Whether you’re training or racing, hydration is key to performance. Ensuring that you’re not wasting valuable time on the bike by dehydrating your body will lead to optimum results. Cramp, sickness, dizziness, a lack of power, can all be a cause of dehydration. Being hydrated is fundamental for your brain and muscles to work at their best, not to mention the way it will help recovery. We’ve listed out some of things you’ll need to consider to keep your hydration levels maxed out.
Without making an effective hydration plan, it’s very easy to get caught out. Although your sweat rates are elevated in high temperatures, it doesn’t have to be baking hot or super sunny for you to be dehydrated – you’ll still be sweating if it’s cold. So making sure you’re properly hydrated can be key in any conditions.
Start as you mean to go on:
If you start the ride dehydrated then it’s unlikely that you’ll ever reach a point in which your body is fully hydrated. In the build up to the ride you’ll need to make sure you take on plenty of hydration, and this doesn’t mean water! Water can flush out all the electrolytes stored in your body in essence diluting the stores. This will mean you’re susceptible to cramp. Building up the electrolytes a day or two before the event can help you come race day.
The build up shouldn’t start hours before the race – 48 hours before should be enough to start to build up the stores. Regular visits to the toilet will indicate how hydrated you are – though begin to reduce the fluid intake 2-3 hours before the race to give it chance to pass through your system so you’re not constantly stopping at the portaloos!
What’s the Limit?
Knowing how much your kit can hold is a must when you’re out on the bike. If you know you can carry 1.5L of fluid on the go, that’s enough for up to 3 hours of moderate exercise, and you may need to refill if you know you’re going past this limit.
The limit of how much fluid your body will handle will also vary from person to person. This will change depending on a number of influencing factors from how hard you’re working to what you’re wearing. This means that what works for the rider next to you, won’t necessarily work for you. So similarly to nutrition, it’s best to find a strategy that works.
Listening to your body is vital here – drinking to thirst is the best way to hydrate but be sure you don’t take in more than the stomach can absorb. Mixing electrolyte drinks or tabs with water are a great way to ensure that you’re not losing too much salt.
There’s no correct recommended dose for nutrition. Everyone will be able to give you an estimate of what you should be taking to fuel – but you’ll have to work out for yourself what works. Taking the hydration little and often is the most efficient way for it to be absorbed in your stomach.
Drinking for energy can be a tricky balance to get right, it is often easier if you drink to hydrate and eat to fuel. Separating the two can ensure you’re getting the right levels of food and hydration and striking a careful balance.
Learning where the aid stations are on events is a must so that you know when the next bottle is coming. If you’re training you can dash into the local corner store, cafe, pub, supermarket or petrol station to refill the bottles – provided you have a bit of cash – though most places will fill it for free if you ask nicely. Also learning what they have to offer will be important – if you’re racing try the fuel first. If it’s a training session then carrying some spare electrolyte tabs to add to the water can be a great way to keep on top.
No matter what you’re training or preparing for, we hope that you find some of these tips useful to get your fueling strategy right when it counts.