Hydration 101

1) Don’t wait until you are thirsty to start drinking; your thirst reflex is not initiated until you have lost ~3% of your body weight which can inhibit overall physical performance by as much as 15%! A lot of cyclists have trouble with this because the cooling effect of the wind distorts their inherent need to drink. Furthermore, in dry climates like the desert, the sweat evaporates on your skin quicker so you don’t necessarily feel like you are losing a whole bunch. Most athletes require 1-2 water bottles or ~16-32 ounces of fluid per hour to prevent the debilitating effects of dehydration. The best way to consume this: Sip on 4-6 ounces of fluid every 10-15 minutes of riding.

2) Water is an appropriate fluid choice the first couple hours of riding but if you are doing anything a bit more strenuous (like a hot century ride), make sure to include salt in the mix. I recommend the following:

  • The day leading up to the event, snack on salty foods/beverages (e.g., pretzels, saltine crackers, V8)
  • Consume a salty meal ~2 hours before the event start. One of my favorite pre-ride rituals includes salted nut butter/banana spread/sliced onto a couple slices of whole grain bread and served with a glass of low-fat chocolate milk (milk actually has a great electrolyte profile). You may also choose to sip on ~16 ounces of a salty sports drink or consume 1-2 electrolyte capsules like Thermolyte (www.sportquestdirect.com) in the hour leading up event start.
  • After about 2 hours of cycling, be sure to transition into a sports drink, which will allow for optimal muscle performance and uptake of fluid. Most athletes require ½-1 gram of salt per hour so depending on your nutrition products of choice, electrolyte capsules may or may not be warranted.

These are just guidelines. Some people require more fluids than other. Personally I require a lot less.