Hydration is a tricky subject. When I started cycling, I had a coach who believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that water made cyclists soft. It’s an old European cycling myth that rivals any of the countless do’s and don’t a cyclist needs to adhere to in order to be tough enough for the sport.
Because of this, I developed the bad habit of not drinking enough water on the bike. It’s something I still struggle with. I’ve been known to drink only two bottles on a six-hour ride. I’m not bragging, just illustrating how ingrained this bad riding habit is in my psyche. I’m not alone as a chronic-dehydrator, so I thought I’d share some strategies I’ve developed to help me stay hydrated on and off the bike.
The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is drink a tall glass of water. Depending on how much sleep I’ve had the night before, it goes without saying it’s been a number of hours since I’ve last had some water. This glass of water prepares me for a ride if I have one, or just for the day ahead of me.
The old adage of eight glasses of water a day may or may not be accurate, but what could it hurt? We are 60% water after all. While hyponatremia (water intoxication) is a real thing, spacing those glasses out over the waking day will assure that it isn’t an issue. I’ve found in doing so, I stay properly hydrated on and off the bike.
As I sit here and the humidity level of the air I breath hovers around nineteen-percent. As the days get shorter and the air gets drier, our need to consume more water grows. Keep in mind the simple act of breathing leads to water loss. The more dry the air, the more water we lose through respiration. This again underscores the importance of staying hydrated.
On the bike
As I’ve already established, I’m terrible at drinking water on the bike. It’s why staying hydrated off the bike is so important. But I have developed a fool proof system to ensure I’m drinking enough water when I ride. I simply take a sip from my bottle every ten minutes whether I feel like it or not. I still have a long way to go as far as not thinking drinking water on the bike makes me soft. Regardless, I can’t ignore the fact that when I keep up on my water consumption, I simply ride better.
Keep it simple
People get carried away with all sort of fancy drink mixes, and that’s great if it gets you to get the proper amount of fluids, but it’s not necessary. The simple truth is nothing hydrates better than water.
“But what about electrolytes?”, you may be asking. Yes, electrolytes are important, especially when exercising. But they are easily obtained by a little bit of sodium and potassium. That means you can simply mix a little salt into your water and eat a banana to replace the electrolytes those expensive drink mixes claim to replenish so efficiently.
I for one do not like coconut water, but I use it in my water bottles. I can’t drink the stuff straight, so I cut it with water. One part water, two parts coconut water. While I’m not a big fan of the taste, I simply haven’t found a better all natural hydration solution. I like that it doesn’t have a laundry list of ingredients, is isotonic, and has enough calories to keep me going. Keep an eye on the ingredient list however, as many companies add sugar.
Even if you are mindful of drinking water, staying hydrated is a constant struggle. It can be hard to remember to drink the proper amount of water daily. Throw in some vigorous cardiovascular exercise and the need for staying hydrated is amplified. Not only do we sweat away precious fluids, but the simple act of breathing causes us to lose water. So if you haven’t had a glass of water in the last hour, take a minute and do so. Stay hydrated, and as always, keep the rubber side down!