Staying hydrated and prepared
June 11 — 2021 | Santa Cruz, California
Here’s a fascinating little tidbit for you. Did you know that exercise suppresses thirst? That's a legit truth bomb right there. This means that by the time you feel thirsty, you’ve already started to become dehydrated.
Make it a habit! Drink at least 16 ounces before the ride and start to drink more early in the ride, even before you get the urge to drink. Because you can’t rely on feeling thirsty to replenish your reserves, it’s imperative that you remember this tip. Especially because even minor dehydration can result in a 10-20% decrease in your performance. That really adds up when considering trying to hang with your pals for that final lap. It could be the difference between ending the ride in celebration or nursing a bruised ego because you knew you were capable of more.
HOW MUCH TO DRINK
Hydrating is a massive priority to avoid cramping, exhaustion, and just overall embarrassment. We’ve all seen the guy who goes too hard only to end up trail-side with locked up hammies. As a general rule, try to drink one 20-ounce bottle every hour of ride time. If you’re not prehydrated, or started the day hungover and craving a bacon burrito, plan on bringing an extra bottle on the ride too. Continue to hydrate post-ride with 20 ounces each hour.
WATER VERSUS SPORTS DRINKS
Drink mixes and electrolytes can be a fantastic addition to fending off dehydration and keeping the vibes high with your best performance. If you’re only riding 60-90 minutes at moderate pace, opt for plain water. Anything beyond that duration or intensity, grab a drink that contains both electrolytes and carbohydrates. When you sweat, you lose vital salts and minerals that need to be replaced to restore your body’s PH balance. Without this balance, muscle cramps can set in and ruin your day.
Simple carbohydrates absorb quickly to give you an instant boost, and having them in liquid form is an easy way to keep them coming into the body to keep the pedals turning. Find a mix that gives you a combination of both simple and complex carbohydrates for immediate and longer-lasting energy. There are an endless number of brands to choose from, so don’t be afraid to ask more experienced riders for recommendations.
If you’re totally bonking toward the end of a ride, down a Coke or other sugary drink! Caffeinated beverages are a great pick-me-up, but try to hold off until the end of the ride. If taken too early, caffeine’s short term effects can wear off mid-ride, leaving you back on the struggle bus.
STORAGE & GEAR
Make sure you have a setup with ample storage for both your water stash and your bacon burrito. Use a combination of frame-mounted water bottle cages, jersey pockets, and a hydration hip pack or backpack. Hip packs can be more comfortable because they sit at the waist and don’t flop upward in critical moments of descending like a backpack can. Make sure to get what is comfortable and practical for you.
Minimize dehydration by choosing the right gear, which means choosing lightweight, light-colored, properly-wicking fabrics. Ride in the cooler parts of the day as much as possible during warm months. Humid environments can be the most brutal, so plan to replace electrolytes, water, and carbohydrates even more than other environments.
To summarize: drink up before the ride, drink before you’re thirsty, drink often, drink after. Got it? Nice!