Whether you’re training, going on outdoor adventures, racing, or riding for enjoyment, having proper hydration is important to keep your performance in check. Racking up all those miles on the road or gravel and in the sun, your body might get dehydrated when you lose more water than you take in.
According to Dr. Phil Watson of Free University, Brussels, dehydration impacts the ability to control a vehicle, whether it's a bike or a car. Surprisingly low fluids in the body can significantly impair your performance and decrease your capacity for muscular work, increasing the risks of accidents while you’re on the road.
If you’re in a race or partaking in long rides, you also tend to avoid drinking to minimize your bathroom stops, and this according to Jane Holdsworth, Director of European Hydration Institute (EHI), can cause mild dehydration and its symptoms.
To stay hydrated, here are some tips on how to avoid dehydration and how to monitor your fluids before and during your rides:
Before the ride
Riding or not, make sure you are drinking enough water, at least 2-3 liters of water everyday, to maintain an optimal hydration level. Incorporate into your diet fruits that are rich in water and other essential nutrients and also consider drinking sports drinks and other beverages such as coffee and tea to replenish your body’s lost electrolytes. Caffeine is ok as long as it is not in excess.
Also, don’t drink excessive amounts of water the day before your ride. If you are monitoring your daily intake of water and other fluids, then there is no need for you to increase your consumption beyond your normal amount.
During the ride
Feeling dehydrated during the ride is caused by several factors, not just the insufficiency in your water intake. When you are on your bike, factors such as the weather, the intensity of the sun’s heat, and the relative temperature of the asphalt or the terrain you are on contributes to your risk of being dehydrated. So, aside from observing your hydration and water intake in between stops, it is also important that you are wearing comfortable yet breathable outdoor apparel and gear that is appropriate for riding.
The best way to avoid dehydration (and overhydration) is to be consistent in hydrating yourself properly. Only drink adequate amounts needed by your body and consider maintaining a proper hydration routine during your training.