Cyclists - What’s Your HQ (Hydration Quotient)?

As a cyclist, proper hydration is something to take seriously. It’s not always easy, however. You’re connected to a bike, often for hours at a time. When are you supposed to hydrate? What should you drink? How do you know how much to drink?

Your hydration intelligence is directly linked to your performance. If you’ve ever experienced leg cramps, you’re keenly aware of the effects of dehydration. But dehydration doesn’t always have such obvious signs. Because each cell in your body is primarily made up of water, every drop you lose through sweating and exertion must be replaced. Without proper hydration, your muscles can’t perform the way they should. Your brain can’t think and react as well. Your endurance and recovery are compromised. Perhaps the worst? Your brain tells you that you can’t keep going. It’s literally starving for nutrients so it’s convincing you to give up, slow down, pull over.

Giving up isn’t an option. If you want to have the stamina and will to keep in the race and kick ass, you need to understand hydration at a more scientific and cellular level. In essence, you need to get smart about how you hydrate.

At Trago, we know a lot about hydration. We’ve built our entire business around the importance of hydration. But we don’t want you to simply take our word for it so we’ve compiled a list of tips, tricks and facts you need to know to optimize your performance. We’re not going to give you a training regimen, but a hydration regimen. We think you’re hard work, blood, sweat and tears are worth it.

Related: What’s Your Sport HQ (Hydration Quotient)? Think You Know? Maybe Not.

 

Bicycling

Bicycling is a go-to website for many serious cyclists:

  • “When you are cycling, your muscles produce up to 100 times more heat than when you are at rest.”
  • “On a really hot day, you can lose more than two liters (about 67 ounces) of fluids per hour when exercising.”
  • “One study of trained cyclists found that without fluids they could barely finish a two-hour ride at 65 percent of maximum oxygen capacity.”
  • “Cyclists who lose a quart of fluid experience a rise in heart rate of eight beats per minute, a decrease in cardiac function, and an increase in body temperature. Dehydration may cause increased metabolic stress on muscles and faster glycogen depletion It also wreaks havoc on your internal thermostat by decreasing blood flow to the skin, slowing your sweat rate, and increasing the time needed for fluids to be absorbed into the bloodstream.” - Edward Coyle, Ph.D., Director of Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin
  • “People have different fluid needs depending on fitness, gender, body size, and environmental conditions.”
  • “Dr. Coyle found that diet cola replenished 54 percent of the fluid loss; water 64 percent; and sports drink, 69 percent.”
  • “Sodium makes your blood sponge-like, allowing you to absorb more water and excrete less, so snack on something a little salty.”
  • “Recently, we have learned that even mild dehydration - a body water loss of 1-2%- can impair cognitive abilities.” - Brenda Davy, Ph.D., RD, FACSM
  • “If you get dehydrated, your body will begin pulling water from muscle cells. You may start getting cramps, and if you use a power meter, you’ll likely see a real dip in the number of watts you can push. If you reach that point, chugging your sports drink or water won’t immediately reverse power losses or cramping because it takes a while to move water out of the stomach and into the bloodstream.” - Damion Martins, MD, Atlantic Sports Health
  • “You can combat dehydration through pre-hydration and keep sipping after the ride is over.”

Cycling Weekly

Cycling Weekly offers some good tips about sports drinks and hydration:

  • “Generally speaking, a specific hydration product isn’t necessary if you’re riding for under an hour, but they can be useful in maintaining hydration in hot conditions or if sweat loss is high.”
  • “The rule of thumb is to start your ride well hydrated, and to adopt a regular pattern of drink intake, aiming for 125ml every 15 minutes.”
  • “If you’re riding for over an hour, you’ll need to take carbohydrate on board, as hydration drinks don’t contain enough carbohydrate to boost endurance.”
  • “Studies show that consumption of a carbohydrate drink during rides lasting over 60 minutes is an effective way to boost endurance. By providing the working muscles with additional fuel, you can delay fatigue, with some research suggesting up to a 20 percent improvement in performance during exercise lasting 90 minutes or more.”
  • “Ingesting carbohydrate during exercise has positive effects on the central nervous system, which can provide an additional mental ‘boost.’”
  • “Drinks containing a blend of carbohydrates have been shown to boost absorption and increase the amount of carbohydrate that gets to the working muscles.”
  • “Avoid concentrated drinks containing more than six-eight percent carbohydrate (hypertonic), as these slow the rate at which fluid is absorbed and can also cause gastrointestinal discomfort.”
  • “Bananas were shown to be as effective as a six percent carbohydrate drink in sustaining power output and performance in a group of male cyclists completing a 75k time trial.”
  • “Current recommendations to consume 30-60g of carbohydrate an hour during prolonged exercise are based on research showing that glucose absorption is capped at around one gram per minute (or 60g per hour), with studies showing that higher concentrations are simply not absorbed, and can result in stomach upset.”
  • “More recent research focusing on the impact of combining different types of carbohydrate has shown that when glucose is consumed with fructose, carbohydrate absorption can exceed 1.5g per minute, increasing the rate of delivery to the muscles to up to 90g per hour.”
  • “In a 2004 trial comparing glucose, glucose/fructose or control (water) beverages in trained cyclists, rates of carbohydrate oxidation were 36 percent higher with the glucose/fructose beverage versus the pure glucose drink. It also spared the body’s stored carbohydrate, improved water uptake from the gut and reduced the rate of perceived exertion.”
  • “For rides lasting over an hour, try swapping your usual sports drink or gel for a 2:1 product to increase carbohydrate delivery from 60g to 90g per hour - this equates to 1,500ml of a drink, three gels or three bars.”

Trago Scientists

At Trago, we take hydration seriously. That’s why we have scientists, researchers and other experts working with us to develop the best products and nutritional supplements available. Here’s what Mark Kovacs, CEO of the Kovacs Institute has to add:

“When it comes to the best non-water fluids for cyclists, there are many good options available. A quick-releasing carbohydrate source, such as sucrose and dextrose) is usually recommended for most athletes in high-intensity moderate duration rides of one to three hours. For longer rides, other options may also be a possibility.”

...and

“It’s important to maintain a good hydration state throughout the day. It is preferred to have consistent, small amounts of fluid at regular intervals. Thirst is one indicator to provide feedback on when to hydrate, but it is important to have fluid accessible and visible throughout the day.”

Whether you cycle as a hobby or are a professional, your hydration plays a key role in your performance. Practice hydration along with your training regimen to see what’s best for your body. Experiment with different carbohydrate sources and play with timing. What works for a fellow rider may not be best for you. Keep in mind that your body is different from anyone else’s. Your body will require and metabolize fluids and nutrients differently and there are many variables that come into play, such as climate and exertion rates.

Related: The 6 Things Every Athlete (And Wannabe) Should Know about Hydration

The more you practice and research, the higher your hydration intelligence. If you’re at all curious to see if hydration is really as big a deal as we are saying, gauge your performance with and without proper hydration. Once you ride dehydrated, you’ll understand. Better yet, trust us and the experts. Hydrate smarter. Perform better.

Tags: Cycling, dehydration, heat, hydrate smarter, trago, water