The Importance of Hydration on the Bike

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Hydration on the bike is an easy thing to get right, but an even easier thing to get wrong. It’s easy to forget to drink when you’re cycling; unless you’re working really hard, you may not noticeably sweat as the airflow on your body evaporates the moisture before you realise it’s there.

60% of our bodies is made up of water, and if this volume decreases even a small amount, our performance on the bike suffers greatly. A 2% drop in our body weight due to water lost from sweat is enough to make a massive difference to a ride as a result of many things, but notably a reduction in blood volume and increased rate of energy use by our muscles. Both of these will slow you down and could have a health impact!

A general rule of thumb for hydration is to drink around 500ml (the size of a standard volume bike bottle) per hour. If you’re riding hard, or it’s really hot, this can increase to up to 1000ml per hour. These recommendations can vary slightly dependent on how much you sweat, so you may need to experiment slightly.

Another key thing to remember is that you’re drinking for the future, not the immediate moment. If you start drinking when you’re thirsty, you’re leaving it too late! You should start sipping on your drink within the first 15-20 minutes of your ride, and keep drinking little and often from there on.

On rides over around 90 minutes, it may be worth considering taking a sports drink. There are various types of sports drink available, falling into two basic types.

Some sports drinks are zero carbohydrate, but contain electrolytes. Electrolytes are the various minerals that we lose in sweat, such as sodium and potassium. These are essentials for maintaining proper cellular and muscular function. However, as these contain no carbohydrate, they won’t provide you an energy boost.

If you’re on a long or hard ride, a drink that contains carbohydrate is a good idea, as they will provide energy to keep the legs turning. You ideally want to be taking on around 40-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour on longer rides through food and drink, so take a look at the nutrition information on the packet when choosing your product.

Last but not least, make sure you enjoy the taste of whatever you have in your bottles! If it tastes good, you’re more likely to drink it, and you’re more likely to stay hydrated.
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