Hydrating adequately for training sessions and your event are a key component to successful outcomes. This includes what you drink the day before, during your event, after all the hard work is done and on a day to day basis.
An excessive loss of fluid (dehydration) impairs performance and has an adverse effect on your health. Not taking on enough fluid, causes your blood volume to decrease and your body temperature to rise. This places additional strain on your heart and lungs, causing your heart to work harder to pump blood around the body to your quickly fatiguing muscles.
Eventually the strain on your body’s systems becomes too much and your performance will drop. Recognising the signs of dehydration early on are key.
A loss of just 2% in bodyweight will have a detrimental effect on your body’s ability to perform during your ride. Your aerobic capacity falls by a huge 10-20%.
A loss of 4% will bring on nausea, vomiting and upset your bowels. 5% will cause on a 30% drop in your performance output, while an 8% drop will start to bring on dizziness, confusion and can lead to more serious consequences. If you continue to exercise without adequately replenishing fluids and minerals, you will eventually stop sweating and spiral quickly towards heat stroke. Scary stuff!
The good news is that this is all very easily avoided if you plan your hydration as well as you do your training.
- Work out how much you sweat.This is an important thing to know, especially if you are someone that perspires a lot. Here’s a simple sweat test that you can do at home. Wake up, DO NOT DRINK anything, visit the bathroom as needed. Weigh yourself. Complete an hours training ride (indoors is a good option). Come home and jump on the scales again. The amount you lose in weight is the amount you lose in water. i.e., weigh in 1 = 60.2kgs. Weigh in 2 = 59.8kgs. Equalling a 400gm loss in weight or a 400ml loss in fluid. If you drink during your training session or when you wake, then you must measure it and add this back into the equation! Try to do your sweat test in conditions similar to that which you will ride in on your event.
- Know what to drink. You are training for long days in the saddle, drinking water alone is not enough. When you sweat you lose essential minerals and it is important these are replaced. This can be done in several ways.
- Sports drink: minerals and carbohydrates: fuel and hydration
- Electrolyte drink: minerals: hydration only, fuel needs to be consumed in addition
- Salt tablets: minerals only, fuel and fluid needs to be consumed in addition
Every athlete is different, some of us sweat more than others, so it’s important to find out what works for you and what your body needs.
- Hydrate well even on when not training.What you should drink on a daily basis is easily calculated. Multiply your bodyweight by 0.033 and this will give you what you need to drink in litres. i.e. 60kgs x 0.033 = 1.98litres of fluid. This should be water, or electrolytes. Fruit juices, coffees and alcohol don’t count! If you are exercising, then add another litre per hour of training. Going into training sessions dehydrated is very common so ensure you are drinking enough during the day.
When you finish your training session, keep drinking throughout the day. Often athletes are very good at getting fluids in while training, but stop when the get off their bike. If you start to feel tired in the afternoon post long bike ride, it might be the intensity of the session, but add a glass of rehydration drink in and see if your energy picks up.
- Drink enough by not too much.Water intoxication or hyponatraemia is more common that you might think. As you drink more and more water to cool down, you increase the water content of your blood and dilute the salt content. Consequently, if salt in not available it can lead to issues with heart, brain and muscle function. Symptoms are confusingly very similar to dehydration, dizziness, nausea, bloating or swelling etc. You should be aiming for around a litre of fluid an hour when riding, this may decrease in cold conditions or increase in warm. Ensure that adequate electrolytes are added to combat over hydration.
- How do I know if I’m dehydrated? One of the easiest ways to tell on a day to day basis is to look at the colour of your urine. If it’s clear or very pale, then you are over hydrated, if it’s dark or has a smell to it, then you are dehydrated.
Every one of us will experience dehydration in some form when training. The key thing is to know the signs and pre-empt it from happening. A good hydration plan is key for the success of your event and how you recover from training on a day to day basis.