Hydrate Your Way to Fitness
There are a lot of myths about hydration, and about how and what you need to drink in order to stay fully hydrated. Hydration status is best thought of as the level of water in your body. This can be estimated using equipment that measures the electrical conduction (or ‘bio-impedance’) of a small current. You can even get bathroom scales that use this technology for under £50.
Probably the simplest hydration indicator is urine colour. Clear and copious is the goal! However, vitamin supplemented bars, gels and antioxidant supplements can cause dark urine, so be warned. Vitamins B and C can turn urine yellow even at small doses but this doesn’t necessarily mean you are dehydrated.
If you’re thirsty, drink
One of the major fallacies about fluid consumption is that you can teach yourself to survive without water. This probably stems from sports where fluid was restricted to minimise body weight, such as boxing and bodybuilding. Many old-school riders and coaches used to advocate this as a way to make riders harder and learn to survive without liquids. While it will make sessions harder and the rider (hopefully) mentally stronger, this is simply dangerous.
Fail to sweat effectively and your core temp can start to rise, leading to complications such as heat stroke. So if you’re thirsty, drink. As a rule, the larger the rider and the faster the speed, the greater the sweat rate, but in fit or larger individuals it is likely to exceed one litre per hour.
Drink even when it’s cold
In the summer good hydration is important because of the heat and faster riding speeds, meaning more and quicker heat build-up, but thinking about your hydration is not just confined to the hot months: exertion will lead to sweating, regardless of ambient temperature.
Drinking to offset the loss of fluid and help cool your body’s core is vital. You can survive an hour without drinking but several hours’ sweating, gaining internal heat, with blood that is getting thicker and less effective, is a recipe for disaster.
It is important for riders of all levels and abilities to see fluid replacement as part of riding and to learn how much they need to offset thirst and maintain energy levels.
Can’t drink? Make up for it afterwards
There will always be times when you can’t drink as much as you’d like and have to deviate from your normal drinking plan – whether because of the terrain, speed of riding or you’ve simply run out of liquids. You are likely to lose between one and two kilograms in average UK temperatures in a 25-mile race – but you will be able to complete it, just as marathon runners can run for more than two hours over a similar distance without drink.
Instead of worrying that you might be dehydrated, attend to your fluid replacement as soon as you can after the event. Your immediate post-ride hydration should constitute 150% of the missed fluid intake. If you usually drink 600ml in an hour, then you’ll need to take in 900ml of a sports drink with electrolytes after riding. These are best absorbed after being chilled in the fridge.
Improve on nature
Water. What could be better than pure, natural water? One of the biggest myths about Fluid intake is that you can’t beat water for hydration; it’s not true, you most certainly can. Sports drinks work better at maintaining hydration during rides and rehydrating you after, as the added electrolytes – sodium chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium – help your body maintain its optimum hydration status. Research shows that you absorb 35% more water, and re hydrate better, when consuming a 4:1 ratio carbohydrate and protein drink, than if you drink just water alone.
If ‘recovery-type’ drinks are too rich or expensive for you, down a bottle of your fluid replacement drink as soon as you get off your bike -you’ll still absorb three-quarters of what you drink.
Guest Post by Kashif Raza. Visit weightsbenchtraining.co.uk to find out tips about cheap weight benches.