A Fast Way to Slow Down: Dehydration

water During the dog days of summer, one of main reasons for losing the pace on a ride is dehydration (greater than 1% loss of body weight in fluid loss).  The obvious solution seems  pretty simple:  drink water.  However, there are a few key points the experts agree on that will help you drink the right amount of water (and sports drink).  During your cycling season be sure to consider these guidelines:

  • Drink plenty of fluids while off the bike, especially the day before a long ride.
  • It’s good to know your sweat rate per hour (weigh yourself before and after a ride, a pound lost is 16 fluid ounces). 
  • Counter fluid loss with an similar fluid intake during the ride.  The sweat rate tells you how much, but generally, 4 to 8 oz every 10-15 minutes is required depending on temperature.  If it extremely warm consider drinking 20 oz of cold water two hours before and 8 to 16 oz 30 minutes before (nothing inside of 20 minutes).
  • If you wait until you are thirsty to drink–you’re late in taking in fluids. Some riders set a timer on their sports watch to remind them every 10 minutes.
  • Just drinking water during long rides is typically not enough.  Sports drinks have sodium, potassium, and electrolytes.  For very long rides on very hot days, I carry a CamelBak of water and two bottles of sports drink (one frozen).
  • There is also a needed balance between sports drink and water.  You can drink too much water.  You can dilute the much needed electrolytes in your sports drink (watch out for hyponatremia in very long rides).  I like to alternate between the two until towards the end of the ride.  Then it’s sports drink to the end.  Again, this is for longer rides.  For shorter ones less than 2 hours, it is not as critical.  You can put a pinch of salt in your water or carry salt pills, too.
  • You can drink more than you system can process (not comfortable to ride with a stomach full of water).  Remember your sweat rate.
  • Keep drinking after the ride.  Water and sports drinks are best, of course.
  • Picking a sports drink that works for you is important.  Taste and “after-effects” can have a lot to do with it.  Also be cautious of drinks with fructose.  A sugar high often comes with a crash.

How do you know if you’re not drinking enough during your rides? The tell-tale signs:

  • urinating less during the rest of the day
  • dark yellow urine
  • headaches
  • losing more than two pounds during the ride

Yes, it’s a little bit art and a bit science to find the right balance.  Experiment until you find a good balance.  How you feel at the end of the ride is the best indicator.


4 Responses to “A Fast Way to Slow Down: Dehydration”

  1. 1 Gini Dietrich August 6, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Jeff, great post! I’m always amazed when I ride with the guys for 50 miles and their water bottles are still full at the end of the rides. Like you, I carry a frozen bottle, a bottle full of sports drink (I LOVE http://www.therightstuff-usa.com/ ), and two bottles of water with ice.

    Then I use G2 or chocolate milk immediately after the ride to replenish my electrolytes and give me some protein. I also keep a 48 ounce bottle on my desk full of water so I drink all day.

    • 2 bikewhisperer August 6, 2009 at 10:18 pm

      I can’t believe I forgot to mention Chocolate Milk, a rider’s must-have post-ride drink. I drink it after almost every ride. I’ll try out The Right Stuff. Thanks for the tip.

  2. 3 Rusty Speidel August 11, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    I’m a First Endurance man for fuel and Ultragen for recovery.

    What kills me is that I fail to drink enough before and after. Is it bad to hate the taste of water? 😉

    • 4 bikewhisperer August 11, 2009 at 4:05 pm

      You crack me up, Rusty. When training for the Hotter’n Hell Hundred, I try to keep water within arms reach during the day. If I can make it a habit, I don’t have to think about it, right?
      Keep pedaling!

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