Hydration – Why it’s Important
Everyone knows you can’t live without water. But do you know WHY we need water when we’re doing strenuous activities? All our bodies have an “optimal” temperature. As sweat evaporates from our skin, it removes heat from the body, but with that also comes a loss of body fluid. When working out or on a strenuous ride, we need to be hydrating our body and replacing the fluids we lose when we sweat.
HOW TO HYDRATE ON YOUR RIDE
Drink When You are Thirsty
Each of our bodies knows exactly when we are thirsty and how much water we need. Thankfully, that meter is built into our body. When you feel thirsty, your body needs water. Once you’ve drank water and you no longer feel thirsty, stop drinking. If you want to better know how your body holds water, try weighing yourself before and after your ride. If you are losing more than 3% of your body weight, you are not drinking enough water. If you are losing less than 3% of your body weight or not losing anything, you are drinking enough water.
Every body is different and you will have to tailor your water intake accordingly. Think of this as a little experiment. If you are lost, a bottle every hour is a good place to start and then you can try something different on your next ride.
Don’t Fear Sodium or Sugar
Salt tends to get a bad rap in mainstream nutrition. As an athlete, salt is an essential electrolyte that HAS to be replenished throughout the course of a long workout. Which can’t be done on water alone. Elliot Freeman said, “Our strongest advice is that you can’t hydrate with just water for long workouts. The way it works is that you need to keep your blood sodium levels in balance. One of the things that drives that balance is your thirst. When the blood sodium concentration goes up, we get thirsty. If we only drank water, over a long period of time, our thirst mechanism would keep us from replacing all the water we lost to maintain sodium balance, causing us to dehydrate and potentially hurt our performance.” Water is great, but it can’t be our only focus. Sugar is also important when it comes to hydrating. Sugar helps with the absorption of water into the bloodstream. Next time you feel guilty for drinking a sugary sports drink, remember that it is actually helping you hydrate.
Prioritize Pre & Post Ride Hydration
Planning how you will stay hydrated during the ride is so important. However, it is also important to hydrate BEFORE you ever clip in. A lot of pro athletes will drink a bottle of water before a ride even begins to ensure they start out on the right foot.. or tire for that matter..
Now that you know how to hydrate before and during a ride, the work isn’t over quite yet. Make sure you are hydrating post-ride as well so your body can recover faster. It is recommended that you eat real food to get 1,000 calories back within the first hour post-ride or race and in the first 20 minutes of completing the ride/race you drink a very large bottle that contains super-simple sugars, carbohydrates, and also has sodium and water content.
Every cyclist and athlete will have different hydration needs. The point is that you should experiment in daily training to find the right hydration for yourself. Keep these basic tips in mind as you are out riding and you will be a well-oiled (and hydrated) machine! Click here to see the different kinds of packs you can use on your rides to ensure you never run out of water while out on your bike.