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How to Stay Hydrated this Winter

Hopefully you read our Winter Cycling 101 blog and have been keeping the pedals turning over winter

However, are you drinking enough on your winter bike rides?

While we’re all too ready to keep the energy levels topped up in winter at our favourite bakeries and cafes, cyclists are notoriously bad at keeping hydrated as we tick off the winter miles. When the mercury is sub-zero and we’re struggling to keep ourselves warm, the idea of sipping the cold drink in our bottles certainly doesn’t appeal.

You can’t stop drinking just because it’s cold

We won’t go into the science too far here, but dehydration impacts our performance significantly, primarily due to reduced blood volume and increased heart rate.

But don’t go thinking that you’re only at risk of dehydration when it’s hot – the risk is just as present in the cold of winter.

Although we sweat less when the temperature drops, we are losing a lot of moisture from our bodies through the evaporation of our breath, and because the constriction of blood vessels (our body’s response to the cold) causes ‘cold diuresis’ – which is the reason why we need to pee more when out in the cold weather.

Everyone has slightly different hydration needs, and how much fluid we require also depends on how intense our workout is. However, as a general rule, we suggest you try to drink a minimum of 500ml (18oz) per hour on the bike, no matter what the temperature.

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.

Hydration hacks this winter

The main thing that prevents us drinking enough in the cold weather is that we just don’t want to put something cold and possibly even icy in our body. 

KEEP IT HOT

The most basic way to get around the aversion to a cold drink is to carry something warm! Insulated water bottles are widely available nowadays, and will keep a drink warm for around an hour or so. Having a hot drink will actively encourage you to drink more as we crave the warm comforting feeling of having a hot drink.

The best hot drinks to fill a bottle with for your ride are:

  • Tea (add sugar or honey for energy on longer rides)
  • Coffee with sugar (add sugar or syrup for energy on longer rides)
  • Warm squash, cordial or diluted fruit juice

KEEP ON MOVING

Another thing preventing us drinking in winter is that sometimes, it’s just not possible as our fluids have frozen. If you don’t have an insulated bottle, you can try the following hacks to prevent that big freeze.

One solution to preventing your drink from freezing is to add a little dash of alcohol to it, but we’re far too responsible to suggest you do that! The best way to prevent your water from freezing is to keep the fluid moving around inside the bottle – and there are a few ways to do this:

  • Put an electrolyte tablet in with your water – the fizzing as it dissolves will delay the time until your drink freezes.
  • For similar reasons to the above, try a carbonated drink in the bottle.
  • Put a (clean!) marble in the bottle, to keep the fluid moving.
  • Alternate between putting the bottle into the water bottle cage the correct way around and upside down. It is typically the top layer of water that freezes first, and so this hack prevents that.

Put it in a pocket

If neither of the above methods are possible, you can also keep a drink from freezing over by storing your water bottle in your jersey pocket, or if you’re carrying one, a backpack. Keeping the water bottle out of the wind and close to the warmth of your body will prevent it from getting cold enough to freeze entirely.

Remind yourself

If you are using a bike computer on your rides, or wear a watch, setting a reminder to drink is useful. If you have a reminder go off every 20-30 minutes this can be used to prompt you to drink. Little and often is the best way to keep the fluids flowing, so aim to sip little and often rather than waiting an hour and then going crazy.

Pre and post-pedalling

We understand that even the hacks mentioned above may not be enough. To keep yourself healthy, keep hydrated through the entire day of your ride, particularly before and after your cycle. Ensure that you drink plenty before a long ride where you think you may not take on enough water, and make sure to re-stock your fluids when you’re finished.

A good way to get the body’s water levels back to where they should be after a ride is to eat foods with a high water content – you’re likely to be hungry from the ride, so hit two birds with one stone.

Most fruits are very high in water content, and you’ll get the added vitamin boost to stave off winter illnesses. Soups are also a great option for checking all the boxes after a cold ride – they’ll warm you, hydrate you, and refuel you all at once, and if pre-prepared, are quick and convenient.

Make it easy for yourself

There’s nothing worse than struggling to get at your water bottles because they’re too tight in the bottle cage and hard to remove. This is especially true of insulated water bottles, which can be a little wider than a normal water bottle due to the insulating layers around the outside of the bottle.

BOTTLE CAGES

PRO BIKE TOOL water bottle cages offer the ultimate solution for carrying your water bottles. Not only are they lightweight and look awesome, but they are unique in that there is a small amount of flex in the wings. Having a small bit of ‘play’ in the wings allows you to carry any width of conventional bike water bottle, whether it be insulated or standard. What's more, the cages are extremely durable – meaning they won’t fatigue or weaken in the sub-zero conditions, and will survive the muddiest of trails or snowiest of gravel adventures.

So, get out and get riding this winter, just don’t forget your water!

Also keep a drink from freezing over by storing your water bottle in your jersey pocket, or if you’re carrying one, a backpack. Keeping the water bottle out of the wind and close to the warmth of your body will prevent it from getting cold enough to freeze entirely.

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