As a cyclist, you know hydration is important — but that doesn’t mean you have all the answers. For a crash course in everything you need to know about hydration, check out the following important things you need to know about hydration for cyclists. A little knowledge and a lot of common sense are really all you need to ensure you are sufficiently hydrated for your bike rides!
No. 1: How Much Water Does A Cyclist Need in a Day?
You may have heard that you need to drink eight glasses of water each day. Although that’s a reasonable goal, everyone’s needs are different. Most people can let thirst be their guide. Urine also offers clues about how well hydrated you are. Dark urine indicates dehydration, while light yellow or colorless urine means you’re well hydrated. Colorless urine may indicate that you are drinking a little too much fluid.
In general, most people are guided by thirst, and it is a pretty accurate guideline.
According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, most women need 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids daily, while most men need 15.5 cups (3.7 liters). Keep in mind, though, that about 20 percent of your daily fluid intake will come from food. Also, cyclists may require more water than the average person because of the fluid lost through sweat.
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No. 2: Are Sports Drinks a Better Choice for Cyclists?
When you sweat, your body loses both water and electrolytes. Sports drinks like Gatorade were designed to replace both, which might make you think they are a smart alternative to water before, during, and after a bike ride, workout, or any other activity that causes you to break a sweat.
However, apart from water, Gatorade contains sucrose (table sugar), dextrose, citric acid, natural flavor, sodium chloride (table salt), sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, and flavoring/coloring ingredients. In case you are counting, that’s two kinds of sugar (sucrose and dextrose). Plus a whole bunch of chemicals. All in all, you are way better off to make your own electrolyte. I like this recipe here for a natural homemade electrolyte.
If that is too hard to do, you could use a medical grade electrolyte. It will not taste as good as Gatorade, but it will be much better for you.
In general, it is better for most of us to avoid processed foods, and to avoid any food-like substance that has sugar listed in its top three ingredients.
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No. 3: Proper Hydration is Important for Cyclists
When you are properly hydrated, your body functions better. Water helps you get rid of waste and regulate your body temperature. It also protects sensitive tissues and provides lubrication and cushioning for your joints — which can have an impact on your cycling performance.
And of course, if you are the kind of cyclist who engages in competitive or endurance cycling events, your need for hydration will be greater.
Use an App
If you have trouble with hitting your daily hydration goal or keeping track of how much water you drink, download the Lifesum app. Not only does Lifesum help you track your water and food intake, but it can also remind you to drink water throughout the day.
No. 4: When and How Cyclists Should Hydrate
Cyclists should try to drink about 12 ounces of water four hours before starting a ride, then another 12 ounces two hours before. Note that a standard cup holds 8 ounces of water.
During your ride, drink enough water to match your rate of sweating. That could mean 2 cups on a cool day, or up to four times that amount on a very hot day.
Most of the time, water is fine. However, if you are sweating a lot — whether because the ride is long, hot, or intense — an electrolyte drink may be necessary. If your sweat tends to be particularly salty, you can try adding a little sodium to your water – up to a quarter teaspoon per two cups (source: Douglas Casa, Ph.D., director of athletic training education at the University of Connecticut).
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No. 5: Common Myths About Hydration
Some myths have already been addressed in this post, such as the eight-glasses-per-day myth, and the idea that pure water is always the best choice. However, you may also be interested to know that caffeine is only minimally dehydrating when consumed in moderate amounts — especially when accompanied by exercise (source: Runners World).
Finally, you should note that as necessary as water is, it is definitely possible to drink too much. Doing so can leave your blood sodium levels dangerously low and can cause serious health problems.
Whether you only cycle for fun or regularly compete in big races, follow the guidelines above to stay properly hydrated for your cycling adventures.
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