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Cycling and hydratation. All you need to know

When you’re going on a long weekend ride or prepping for a big race, you’ve no doubt planned what you’ll wear, your fuel and the plan of attack (or not) for the lumpier inclines. Hydration, however, can often be an afterthought. But when you learn that even 1% dehydration can affect your performance, you might want to think a bit more about what, when and how much you’re drinking.

Putting some extra thought into your cycling hydration strategy could be the simple tweak you need to improve your performance, reduce fatigue and boost endurance – and enjoyment – in the saddle.

First of all, when should you rehydrate? The old rule of thumb, drink to thirst is a good place to start, listen to your body, but of course it doesn’t always work on the bike. In hot temperatures, when you’re working at higher intensities and on long rides, you might need to drink before you think you need to. You’re not just drinking for now, you’re drinking for 10-20 miles down the road.

Before a bike ride

When it comes to hydration for cycling, there’s no need to drink a large amount before you set off on a ride. It’ll just mean more loo stops. Instead, aim to stay well hydrated the day and morning before. This makes maintaining optimal hydration on the bike much easier.

The NHS recommends drinking around 1.2 litres of fluid daily to replace normal water loss but everyone’s hydration needs are different based on weight, activity levels, the temperature and various genetic factors. If you’re exercising regularly, aim for around 2-3 litres.

It’s a good idea to sip on an electrolyte drink before a long ride, race or tough training session, too. Electrolytes are salts and minerals found in the blood that are lost when you sweat. An imbalance in electrolytes can cause muscle weakness and spasms, fatigue, confusion and dizziness.

We recommend taking on 500ml of electrolyte drink 1-2 hours before prolonged or intense exercise and 150-200ml immediately before you begin.

During a bike ride

Aim to drink little and often during your bike ride. Take 2-3 gulps from your bottle every 10-15 minutes – more on hotter days. Start drinking from the very beginning of your ride rather than waiting until you feel thirsty.

For most shorter rides: For rides up to around 60 minutes and lower intensity sessions, drinking water is enough.

For longer rides, races and on hot days: You’ll also need to take on electrolytes to replace what you lose through sweat. Maintaining a good electrolyte balance aids hydration and helps you perform at your best.

In case you need it, you can check our water bottles for more information.

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