5 Tips for Cyclists to Stay Hydrated
Say No to Dehydration!
Cycling in the hotter months can be tough; you have to get up at the crack of dawn to try and beat the worst (or best?!) of the sun, but often after just a short while on the road, there’s no escaping it. It beats down on you and it doesn’t take long before the legs turn to lead and the sweating becomes too much, and let’s face it, there’s only so many café breaks for a nice cold brew and an ice cream that you can justify!
The effect of exercising in the heat is dehydration, and it can happen very easily. Heck, even MAMILs can encounter dehydration just from the occasional flurry of a ride in between cafes…and if you don’t know what a MAMIL is, have a quick google, they’re a sight to behold. Anyway, studies show that surprisingly low levels of fluid loss can significantly impair your ability to ride, so it’s crucial to stay as hydrated as possible when riding in the heat or just riding in general. Here are a few handy tips:
Tips to Stay Hydrated
1. Monitor Your Own Hydration
There are a number of ways you can do this; one being to weigh yourself daily. Especially if you’re already pretty lean, sudden significant drops in weight may be the signal to increase your fluid intake. However, let’s be realistic, not all of us are that lean! So, another method to monitor hydration levels is to monitor your urine. It sounds fairly cave-man-style, but it works and it’s easy. Keep an eye on the colour and smell of your urine. Simply put, if it’s dark and it stinks, take a drink. If it’s light in colour, keep up the good work.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Yes, the classic line, but it’s particularly true when it comes to hydration. If you start a ride bordering on dehydrated, well, it’s not going to be a happy ending. Make sure you take in enough water throughout the day before the ride; you can do this partly through foods with high-water content such as melons or oranges. If you’re riding at the crack of dawn, hydrate the day before. But don’t drink too excessively, you can over-do it leading to discomfort on the ride and a few too many toilet breaks!
3. Consider Electrolytes
As we sweat, we not only lose water, but electrolytes as well. Electrolytes are crucial to maintaining fluid balance in the body, and low electrolyte levels can result in impaired judgement, and fatigue, neither of which are exactly conducive to a good bike ride hey? There are plenty of foods that are high in electrolytes, but if you’re looking for a quick and easy fix that hits the spot each time, grab an electrolyte sports drink to fill up your bottle with. Staminade is a great option, and it has the benefit of added magnesium.
In the same way that it’s important to hydrate pre-ride, it’s equally important to rehydrate post-ride. You’ll have lost a lot of sweat, if you’ve been pedalling hard enough that is…MAMILs, we’re looking at you. Going for a coffee or even a beer is a great way to celebrate the end of a ride, but take it easy, both caffeine and alcohol actually dehydrate you further. So, make sure you drink plenty of water – and get those electrolytes back in your body post-ride, regardless of whether you go for a celebratory drink or not.
5. Sweat Test
Sounds glamorous doesn’t it? Yeah, it’s not, but if you’re serious about hydration, then you could conduct a sweat test. Weigh yourself in the nude before a ride, then ride for 60-minutes without a drink, and as soon as you get home, strip off, towel off any sweat from your skin, and weigh yourself again. The difference in the two weights in grams equates to the total fluid loss in millilitres. It will give you a rough idea of how much you need to drink to remain hydrated throughout a ride.
So, there you go, sound straight forward enough? Well then, Lycra on, helmet on, shoes on, and don’t forget those speedy sunnies! Time to get pedalling. Oh, but one last thing, make sure you plan plenty of café stop offs on your route…perhaps MAMILs have the right idea about cycling after all. Who doesn’t love a coffee and a cake after a ‘well earned’ ride hey? But go easy on the coffee!