When it comes to performance there are many things an athlete can do to enhance and bring out their best. Assuming you have done your research, trained your mind and body, followed a good nutritional programme, you are ready for the event. Out on the road, there is one thing that is crucially important to getting the best out of your bike and your body, staying hydrated!
As important as fuel is for sustaining your energy levels keeping hydrated will allow you to maintain your performance and enjoyment. Every adult needs to be consuming 2 litres of water a day since that is the amount the body loses everyday through breathing, sweating and urine production. Anybody doing vigorous training will need to consume 2.5 – 3 litres to allow for more water being sweated out through increased activity.
Water is a great choice and should be drunk continually throughout the day, 20 minutes before a cycle and throughout the event. Bottled water served at room temperature is a better choice than chilled water as it can be absorbed more quickly than the cold water which needs to be warmed up in the stomach.
What about all those fancy sports drinks? Is there any reason you should be choosing these above water? Well they do have a benefit over water in that as well as providing fluid replacement they also supply energy which may be much needed and some of them have very fast rates of absorption.
There are three main types of sports drinks, isotonic, hypotonic, and hypertonic.
Isotonic drinks are the most popular of the sports drinks because they provide a good source of hydration and can be used before, during and after performance. Isotonic drinks contain 6g of carbohydrate (glucose) per 100ml of water so they are also providing a good source of fuel. They have a similar concentration of dissolved sugars as blood and are therefore absorbed very quickly.
Hypotonic drinks are used after performance to hydrate. They contain only 2g of carbohydrate per 100ml of water and are therefore a relatively poor source of fuel. Hypotonic drinks have a lower concentration of dissolved solids and so are absorbed even quicker than isotonic drinks.
Hypertonic drinks are mostly used by endurance athletes, for performance that is over an hour and a half. They contain 10g of carbohydrate per 100ml of water, thus providing an excellent source of energy. They absorb slowly so are relatively poor for hydration because they have higher rates of dissolved solids than blood.
All the sports drinks contain the correct amounts of electrolytes to ensure optimum fluid replacement.The negatives are they are often highly laced with colourings, sweeteners and other additives which are not good for health. They are also more expensive to buy.
It is possible to make your own healthy version.
Isotonic Sport Drink
- 500ml of water
- 500 ml of unsweetened fruit juice
- Pinch of salt
Dehydration occurs when fluid loss exceeds fluid intake and there are some unpleasant symptoms. Things to look for :
- Dry mouth
- Poor concentration
- Flushed red skin
- Rapid heart rate
Dehydration results in a significant loss of performance as it affects blood circulation and the bodys ability to control temperature.