Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Staying hydrated while riding.

How much should you drink while exercising? This is an interesting topic and one that is poorly understood. There is an abundance of poor advise and quackery being dispensed by so-called experts.

Try Googling "How much water should I drink every day". Results are laughable. I found a range from 1.5 - 4 litres per day and the old favourite "drink 8 glasses of water a day". That's for sedentary activity. Now Google "how much should I drink while exercising". Lots of well intentioned is not misguided advice. "Drink 500 ml an hour before exercise and 750 ml an hour while exercising", "Monitor the colour of your urine and adjust your water intake until it is clear or light yellow", "you should weigh the same at the end of a workout as when you started", "Once you are thirsty you are already dehydrated", blah, blah, blah.
I have been to spin classes where halfway through a class they go around and offer fill up people's bottles so they don't succumb to the dangers of dehydration. It's laughable. I can promise you, medical issues aside, a 45 minutes spinning class will not cause you to die of dehydration.

I will let you into a little secret, while riding an endurance event like The Munga you are going to get dehydrated, your urine is going to get straw brown in colour, you are going to feel thirsty and you are likely to lose 2 or 3 kg's of body weight due to dehydration between check points and water stations. That's just what happens. You need to deal with it!

So how do we deal with it? What follows is my advise based on my experience over many years. It works for me.

Get used to the feeling of being thirsty. Too many people latch onto the concept that feeling thirsty means it's too late to counter dehydration so they drink too much too soon and spend the better part of the day worrying about their lack of hydration and hunting down water supplies. The mental aspect of surviving endurance events is as important, if not more so, than physical capability. Your mind can be your best tool or your worst enemy. Mental toughness cannot be overrated. If you allow the feeling of thirst to be an issue you are messing with the one thing that is going to get you through, your head space.

I know I am going to feel thirsty and there might be times when it tastes like I have battery acid in my mouth but I also know through experience that I can survive that condition for an extended period without adverse effect. I regularly train without water as it helps my body adapt to a state of mild dehydration. The body is a fascinating machine and can adapt to a wide range of conditions. But that adaption takes time. If you want to know more about dehydration training go read this article -

Apart from improvements in athletic performance I am used to the feeling of being thirsty and a dry mouth isn't going to send me into a panicked state where I waste energy fixating on where I can get water. That is not to say I am cavalier about my state of hydration. Far from it. While a dehydrating training ride has its benefits it leaves you with a hydration deficit. You cannot race like that. When racing, I start hydrating before I get on the bike and I continue to take small amounts often as I ride. Because I am in a hydration adapted state I sweat less but more importantly it seems my body is stingy about releasing too much sodium. Lower rates of sweat means I can generally keep pace with my hydration losses and I am less likely to suffer from hyponatremia - low blood sodium. The biggest cause of hyponatremia in athletes is consuming too much fluids during events. So get used to feeling a little thirsty, it's less likely to kill you.

As stated in the previous blog I make a point of adding replacement supplements to my bottles.

When I get to a checkpoint the first and last things I do is get something to drink, and lots of it. I don't care for the opinion that tea and coffee don't count and you should stick to water or sports drinks. H2O is H2O and if the form of it makes me happy it is both hydrating me and pampering my all important head space. A good 2 for 1 deal.

It is unlikely that you can over hydrate on The Munga but it makes a lot of sense to adapt your body ahead of time to be able to make do with a lot less hydration. Water points are well spaced and you don't want to be found wanting. Neither do you want to carry 10 litres of water.

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