It has been hot recently, and there is no reason to expecting anything else on the day of the big ride. On long hot rides, it is especially important to think about hydrating properly . Your body is about two thirds water and being only 3% dehydrated can lead to as much as a 20% decrease in your performance. We are all out there to do a long ride, but at the same time, none of us want to slow down by 20% throughout the ride! Most riders doing the medio fondo will be out there for well over 3 hours, and the majority of the granfondo riders will be pedaling more than 6. If it is hot, and you are sweating heavily the average person loses anywhere between 0.8 and 1.5 liters per hour. The problem is your stomach can only process fluid at about half that rate, so you are going to be at least somewhat dehydrated by the end of the ride. The key is to finish the ride as hydrated as possible and then rehydrate properly afterward. It sounds simple, but what is the best way to do that?
You've probably heard the basic advice “ drink early and drink often” but what exactly does that mean? At its most basic level, this means that when you are in it for a long haul, start drinking before you are thirsty. You should try to drink all or most of a small water bottle or the better part of a big one each hour. This means you’ll need to start drinking shortly after you leave the start line and it also means you’ll need to take the time to fill up at the rests stops along the way. Follow that “one small bottle per hour” rule and you’ll stay as hydrated and as strong as possible though the ride.
Every bit as important as how much you drink is what you put in your bottle. For rides under 2 hours, plain old water will be just fine. But for long days in the saddle, a carbohydrate/electrolyte drink is essential. The carbohydrates are important because they are the primary fuel used during exercise. Without a carbohydrate beverage you’ll run out of energy and have trouble keeping up your pace. But even more important than the carbohydrates is the electrolytes. If you don’t replace carbohydrates you’ll run out of energy. If you don’t replace electrolytes, you can die. Everyone knows that you lose sodium ( salt) when you sweat. The problem is that if you replace the lost water, without replacing the sodium, you dilute your blood. When this happens, you get hyponatremia , which can be deadly. Dietary sodium sometimes gets a bad reputation, but the fact is that sodium is essential to life. All of your nerves and muscle use it to send signals. When the sodium level in your body get too low, your body can’t properly send these signals. The result is confusion, muscle weakness, even brain swelling and death! Avoiding hyponatremia is easy, just make sure you have that carbohydrate/ electrolyte drink in your bottle. My favorite is the Powerbar Ironman Perform*, but there are many on the market. The most important factor when choosing a carbohydrate/electrolyte beverage is that it tastes good , and you’ll drink it! If for some reason you can’t get your hands on any electrolyte drinks, just look for a salty snack. Most energy bars have some sodium, you can also look for pretzels, salted nuts, or even a coca –cola to help make sure you get enough sodium. If you’ve been thinking about a low sodium diet, today isn’t the day.
A tasty beverage at the finish line will get started on your post ride rehydration, and the sauce in the pasta feast will replenish even more of the sodium you’ve lost. Make sure you have some more water to go with tasty beverage, as you will inevitably have lost more water than you can replace during the ride. By the time you get home, it will have been a long day, both on the bike and