More than just replacing the fluids we lose as sweat, drinking enough on the bike and being well hydrated on a ride can improve your cycling performance. Are you drinking enough on your rides?
Europe is experiencing a bit of a heatwave at the moment, with some places experiencing higher temperatures than have been seen in over 30 years. When out and about on the bike it becomes even more important to make sure you drink regularly and get enough fluids in especially to avoid dehydration and help manage core body temperature.
Having never ridden in such hot temperature before, I have recently been on a few rides where I have been impacted by extreme heat, and inadequate fluids.
One such ride started off well. I had two full bottles on my bike – one full of water and the other containing 3 electrolyte tablets.
One hour and 20 minutes and 40km later in 35 plus degree heat both bottles were empty and I could feel my head and body panicking. Totally overheating, my heart rate was going through the roof and I was starting to struggle to maintain speed and power. There was no way I’d make another 10km without getting another drink or being able to cool my body down.
Dropping off the back of the group i was riding with I stopped at the first tap I could find and pretty much sat under it until my body cooled down. Once I’d cooled down, refilled my bottles and drank plenty more I was able to think straight and get back on the bike again to rejoin the group at the cafe stop where they were waiting by the lake.
Why should we be drinking more on the bike?
Apart from the obvious making sure you replace the fluids you lose as sweat, there are a number of other reasons as to why it’s important to drink regularly on the bike.
Cyclists who are well hydrated and aren’t dehydrated have:
- Better temperature regulation
- Increased power output
- Faster speeds
- Better concentration on the bike
- Lower heart rate while riding
All of these factors can improve your performance as a rider – whether training or competing.
How much should I drink while riding?
Fluid plays many roles in improving your performance, health and wellbeing while on the bike. Just how much you need to drink per hour of exercise will depend on how far you ride, whether you are climbing or on the flats, how much you sweat and the temperature of the air around you.
As a bare minimum I would recommend riders aim for one 750ml bottle per hour of exercise. In hot or extreme conditions that should increase to 2 or more bottles an hour.
You can get a rough idea of how much fluid you are losing in sweat and how much you need to replace at a set temperature or intensity by weighing yourself before and after a ride and accounting for the distance.
For example. I recently went on a 4 hour 115km ride in 35 degree temperatures (stupid I know right?!). During the ride I drank at LEAST 6x 750ml bottles – 4.5L total, yet when I got home I was still 1kg lighter than I was before the ride. This would suggest that I needed to drink about 2 bottles per hour of riding and would have benefited from a couple more water stops along the way.
Knowing where to access water can be a challenge at times. I recently discovered WeTap – a free app that shows free public drinking water fountains. It definitely helps when riding in new locations to locate water stops.
For more details on how much to drink while riding, check out my post on hydration and cycling performance