Hydration is essential in maintaining your health and performance while on rides. Our bodies rely on fluids in cells and blood vessels, but blood plasma volume decreases when dehydration occurs. This reduction in blood volume directly affects your performance, as blood is responsible for transporting oxygen and vital nutrients to your muscles. Insufficient blood volume delays oxygen transport, leading to fatigue, decreased power output, and impaired muscle repair and recovery. Inadequate hydration also interferes with removing lactic acid from your muscles, contributing to fatigue.
Sweating is a natural mechanism that helps regulate body temperature by cooling us down when we overheat. However, sweating causes the loss of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and calcium, which must be replenished. Dehydration not only leads to an imbalance of electrolytes but also affects muscle and nerve function, nutrient absorption, and joint lubrication. Electrolytes are vital for maintaining fluid balance, easing muscle contraction and relaxation, enabling quick reflexes and coordination, and promoting mental clarity. With enough hydration, focus is maintained, and the risk of injury increases.
No matter how much effort you put into improving your cycling power and speed, neglecting proper hydration can make all your training useless. Making hydration a priority before, during, and after your rides is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to enhance your performance. It only requires a well-thought-out plan and consistent practice.
What to Drink While Cycling?
- Water: For short rides lasting less than an hour and low-intensity cycling, plain water can maintain hydration. However, longer rides and excessive sweating necessitate electrolytes and, potentially, carbohydrates to be replaced.
- Electrolyte Supplement Drinks: Intense or endurance rides require drinks with high sodium concentrations. It is recommended to consume between 500–1,000mg of sodium per liter of fluid during excessive exercise. Hydration drinks should also contain other electrolytes, such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium, lost through sweat. Most electrolyte supplement drinks are low in carbohydrates and calories, so energy replacement should be done through food or gels for rides lasting more than 90 minutes.
- Carbohydrate Drinks: Carbohydrate hydration drinks, containing a combination of carbs and electrolytes, are ideal for rehydration and refueling. Endurance cyclists should consume a specific amount of carbohydrates per hour based on the length of their rides. Carbohydrates can be consumed through drinks, gels, food, or a combination. Isotonic carbohydrate drinks have the same concentration of carbs, electrolytes, and water as the body's cells, ensuring rapid absorption and readily available energy for max performance.
Proper hydration is essential for your health and performance while cycling. Dehydration can impact your performance by reducing blood volume, limiting oxygen transport to your muscles, and hindering muscle repair and recovery. Electrolyte imbalance due to sweating further affects muscle and nerve function, nutrient absorption, and joint lubrication. By prioritizing hydration before, during, and after rides, you can optimize your performance and reduce the risk of fatigue and injury. Remember to choose the appropriate drinks based on the duration and intensity of your ride, ensuring a balance of electrolytes and carbohydrates to fuel your body effectively. Stay hydrated and enjoy your rides to the fullest!