there but we can agree on some cardinal rules that all can follow. Below is a list of the golden rules of hydration and how to plan accordingly for a happy hydrated bike ride. So drink up and set yourself up for success on your next ride in the heat!

1. Know your ride time, your ride intensity and hydrate accordingly: Planned ride times, weather conditions, and ride intensity dictate how much and what you should be consuming. We can generally say there are three different lengths of rides; 1 hour (short) 2 hours (medium) 3+ (long). A good rule of thumb is to drink 20-24 ounces of fluid per hour while on the bike.

Most experienced riders will take one bottle of electrolyte or isotonic drink mix and one bottle of plain water for an hour long ride. Unfamiliar with electrolytes? Electrolytes are a compound of salts that maintain fluid and acid base balance, making them indispensable for a healthy body especially for endurance athletes. So drink up and drink often because when you're cycling dehydrated it's not only uncomfortable, but you lose power output, reduce your endurance, but most of all, dramatically increase the risk of cramping.

2. What's the weather situation? Look at the weather forecast for when you plan on riding. What does it say? Hot and humid? If you're lucky maybe 70 with a cool tailwind! No matter what it says you should plan your hydration accordingly. There's no need to ride with two bottles of mix on the bike and one in the jersey if you're going out for an hour recovery ride but if its 103 degrees and humid there may be a need to. A good rule is 77 degrees and cooler use one bottle of electrolyte mix and one bottle plain water. When the temperature reaches over 77 degrees go with two bottles of mix and make sure to eat correctly. You will ingest most of your electrolytes from the drink mix but don't forget gels and food while you're riding. Most gels contain electrolytes and carbs that fuel caloric needs that can offset fatigue and fuel the body in times of stress.

3. How much do I need to drink for my body? Know thy self. Your body is your own and will have different hydration needs then other cyclists. The rate that you lose electrolytes and water from sweat is determined by fitness, body chemistry, and genetics. So hydrate for you and know what you need as an athlete require to be at your best. A cyclist can lose up to one liter or two pounds of sweat during a one hour cycling. That being said, aim to drink 20-24 ounces of fluids per hour on your ride no matter what. Seasoned veterans will tell you that proper hydration starts before the ride.

Another way to access your current hydration techniques and determine how much you need for your body is to simply step on the scale. Any scale will work; all you're doing is measuring your body weight pre and post ride. Note how much weight is lost from different drink mixes and different hydration techniques. Aim to maintain your beginning weight; try not to loose and not to gain weight. Gaining weight after a ride could be from over hydration and could affect your body adversely towards proper cycling performance as well cause GI issues and sloshing.

4. Plan accordingly for your races and training. What is your next training ride or race? Is it a quick spin around town for an hour? Or is it a 3 hour ride riddled with interval after interval to simulate the stress of racing? For either ride you must plan accordingly, know what you're needs are and set yourself up for success. Look up your route on a map and scout places where you can refill your bottles or grab a snack. There's no feeling like riding bonked and looking for that oasis of a fountain in the desert. Don't let this happen to you. A great tip shared with me is to use an old pill or prescription bottle and fill it with your favorite drink mix. I suggest the prescription bottle for its size, availability, and security. This will serve you greatly when you arrive at the park water fountain and fill up. Allowing you to keep your pace strong and your electrolytes on point. These tips are more important for the longer rides but practice makes perfect, so know your route and plan to succeed.

5. Recover like a Pro and feel like one the day after. Ok, so you just finished your ride, what to do now? Eat a big plate of pasta and rice and watch TV?

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