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VIP Pro Tips: What's the right amount of hydration for cyclists?

Debi Grupe

VIP Pro Tips by Reid Beloni

This is the first iteration of VIP Pro Tips, I’m your host, Reid Beloni! I’ve seen a lot of people asking good questions, and so I am offering my time in collaboration with I Love Road Cycling, to offer advice on various topics. Take it however you want, comment, discuss, offer your opinions or experiences, tell me I’m crazy. Though I’ve been racing for 12 years, have two degrees in Exercise Science and am a professional coach, so I’m probably not crazy!

Hydration is big this time of year. How much do I drink? The general guideline is to drink at least one bottle per hour. That might go higher to two bottles for some people. 21 oz or 24 oz, it doesn’t really matter. Shoot for at least 1 because it’s easy to keep track of. If you are finishing your rides and notice a big weight drop from pre-ride, then you might want to bump up those recommendations. If you’re going for a 2+ hour ride, plan your route so that you can refill your bottle or plan on carrying extra. Especially in summer, don’t try to squeak by on less. Getting dehydrated, even only a little, will rob you of power and increase your core temperature, you’ll slow down, and it will slow your recovery.

What do you drink? Water is a great place to start, it’s what your body needs. But there is a lot of evidence that water with a low concentration of carbohydrate and electrolytes is actually absorbed faster than water alone. So if you are trying to get the water into your body (and you are, that’s the point of drinking water), then it’s a good idea to have some drink mix. There are lots of commercially available products out there, and they are based on good science to provide more than what you get in homemade concoctions like O.J. and table salt. From a lot of athlete experience, I would recommend starting with the mixes that are low (around 4% carbohydrate solution) and contain electrolytes. These include Skratch, Bonk Breaker Real Hydration, and Clif Hydration to name a few. There are mixes that contain many more calories and electrolytes. These are designed to replace more or most of the calories you are using and the salt that you are sweating out. These might work better for some people, but for others the higher concentrations can slow absorption.

Start with the basics: 1 bottle per hour, more if you sweat a lot or finish you rides weighing a few pounds less then you started at. Use some mix, it will help absorption and provide some of the calories and electrolytes you need.

Reid Beloni is an Expert Coach for Carmichael Training Systems and an elite bike racer in various disciplines for Organic Valley / Hiball Energy Cycling Team, benefiting globalbike. Reid has been active in many aspects of the sport for the past 12 years; racing domestically and internationally, managing a bike shop, receiving a Bachelors and Masters degrees in Exercise Science, and working as a professional coach. Reid is a longstanding member and contributor to the I Love Road Cycling VIP Facebook group (Join). He can be contacted professionally via his email rbeloni@trainright.com


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