Signpost: Summertime Ahead
By Dario Fredrick, NICA Physiological Advisor
Can you feel it? It’s the sign of summer ahead, warm weather, longer days and more time to ride your bike. It brings a sense of excitement and anticipation, with many opportunities to ride, race and have fun. You may have just completed the 2011 high school season or are looking ahead to the Fall season start. In either case, summertime is an excellent opportunity to train and race, and being prepared for summer conditions can make all the difference.
With summer comes plenty of sunshine and often hotter conditions. Hydration is the most important practice to consider, and the easiest rule of thumb is to drink at least one medium-sized water bottle per hour during your rides or races. It’s easy to forget about drinking, since the body’s thirst mechanism is delayed and doesn’t tell us when we need fluid until it’s too late. Start drinking at the beginning of your ride or race and keep the water coming in. Consider your training ride routes and water availability, and plan on carrying enough fluid to keep yourself hydrated, whether that means wearing a hydration pack or an extra bottle in your jersey pocket.
The main opportunity to staying hydrated actually happens off the bike. Drink water throughout the day, with the goal of approximately 2-3 liters per day. That’s the equivalent of 4-5 medium-sized cycling water bottles. Soda and energy drinks don’t count as they typically contain large amounts of caffeine, which is actually dehydrating.
What about drink mix? There are so many sports nutrition products out there, knowing what to add to your bottles can be confusing. Plain water is still the most hydrating substance for our bodies, but replenishing minerals lost through sweat can help too. Sodium is the primary mineral/ electrolyte lost during exercise and in smaller quantities potassium, calcium and magnesium as well. During rides longer than one hour, drinking a light mix with some sodium (~180 mg per small, 16 oz bottle or ~200 mg per large, 20 oz water bottle) can increase the rate of absorption of fluid. If your mix also has carbohydrate, avoid mixing in too much. Aim for about 5-6% or roughly 20 gm of carbohydrate in a 16-20 oz water bottle. If you do use drink mix, consider having some plain water as well. Be conservative with how much mix you add at first, and always practice in training with your preferred mix before using it in races to be sure it works well for you.
Post-ride or race, be sure to rehydrate. During the course of a ride, even if you did a good job of drinking, your body will have lost more fluid than you put back in. This is apparent if you weigh yourself before and after a ride in which the difference is almost entirely due to fluid loss. Keep in mind that the order of importance of post-race or post-training replenishment is water, (light) sodium, carbohydrate then protein.
Go into the summer ready to deal with the rigors of riding in hotter conditions by keeping yourself hydrated. Drink plenty of water, not only on the bike, but off the bike as well. Go into rides and races prepared to replenish fluid loss. Enjoy the summertime, beat the heat and ride well!