Cycling Hydration 101: Tips to Help Improve Performance for Cyclists
Competitive cyclists are always searching for a way to increase endurance and lessen fatigue. If you’re one of them, you may not know that something as simple as proper hydration can give you the edge you need.
Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do to improve cycling performance. That’s because a proper cycling hydration plan helps you better retain fluids and tolerate the heat.
Wondering what and how much to drink before, during, and after your cycling workout? Then this guide is for you.
Cycling Tips for Hydrating Before the Ride
As your body temperature rises, your cycling performance tends to drop. The less fluid you lose, the cooler you are and the better you perform. It’s no wonder that many cyclists prefer to drink as much as possible before the ride.
The amount of water or electrolyte drink a cyclist needs is highly variable, which is why an individualized hydration plan is ideal. But when an individualized plan isn’t available, the amount of hydration a cyclist needs tends to range between 1.2 to 2 Liters of fluids per hour of exercise.
Water is always a great choice for cyclists, especially before your ride. Drink 12 to 16 ounces of water 4 to 6 hours before you cycle and another 12 ounces 2 hours before. If the weather is extremely hot, consider drinking more.
Water is great, but don’t overlook other beverages such as caffeinated sports drinks. Studies suggest caffeine can be beneficial for cyclists. For example, consuming 1 to 3 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight improves performance, heightens power output, and lengthens attention span.
Keep in mind that the hotter the weather, the less effective caffeine is. Cyclists who have high blood pressure, heart conditions, or take medication should talk to their physician about using caffeine before exercise.
Hydration for Cyclists During the Ride
As sport lore goes, you should only drink when you’re thirsty. But this saying does not hold true for long-distance cycling. In fact, studies suggest thirst is not the best indicator of hydration levels in general.
Proper cycling hydration should include drinking small amounts every 10 to 15 minutes during your workout. This helps replenish the water you lose through sweat, keeps you focused, and improves stamina.
Hydration while you cycle should change depending on the length of your ride. For instance, you should focus on replenishing liquids during sessions shorter than 1 hour. Bring a water bottle or an electrolyte-rich drink along for the ride.
While on medium-length rides ranging between 1 and 3 hours, cyclists should focus on carb replacement. Instead of drinking water during the ride, grab a few bottles of a carb-rich sports drink like 1st Endurance’s EFS Electrolyte Drink. Make sure you drink more often than just when you’re thirsty to stay hydrated until the finish line.
Rides lasting 3 or more hours deplete you of carbs and electrolytes. Bring two or more bottles of Gatorade (or coconut water for more health conscious cyclists) and, again, be sure to drink more than your thirst demands.
Cycling Hydration After the Ride
After sweating it out on your favorite trail, you need to replace the nutrients you lost. Recovery hydration should focus on:
- Stopping the breakdown of nutrients
- Consuming protein for muscle repair
- Restoring normal carbohydrate levels
Electrolyte-rich drinks help replenish nutrients and salt lost in your sweat. Without electrolytes, cyclists may experience severe muscle cramping due to low internal sodium levels. Meanwhile, protein can come from drinks like milk or from the meal you should be having within 2 hours after you cycle.
To restore energy levels, consume a high-carb beverage like the High5 Energy Drink. This drink contains a ratio of 2:1 glucose to fructose, which helps your body absorb carbs better and faster. If you prefer your cycling hydration homemade, you can also make your own high-carb energy drink.
When all else fails, hydrate according to the intensity of your workout. A good way to determine how much water or sports drink you need is to weigh yourself before and after you exercise. If you tend to weigh more after your ride, drink less water before, during, and after your workout. Conversely, if you weigh less, you should hydrate more next time you cycle.
A proper hydration plan can mean the difference between giving up on a hot day and having the stamina to finish your course. If you want to cycle longer and feel better doing it, make sure to follow our tips for cycling hydration.