Optimal performance relies on more than just a great training programme, although that most definitely helps. It also requires a nutrition plan to go with it, mindset training, plenty of recovery and, last but no means least, good hydration habits.
Consistently combine all of these elements together and you will be well on your way to reaching your potential and achieving your performance goals.
So why is it important to stay hydrated?
Research has shown that dehydration increases strain on the cardiovascular system, on glycogen utilisation, which depletes vital stores in the body, as well as impacting muscle lactate production resulting in muscle fatigue and a decrease in performance.
One of the most common mistakes we see is people starting training sessions or races already dehydrated. This means our reserves of fluids that are vital for when we start exerting ourselves are already depleted.
When we are fully hydrated we maximise our blood volume, which has two key benefits. Firstly it helps with optimal cardiovascular function, and secondly it helps regulate body temperature when our muscles are working. The result of this is reduced fatigue and being able to perform as close to our optimal peak for as long as possible.
If you know you’ve got a training session coming up make sure an hour before are topping up your fluid levels by sipping water consistently. The same in the days leading up to a race, make sure you’re always staying topped up with fluids.
And the work fluids is key here, as it’s not all about water. We need to make sure we maintain the right level of electrolytes and sodium in our system, especially during the hotter months when we are likely to sweat even more.
A word of warning with water, too much can be a bad thing as it dilutes our blood sodium levels, increasing the risk of hyponatremia, which leads to nausea, lethargy, muscle cramps, fatigue and headaches.
What then is the ideal hydration strategy when it comes to cycling?
There is no one size fits all answer to this question, as we are all different and have different needs. Some of us sweat more than others, which will mean we need to take on m ore fluids. However, a good rule of thumb is that most of us will need between 50ml and a litre of fluids ever hour on the bike.
Ideally these fluids will be a mix of water, electrolytes and sodium. It’s best to avoid drinking fluids that are high in calories, and instead get most of your calories from food and gels.
If we want to continually perform at our optimal peak then it is paramount that we stay hydrated at all times, and thinking about it once w have started pedalling is often too late.