Hydration for Cyclists: Facts and Myths
Anywhere in the world, hydration is crucial for successful cycling, whether it is for enjoyment or in competition. But in Australia, where environmental conditions like high humidity or temperatures are frequent, the importance of hydration increases tenfold.
But the message can be confusing, with some cycling articles advocating a certain level of fluid storing before rides while others propose elaborate formulas like a percentage of fluid for every kilogram of body weight.
But what are the facts and myths about hydration and cycling?
The International Olympic Committee published one of the most highly regarded, and often quoted, studies on hydration in 2010. After years of study across a range of disciplines, the researchers for the committee found that athletes should begin strenuous physical activity already hydrated, as it was much more difficult to play 'catch up' once exertion had begun.
The study also proposed that while exercising, fluid intake should be maintained at a level that allowed the athlete to only lose between 0% - 2% of their total body mass.
The American College of Sports Medicine came to a similar conclusion in 2007, by studying not just athletic performance but other areas of punishing physical activity, like the training undertaken by soldiers in boot camp.
One of the most common maxims associated with sport of all kinds is that dehydration compromises the ability of the athlete to perform well. Interestingly, this has been found to be only partially true.
Research has shown that for exercise lasting less than an hour, fluid loss of between 0% - 2.2% was found to have no difference in power output for athletes.
However, for longer form exercise, the effects were found to be negative, as would be expected for endurance activities.
The Key Take Away
Drinking water at will, that is, whenever you feel as though you need it during exercise, has been proven to be the best way to optimise your endurance and output. This method resulted in participants in an 80-kilometre ride on a road bike replacing roughly 50% of their fluid loss, which was found to be the optimum level to increase performance.
The really interesting takeaway fact was the finding that 'over drinking', or consciously drinking more, did not have any demonstrated positive effect on performance for the other cyclists.
So the conclusion is this: listen to your body when your cycling to know how much to drink, and you will likely achieve the best results.
To find out more about road bikes, cycling, rides around Melbourne or other cycling tips, please have a look at the other articles on the blog, or drop into Ivanhoe Cycles to have a chat with our friendly, experienced team!