Drinking & Biking!!! 0
(*not to be taken as medical advice*, just some thoughts for making the most out of your bike ride!)
What to drink while riding is a big question. While a break at a café in the middle of a fondo or a pub stop after a single track shred session might be exactly what you’re looking for, we’re talking about hydration during your ride.
If your ride is 45 minutes to an hour, and you’re just out to casually enjoy the sunshine and the beauty of the woods, we can keep the answer simple. Chances are that plain water is the best thing for you. It’s amazing what staying hydrated can do for a person. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t bring a granola bar or your favorite fruit or veggie along with you, but you should feel fine without needing to resort to any fancy gels, chews or otherwise potentially unappetizing sounding fuel.
If you’re making a day of it, longer distance racing, touring, training, circling the parking lot for hours, or on a group ride that expects to last for a while, that’s when your nutrition will really define or dismantle your smile, and maybe your ride.
What should you bring on those longer, more energy intensive rides?
Many sports drinks are available as either an additive to water like a powder or tablet, or as an already hydrated option you can buy and drink immediately. Most contain a decent amount of electrolytes, usually as salt, which helps with absorbing other nutrients. We lose a lot of salt through sweat, so carefully replenishing is a must. Carbs are also very common to see in these supplemental fuels, and are the body’s main source of energy. Sugars give you a boost of energy while your body processes the carbs, all of which is more easily absorbed because of the electrolytes. Sugar also makes these drinks taste pretty good, which doesn’t hurt. Magnesium and potassium are also frequently in the mix, due to their ability to help with cramps and dispersion of lactic acid buildup. Problems due to deficiency can rear their ugly heads when you least expect it, so it’s best to make sure you stay on top of getting enough of the good stuff in you.
A key consideration for hydration that often goes underappreciated- is *when* to reach for your water bottle. If you wait until you’ve lost a lot of fluids, and your body is telling you that you need to refuel, you’re too late. Our bodies don’t do well with strenuous energy release paired with food or drink consumption. Your best bet is to drink small amounts regularly rather than large amounts when you feel dehydrated. If you wind up waiting too long, you’ll likely get cramps, a burning feeling in your muscles, general fatigue, stiffness, and other things you’ve probably dreaded while looking up a tall hill astride your trusty metal steed (ok, maybe carbon?).
The long and short of it is: Plan for your ride. Bring more water than you think you'll need, and on longer rides, be sure you're replenishing those nutrients too.