Over the past several days I’ve received several questions from folks regarding how I avoid hydration/cramping type issues on the bike/run. The past several weeks I’ve been doing more group rides on the weekends, 2 of which have involved 700+ cyclists on the road. It’s July, and in the Southeastern U.S., it has been hot and humid. This time of year you’ll hear all kinds of reminders on the news about making sure that you drink plenty of water. My most recent group ride was 67 miles and about 99 degrees by the end. I saw numerous folks cramping to the point where they could no longer pedal. I would ask if they needed help, but most just said it was a cramp and that they were ok. Just to be clear, walking your bike for the final 3 miles b/c of cramps is not ok. I should mention that delirium is a symptom of dehydration too.
When your are exercising over longer periods(anything over about 60-90 minutes), water alone is just not going to cut it. Sure, you’ll lose a lot of water through your sweat, but the real problem is losing electrolytes(Sodium, Chloride, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, etc).
Symptoms? Cramps, headaches, loss of performance. Check out all of the Dehydration symptoms Here:
How I prepare:
The day before a long ride/run. Sure, I drink water throughout the day, but I don’t go crazy with it and think I’m somehow going to store all of this water somewhere like a camel does. In addition, I try to get in an extra piece of fruit during the day, along with a glass or 2 of milk at night. If all you do is try to drink extra water the day before, you’re likely just diluting the electrolytes that you do have, and literally flushing them down the drain. Not a good way to start the next day.
The day of the long Ride/Run:
I sip 2 glasses of cold water when I wake up. For a long ride/run I plan on drinking 1 bottle of Perpeteum per hour. Perpetuem has 270 calories, 7g of protein, very little sugar, and just about all of the vitamins minerals listed above. In addition, I take Endurolytes capsules. These have helped me tremendously this summer. They are full of Sodium, Chloride, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, etc. I take 2 right before I start, and 2 every hour on the hour of exercise. On a long ride, to avoid the weight of having to carry 4 water bottles, I’ll mix 2 bottles on the bike, and bring 2 zip lock baggies full of the powder with me. So when I need to refill, I’ll stop at the next rest stop, or C-Store, and add water.
You can’t always rely on the “Rest Stop” on an organized group ride. They will typically be stocked with Gatorade or something similar, but my experience has been that they are usually not mixed at full strength, so keep this in mind. They usually also will have some oranges and bananas, which is always a plus. Recently, it was so hot that I did all of the above, and still I refilled more often drinking 1.5 – 2 bottles per hour. So if you’re thirsty, Drink. If you’re not thirsty, still Drink 1 bottle of electrolyte drink per hour.
Once you’re properly fueled, you’ll be amazed at the difference.