A few years ago, exercise physiologists recommended taking a large swig of water or sports drink every 15 minutes while riding, winter and summer. But recently, thinking has changed. Now experts warn against over-hydration and suggest drinking when thirsty. Still, it’s easy to get dehydrated in the winter when thirst mechanisms are blunted by the cold.
Some Tips to Stay Hydrated
Start long cool- or cold-weather rides with two largebottles. Drink according to thirst and maybe just a bit more. On a long ride, refill at a convenience store or other stopping point. Sure, it’s chilly and you’re not very thirsty. But remember how much slower you’ll be going if you get dehydrated – and how much less fun the ride will be.
Practice drinking on the bike. Some riders aren’t comfortable taking one hand off the bar, slipping the bottle from the cage, drinking and then replacing it – all the while keeping their eyes ahead and riding a straight line. So they don’t do it nearly often enough, and they become dehydrated. The solution is simple: practice.
Develop your technique in an empty parking lot or on a lightly traveled road with a wide shoulder. Next, practice when riding with a friend and, finally, in a small group. When in a paceline, remember that it’s safer to drink when you’re last in line. Swerving or letting a gap open won’t impact the other riders.
Try warm liquids. There’s nothing like a hot drink on a cold ride. Tote hot chocolate, tea or coffee in an insulated bottle. Instead of carrying it in a bottle cage, tuck it into your middle jersey pocket under a jacket so it stays warm longer. Or stop mid-ride at a coffee shop or convenience store for a hot beverage.
Restore sodium levels. Ever notice a white stain that forms on your clothes and helmet straps during a ride? It’s salt that you’ve sweat out, and it needs to be replaced. Low sodium levels are associated with increased incidence of cramps. Heavy sodium losses can lead to hyponatremia, a potentially life-threatening condition. Your sports drink should contain at least 100 mg of sodium per 8 ounces (check the label).
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.