You might be surprised to find that staying hydrated on the bike is actually significantly more complex than simply filling your bottle and taking a sip every now and then.
Choose what to drink.
Now you know how much you should be drinking on your ride, the next thing to think about is what to put in your bottle. If a ride is short (less than an hour) or low intensity (just spinning the legs), water is probably just fine. But, if you’re a salty sweater or the ride is going to be a particularly hard or long one, it’s worth thinking about an electrolyte or sports drink to help you fuel properly. If you often notice you have salt marks on your clothes or crusty white salt crystals on your brow – it’s likely you’re a salty sweater and adding an electrolyte tablet to your bottle is a good idea. If you’re riding at high intensity or for a long period of time, alternating between a sports drink and water will give you the energy to keep the legs moving. There are lots of different options out there so you’ll have to do some testing to see which works best for you.
Think about what happens after you step off the bike.
It is not necessary or practical to replace all fluid losses during a training session or race. Instead, use the next four to six hours after you get off the bike to rehydrate. To rehydrate properly you need to drink one–and-a-half times the amount you lose in weight (refer back to your fluid balance test). So, if you lose 1kg during a three hour race, you need to drink 1.5L in the next four to six hours to make up for it, all before you head to the pub!
Realise there is always an exception to a rule…
Everyone is different. What works for you won’t necessarily work for your mate and to follow a strict hydration plan can be unrealistic. The conditions, the ride and how you’re feeling that day will all impact how much and when to drink, so the most important thing is to listen to your body. If you’re thirsty or feeling foggy and tired after sessions, you need to be drinking more, and if you’re feeling good, you’re probably doing well! And if you’re not sure, it’s best to see a Sports Dietitian who can work out a tailored plan to suit you.
Words: Zoe Wilson
Photos: Mike Blewitt