8 Hydration Tips just in time for the Heat of the Summer
Water Is Your Friend
Although it doesn't supply calories, vitamins, or minerals, water is essential for virtually every bodily function. It aids digestion, cushions organs, and keeps your body temperature from rising to lethal levels during exercise. In fact, H2O is so important that it accounts for 55 to 65 percent of your weight.
Cycling is Hot Work
When you are cycling, your muscles produce up to 100 times more heat than when you are at rest. The body extinguishes this inferno primarily by increasing your sweat rate. On a really hot day you can lose more than two liters (about 67 ounces) of fluids per hour when exercising. If you don't replace these fluids, your power output declines quickly. One study of trained cyclists found that without fluids they could barely finish a two-hour ride at 65 percent of maximum oxygen capacity.
Less H20 Equals More Beats
Studies by Edward Coyle, PhD, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin, reveal that 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, says Dr. Coyle, 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 blood stream. What's worse, by the time you feel thirsty, your body has already lost up to 2 percent of its weight—about a quart of fluid.
Drink, Drink, Drink. Then Drink Some More.
The popular notion of drinking eight eight-ounce glasses of fluids daily is easy to remember, but may not be right for you. Indeed, people have different fluid needs depending on fitness, gender, body size, and environmental conditions. Your best bet is to gauge hydration by monitoring six simple markers.
Do you urinate less than three times during a normal day? Is your urine dark yellow? Does it have a strong odor? Do you get headaches toward the end of a long ride or shortly afterward? Do you drink less than one water bottle per hour while riding? Do you lose more than two pounds during rides? If you answer yes to any of these questions, your body is heading for a drought. Time to start drinking more until the situation is rectified.
Replenish Your Supply
After you have ridden for several hours, drink more fluids. What you drink makes a difference. In a study conducted by Dr. Coyle, dehydrated athletes were asked to drink nearly 2 liters of fluid 2 hours after they exercised. The catch is that these athletes drank diet cola, water, or a sports drink. The study then compared the quality of replenishment each provides. Dr. Coyle found that diet cola replenished 54 percent of the fluid loss; water, 64 percent; and sports drink, 69 percent.
Snack on Something a Little Salty
Sodium makes your blood sponge-like, allowing you to absorb more water and excrete less. Each liter of sweat saps between 500 and 1,000 (or more) milligrams of sodium.
Choose Juicy Foods
Around 60 percent of your daily fluid comes from the foods you eat, but some foods increase hydration better than others. For instance, fruits and vegetables are great fluid sources; they are 80 to 95 percent water by weight. Eating the recommended five to nine daily servings of produce means that you will get a lot of extra water in your diet. If you are downing protein supplements, you should drink even more water, as you will need that additional water to metabolize and excrete the extra protein.
Sports Drinks Can Be Your Friend
Most popular sports hydration drinks contain sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes as well as energy-producing carbohydrate. These drinks are recommended for exercise that lasts more than an hour. Whenever you plan to cycle for several hours, make sure you carry two bottles. In addition, have a plan to fill up along the way. Whichever brand of sports drink you choose, make sure you like the way it tastes so that you'll be motivated to drink. Also, cool fluids taste better and may be absorbed more rapidly than warm ones.