Summer Tips, Part 3: Hydrate
Powerade and the "mix" bottle, note sticker.
I know you think you're hot stuff, but you are mostly water. Your body is 55-60 percent water although factors like age, gender, and fitness all affect this. Your brain and heart are almost 3/4 water, your lungs a whopping 83% water, and even your bones are 31% water.
Water and proper hydration are essential to good health for many reasons including that the water in your body cushions and lubricates your joints, it regulates your body temperature, and it nourishes your brain and spinal cord. (I always wondered why the chiropractor said to drink lots after an adjustment). Because your body loses 2-3 liters daily through sweat, urine, bowel movements, and even breathing, it is important to maintain balance. We need to be careful not to replace too few or too many fluids daily. Today, in our series on hot days and summer riding, we will worry about being short on H20.
Being short on fluids (dehydration) can cause drops in energy, mood, skin moisture and blood pressure as well as cognitive impairment. In fact, in school it is essential that kids drink plenty of water before tests and hard work. Your brain works better when it is topped off. The long-term effects of dehydration on health are substantial: diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and obesity are all linked to poor hydration over time. In most normal situations, it is easy to maintain balance. The old wisdom was that people needed to drink 8 glasses of water a day*, but now more accurate measures take into account a person's weight and environment. The numbers now fluctuate from 2.5-3.7 liters for men, and 2-2.7 liters for women with adjustments up or down based on health, activity, how old you are, whether you are prone to overeating, etc.... Maybe the overeating is partly due to the fact that food is a good source of water, especially fruits which can be close to 90% water. My Withings scale tells me I am usually around 55-60% water, so that's good.
*Some doctors have said that even though the original 8 glasses mantra isn't perfect, it is easy to remember, so just drink and be close.
Monitor your hydration before, during, and after
When you are dehydrated, especially during high temperatures and athletic activity, your body will try to conserve water; you will produce less sweat, and your blood thickens. All bad stuff. When your body conserves water, it releases less during urination, so you will notice your urine gets darker the more dehydrated that you are. It's less diluted.
Note the color of your urine throughout the day. It should be clear and if not, you need to top off a little. It will take a little time for your body to absorb water especially if you ate recently, so take that into account. If your pee is yellow, you are dehydrated. I know the old adage is "If you are thirsty it's too late." I think this might be true, but for sure your urine should tell you. Pay attention. Be hydrated before you go out, and if you go during your ride pay attention as well. For guys, especially on a ride that takes you to a public restroom, use the toilet and not the urinal if you cannot tell.
Have a bottle strategy
I follow a pretty simple protocol in hot weather to combat dehydration. Take two bottles. Use a sports drink in one, and keep the other just plain water. I usually use a powered mix, and I overestimate the ratio a little bit. As I sip from the sports drink, I add water from the plain water bottle as I go. I'm not crazy about the full mix, so it actually gets better as I go. If I get low on the mix bottle, I stop and add water.
I like to keep one bottle pure because sometimes sunblock, salt, and other stuff gets in your eyes. It's always good to have pure water to rinse off with or pour on your head. Also, if God forbid you crash, it's good to be able to rinse a scrape off. I even put a sticker on the "mix" bottle, so I remember which is which and don't contaminate. I clean the "mix" bottle every day, but the other one less often.
Have a refill and shade strategy
Make sure you plan for somewhere to refill on a long hot ride. Whether it's a park, a tap outside of mom's house,a coffee shop, or a convenience store, make you won't run out. Always top off when you stop. Ice is nice as well.
Make sure that you get to some shade when you stop to wait for a friend you dropped, have a mechanical, or get a flat . If you feel overheated, get off the road and find some shade. Drink up and start up again after you feel a little recovered. Don't stay exposed to the sun when you can help it.
Bail if you are in over your head
Lastly, know the symptoms of dehydration and heat stroke, and if you are feeling awful, bail on the ride. Call for a ride, take a break, whatever you need to keep from getting sick. Remember, you're brain is going to act funny when you get dehydrated, so act sooner than later. Know before you are approaching trouble and act. Be safe out there.
Lastly, know that hydration helps with recovery, so top off again and continue to monitor your hydration after a ride. You will be better in the long run/ride for it.