Water, Water, Everywhere,
But How Much Should I Drink?
Drinking enough water before, while and after a ride is essential to a safe and enjoyable ride. This topic has been addressed before in this section of our web page under the broader topics of nutrition, fueling, and hydration. Since July and August bring us some of our warmest and most humid days of the year and because many of our members still are experiencing the negative effects of not drinking enough water, we thought it appropriate to devote more time to this topic. Our president, Cheryl Burkhardt, submitted an article on this very topic to the June issue of the Silver Wheels newsletter, Rollin'. She has given us permission to post it here.
Ponderings From The President
By Cheryl Burkhardt
How’s Your Urine?
Yes, this is the question my health-conscious husband brought up as my friends and I were seated in a cafeteria on one of the first days of GOBA many years ago. These friends were experiencing bike touring for the first time, and the weather was unusually hot. He then proceeded to expound on biking and hydration and the color of urine. My friends still chuckle at the memory!
Seriously, though, the weather has taken some turns in the high 80’s with high humidity levels – quickly. We haven’t had much time to adjust. Some riders have had some difficulty coping with the temperatures, exertion, and staying adequately hydrated. Here are some hints garnered from various websites such as Harvard Medical, Bicycling Magazine, Mayo Clinic, and others.
Water makes up about 60% of your body’s weight, and although you can survive without food for weeks, dehydration can kill you within days or even hours, depending on the temperature and your environment. Dehydration means more water is moving out of your body’s cells than into them. And as this happens, it’s not just water that you lose. Small amounts of electrolytes critical to cell function and energy, such as sodium and potassium, are lost along with the water
Drinking enough water each day is important to regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly. Also, our kidneys and liver work hard to get rid of toxins in our bodies. They depend on water to do their job.
Being well-hydrated improves sleep, cognition, and mood.
Older adults (and that’s most of us) lose their thirst rating capabilities. They often mistake thirst for hunger and gain weight. Or they just forget to drink. Fortunately, just drinking more water can pare off the pounds in many cases.
Adults show much different signs of dehydration, including fatigue, dizziness, confusion, less-frequent urination and extreme thirst – except for us older folks who do not seem to recognize thirst as much as when we were young whippersnappers! That’s why one of the best ways to tell whether you’re lacking fluids is by the color of your urine. When you pee in the morning, and your urine looks more like apple juice than lemonade, you are not hydrated enough. If you go to the bathroom throughout the day, life is good.
Here are some suggestions for staying hydrated while cycling:
Pre-hydrate – sip water throughout the day before a ride. Drink a bottle of water – perhaps diluted with an electrolyte drink if it’s a hot day – about an hour before the ride.
Drink during the ride – a few sips every 15 minutes. Most riders need a 28 ounce bottle about once an hour on warm days. This does vary based on temperature and the weight of the rider. If the weather is steamy, some sources recommend four 16 ounce bottles per hour for hard riding. On hot days, consider a Camelback or other brand of water carrier. Yes, they look rather dorky on your back, but when filled with ice, they help keep you cool. The water tube is really handy to sip from every few minutes while keeping both hands on the handlebars, and the water stays cold for 2 hours.
Hydrate after the ride as well. No matter how much you have consumed during the ride, your system is always running behind in processing it. Some folks swear by chocolate milk as a post ride drink to replenish lost stores.
Finally, be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion. They can include heavy sweating, cold, pale, clammy skin, fast weak pulse, nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps, tiredness or weakness, dizziness, headache, and fainting. This is nothing to mess with. Get to a cooler spot and sip water. Take off any excess clothing and put cool cloths on your body. If you are throwing up or fainting, or if your symptoms last more than an hour, get medical attention.
Let’s be safe out there this summer. Carry extra water! Stay hydrated!