Fitness Feature: A Simple Guide To Staying Hydrated

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Every rider knows that staying hydrated is of the utmost importance; it directly affects a rider’s strength on the trail and recovery off the bike. And while there is no shortage of information on how and when to hydrate, between the wordy science and vast array of sports drinks out there, trying to determine how to hydrate correctly can become overwhelming. It’s easy to get confused and end up following trendy hydration theories that are constantly changing. The truth is, when it comes to hydration, there are no absolutes. Everybody’s needs are different. The trick is to understand some basic principles and then to make adjustments based on your fitness level, ride intensity and weather conditions.

Darren Board has been an Athletic Trainer on the collegiate level for almost 10 years at The Master’s College and is responsible for the men’s soccer, baseball and golf teams. Darren has his Masters in sports science, is certified in strength and conditioning, and is a performance-enhancement specialist. Given the diversity of sports that Board covers, we determined he was a good resource for some practical knowledge and advice on hydration. He states, “Hydration can be broken up into three different segments: pre, during and recovery. If you are able to understand how to handle each of these stages, then you’ll see a difference in how you ride.”

Hydration10Find what works: The options for drink mixes can be a little overwhelming at first. It’s important to find something that works and, of course, tastes good.


Making sure that you are hydrated before your ride is a huge part of making sure you are preparing properly. “Just as you don’t want to eat a huge meal right before you go out and do activities, you need to hydrate well enough in advance so that your body can absorb everything,” Darren says. “The hydration timetable starts about four hours prior to a ride. Riders should be consuming 16-24 ounces of fluid before hitting the trail. Once you get within the two- hour window, you should start reducing how much water you are taking in, since your body won’t have as much time to absorb it before the ride,” Darren adds. “If you only have a two-hour window before your ride, cut the intake to roughly 8–16 ounces.”


Riders can lose up to 67 ounces of fluid per hour during physical activity. This range depends heavily on climate, physique and intensity. The key to replacing fluids during your ride is to find the right balance of liquid and salt. “A lot of athletes don’t realize the importance of the role that salt plays in hydration. It aids in getting our muscles what they need during exercise and helps prevent cramping. It is very easy not to replace the salt that our body is using,” says Darren. The math for how much we should be drinking during a ride is simple: 4–8 ounces should be consumed every 10–20 minutes. Depending on your work rate and tolerance, you may want to add or subtract a little from this. The key is to make sure that you are drinking before you are thirsty. If you are drinking to quench a thirst, then you have already fallen behind, and it will be almost impossible to catch up.

One of the confusing debates with regard to hydration is whether or not riders should be using some type of electrolyte drink and, if so, which one? Some pro riders will drink just water but use a salt-replacement supplement instead of a drink with calories. Casual riders should be using some type of electrolyte mix that gives their bodies the added salts and carbohydrates that they need during exercise. If you aren’t using any type of drink mix, start looking into what types of drinks might work best for you.
A good starting point is a drink that offers salt and 6–8 percent carbohydrates with a reasonable amount of calories (40–150 per serving). Local shops can be a great resource, especially since they will probably stock items that are best suited for the climate you ride in. Are any of these drinks going to make you a pro rider? Probably not, but they will give your body a practical advantage that it needs.


“Hydrating after your ride is just as important as the other two stages. If you start putting back what you lost properly, your muscles will recover better and your body will be able to flush out lactic acid quicker.” Putting water back into your body within the first 25 minutes of finishing will drastically increase your recovery. “If you really want to understand how much you are losing during a ride, weigh yourself before and after. The difference is the water weight you lost during your ride. This is good knowledge that any rider should have.” Every rider should be drinking 20–24 ounces per pound of weight lost over the course of 5–6 hours.

All riders should have their own approach to staying hydrated that is tailored to their needs. If you feel like something is missing from your ride, chances are you aren’t giving your body what it requires.


They’re freaks of nature, but they know how to stay hydrated just as well as anyone. We were fortunate enough to have Todd Wells, Geoff Kabush and Georgia Gould give us some practical tips on keeping your whistle wet.

Hydration1He knows his stuff: Not only is Todd Wells (12) one of the fastest riders out on the course, his experience in racing has given him a wealth of knowledge. He has ridden in some of the warmest conditions and knows how to keep his body properly hydrated.

Tip 1: When racing or riding during the hot months, I like to make sure I use an electrolyte mix in bottles. I prefer the Clif Hydration Electrolyte Drink Mix Cranberry Razz. I don’t get a lot of calories from this drink, but I feel the electrolytes help me maintain hydration better than water alone.

Tip 2: If it’s really hot, I will add some CrampFX to my bottles during a race. CrampFX is essentially a salt tablet (it’s a compa- ny based out of Norway), but even adding some normal salt to the bottles will help. I also have some CrampFX in the morning before a really warm race as well.

Tip 3: You hear this over and over, but it really is a good tip: drink before you’re thirsty. If you wait until you get thirsty, you’re already dehydrated, and it’s hard to come back from that. If it’s just a short race or ride, it’s not a big problem, but if you become dehydrated one hour into the Leadville 100, it’s going to be a very long day.

Hydration2Keep drinking: Geoff Kabush understands the importance of properly managing liquid intake. It’s not just about drinking during the ride. It’s important to keep in mind the pre-and post-ride hydration, too.

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Tip 1: When racing in hot summer conditions, it’s important to focus on hydration in training and in the days leading up to a race, especially if you are coming from a cooler climate. Drinking lots of fluid before, during and after training in the days leading up to the race helps your body adapt and improve its ability to deal with the heat.

Tip 2: On race day, I try to stop drinking 30 minutes before the start so my bladder has time to empty. The last thing you want is to have to go to the washroom once the gun goes off.

Tip 3: It can be easy to forget to drink once you are at full throttle during a race. When pre-riding a course, make sure to think about which sections are good for taking a drink and take note.

Hydrate5She’s one of the fastest: Georgia Gould is one of the fastest ladies on a bike and understands the important steps needed to maintain proper hydration on and off the bike.

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Tip 1: Start your ride hydrated. Staying hydrated, even when you are off the bike, is crucial to recovery and will just make you feel better in general. Don’t wait until you start riding to think about it.

Tip 2: Be consistent. Start drinking early (I usually start 15 minutes in) and stay consistent. I try to shoot for at least a bottle an hour, maybe more if it’s very hot.

Tip 3: For rides over 1.5 hours or high-intensity rides, I use a sports drink, like Clif Hydration Electrolyte Drink Mix. Some people prefer just water. If you are racing, make sure to test out anything new in training before your race.



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