Hydration is one of two most important things you have to do after riding in the heat. The goal is to quickly replenish the fluids and electrolytes you lost by sweating. There are several rules of thumb you can follow.
- Drink about 150% of the weight you lost through sweat. If you’re 1 kg lighter after your ride then you should drink 1,5 litres of water. Spread this amount over several hours, drinking it all at once wouldn’t be effective.
- Stick to drinking plain water for hydration after a ride. Recovery drinks that contain carbohydrates, protein, and electrolytes should only be used if you have another ride planned for the same day, or if you’re riding hard every day, for example during a training camp. You can also use a recovery drink after single rides that are particularly demanding or long.
- Avoid alcohol if you want to maximize recovery. There is no benefit to having a colder beer after a hot ride when it comes to hydration or performance. Of course, if recovery or weight loss is not a main priority on a given day, responsibly enjoying a drink with your cycling friends is a great idea.
The second most important thing after riding in the heat is cooling down. When you finish riding in heat, it’s common to feel even hotter than on the bike. That’s because you lose airflow over the skin and you’re your heart rate also gets lower which means your blood is moving heat away from your organs slower. This is why you should be proactive about cooling after riding in the heat. Here are the most effective ways to do that.
- Active cooldown. Include a few minutes of very easy spinning after a ride in the heat. This will keep you mildly sweating, your heart rate elevated and blood vessels dilated so your body will continue removing heat from your core effectively without generating much more new heat. For maximum efficiency, put a wet towel on your back or do this in a cooler environment and with airflow over your skin.
- Cool or icy beverages. This will help you cool down from the inside as your body has to warm up the cold water or ice slurry.
- Cold water exposure. If you have the option, jump in a cold shower, lake, or a river. This will increase the difference of temperature between your skin and the surrounding environment which will help you cool down way faster.
Go to sleep cooled down
Probably the best recovery tool will always be sleep. When it comes to cycling in heat, your ability to fall asleep may be compromised. To fall asleep, your body temperature needs to drop. When you’re heated up after a ride, this will take a lot longer to happen which can reduce your sleep length or negatively affect sleep quality. Make sure to finish your ride at least 3 hours, ideally longer before going to bed. Properly re-hydrating, taking a cold shower before bed, or sleeping in a cooler environment also helps.
If you’re getting ready for a training camp, a cycling vacation in a warm country, or just another heat wave, make sure to review this 4-part series to stay safe on the bike. Understanding how to prepare for a ride in the heat, how to manage heat exposure in the saddle, and how to recover after will allow you to enjoy cycling anywhere in the world all year round.