Stay hydrated while cycling

The human body is made up of 60 per cent water, so it’s no surprise that hydration will have a significant impact on your sportive training.

Professional cyclists have a team of specialists monitoring their hydration levels when training and competing, but for everyone else, check out this guide to optimise your training through hydration.

Whether you’re cycling in hot temperatures or on a cloudy day, your body loses water and essential salts through sweat. If these are not replaced, you’ll become dehydrated, which compromises your performance and prolongs your recovery. A two to three per cent reduction in body mass via water loss will have an impact on your concentration, decrease your muscle power and can result in serious complications.

The following factors can all influence your hydration levels when cycling: 

  • Your hydration levels at the start of your ride – the more dehydrated you are to begin with, the more you’ll need to drink during your bike ride.
  • Sweat rate – often influenced by genetics, weather conditions, clothing and your fitness. A higher sweat rate results in your body needing a higher intake of fluids.
  • Genetics – every individual is different – the capacity to tolerate different amounts of fluid loss before exercise performance is impacted will vary from one person to the next.
  • Duration and intensity of bike ride – the longer the bike ride, or the harder the intensity of the workout, the more you are likely to sweat and will therefore need to replenish your fluids. 
  • Your training status – highly trained individuals can tolerate slightly different levels of fluid loss than more recreational riders.

Listening to your body’s thirst mechanism and checking your urine colour are both great indicators of when you need to take in more fluid. 

Maintaining the correct fluid balance sounds easy, as many people think drinking water is enough, but water doesn’t contain electrolytes and so isn’t the most efficient way to stay hydrated while cycling. 

There are a number of sports drinks and tablets available on the market, so making sure you’re using the right one is a good place to start and will help you become a better rider. Many sports hydration tablets don’t contain any carbohydrates and although some people think this is an advantage, in reality, your body needs a small amount of carbohydrate to absorb the electrolytes and water.