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Hot Weather Cycling: Hydration 101

Give me my bike over a run any day in late summer. I’m not the sweat-soaked puddle at the end of a hot ride that I am when I’m done with a run.  You may not wring 5 pounds of sweat out of your cycling kit at the end of your ride, but that isn’t because you are necessarily sweating less. The air flow over your skin while cycling evaporates your sweat and cools you off more effectively than it does while you’re running. This is why most people can tolerate biking in somewhat higher temperatures than they can with many other forms of exercise. While summer bike adventures are the best, proper hydration is critical to stay safe and maintain your optimal power output. A loss of just 2% of your fluid body weight is enough to negatively impact your performance. 

So you know you need to drink, but most people underestimate just how much they need. The higher the temperature and humidity, the higher your sweat rate will be. It can be tricky to find a balance between how much fluid you sweat per hour and how much you can actually stomach drinking. Then there is the subject of electrolyte loss. We do sweat testing in our Atlanta lab and see a wide range of sweat rates and sodium loss. Knowing a little more about your sweat will help you dial in your ideal hydration plan. You can come have a temperature-controlled sweat test with us and find out exactly how much fluid and electrolytes you lose per hour under specific conditions or at least you can start by weighing yourself before and after a ride to get a gauge on your fluid loss. It’s really pretty easy:

Strip down and weigh yourself

Ride for an hour

Write down how much you drank during the ride

Strip, towel off and weigh again

The difference between the beginning and ending weigh-ins minus how much you drank will give you your fluid loss per hour.

Just to get you started, we’ll give you some basic recommendations based on an average person’s sweat rate and electrolyte needs. Let’s say you lost 2lbs after your weigh-in. To fully replace that you’ll need 32oz of fluid. An average bike bottle holds 24oz. So that’s one full bottle and a third of another per hour. You could have lost anywhere from 200-1500mg of sodium in that hour as well. An average sports drink contains only about 320mg of sodium per 24oz. SlayRx Hydrate 4X will provide nearly 800mg of sodium per 24oz while Hydrate 6X will give you a full 1162mg per 24oz. Choose wisely as taking in too much liquid without enough electrolytes can throw off your body’s electrolyte balance over time and make you feel terrible. 

The most effective way to rehydrate your body quickly is with a combination of electrolytes and a small amount of glucose. The glucose actually acts to help transport the fluid and electrolytes through the gut and into your body. However, too much glucose can have a negative effect. It can hinder fluid absorption and lead to fluid “sloshing” around in your gut. Most sports drinks contain large amounts of glucose. You may be looking for the extra carbs to help fuel your performance, but having them combined in your drink could potentially be causing you to become less hydrated. SlayRx Hydrate contains half as much glucose as traditional sports drinks.  This is one of the reasons most people find it more comfortable in their stomach. 

SO, the super simple starting point recommendation will be that you drink at least 1x 24oz bottle of well-balanced sports drink per hour during a hot ride. You may well need more than that but many people don’t even hit that minimum.  Be sure to have a refueling plan if you are going to ride more hours than you have room for bottles on your bike. You can map out convenience stores on your route, or make loops from your house or car where you plan to keep more hydration. SlayRx Hydrate sachets are an easy way to carry electrolytes with you. Any place you find drinking water you can stop and add Hydrate to it. Stay safe and perform your best by having a plan to stay hydrated. 

Be sure to practice your hydration on every ride. Since everyone’s body is a little different, it’s important to figure out exactly what works best for you. Aside from consistent training, few things will improve your performance more than really nailing your hydration and fueling. I’ll drink to that.