Fluid intake – under appreciated?

We’ve all been told since we were young that staying hydrated is important, but is it given enough priority in the cycling world? There are always new trends when it comes to exercise nutrition and supplementation but are we neglecting one of the simplest, easiest and cheapest routes to improving cycling performance?

It’s difficult to put an exact number on how much fluid we should be consuming during exercise.  This is due to inter-person variability. Things such as; the amount an individual sweat, the intensity or duration of the exercise and the surrounding temperature. However, there does appear to be trends.

Results vary from person to person. However, for those of you out there who are exercising without hydrating at all for long periods of time you’ll be pleased to know you have a very easy performance gain at your disposal.

Consuming fluids during endurance exercise offers benefits of;

  • Lower perceived exertion
  • Decreased thirst sensation 
  • Reduced cardiovascular stress
  • Reduced thermal stress
  • Enhanced substrate utilisation (compared with no fluid ingestion)

Can I rely on thirst to let me know when to drink?

Yes and no – if you’re thirsty, you definitely need to drink! However, thirst sensation has been shown to have major limitations when it comes to gauging fluid intake. This is something which is exacerbated in ageing adults, where it as been repeatedly shown that the thirst mechanism is reduced, increasing the risk of dehydration. There are also other affecting factors including; psychological stress, food intake, temperature, and medication that all effect your thirst sensation.

Do different durations or intensities of exercise need different fluid intakes in order to effect performance?

Absolutely, and in some circumstances, such as during intense, shorter sessions (<1hr) too much fluid intake, can even have a negative impact on your performance.

Research has shown that fluid intakes ranging from 0.15 to 0.34 mL/kg body mass/min in short and intense exercise actually reduced power output by up to 2.5%. This could be due to the magnitude of hypohydration not being sufficient in sessions up to 1 hour and excess fluid is just being accumulated in the stomach causing problems such as bloating and gastrointestinal discomfort.

However, research has shown that endurance performance may be improved when fluid is consumed at a rate of 0.15 to 0.20 mL/kg body mass/min in sessions from 1-2 hours and at a rate of 0.14 to 0.27 mL/kg body mass/min in sessions 2 hours and more.

These approximate fluid recommendations offer options to riders without personalised hydration plans who are looking to gauge fluid replacement during exercise

Creating your own basic hydration plan

To formulate your own personalised drinking program – we suggest you weigh yourself before and after a typical training session. The difference in your weight (you will have to subtract the weight of any water you’ve drunk during the session) can then be used as a guide for how much YOU will need to consume in order to maintain a euhydration level. 

For example

75kg + 1000ml (1kg) = 76kg
76kg – 74kg = 2kg

2kg = 2000ml fluid needed to be consumed for this session in similar circumstances in order to to maintain euhydration level.

Was this post useful? Would you like to know more? Let us know your thoughts at felixenglishcoaching@gmail.com

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