Start drinking earlier than you think you should
Start early! It might not be as important to drink early with a single ride. But when you spend many hours in the saddle day after day even mild dehydration can be a problem. That’s because it’s hard to catch up if your dehydration accumulates over days. If you always start drinking within the first 30 minutes of your ride, chances are you will feel good even in the morning of day 5.
Drink a bottle per hour
A good rule of thumb is to drink about a bottle, 500 to 1000ml of fluid, per hour. On cooler days you might be ok with plain water if you have enough snacks to replenish electrolytes. On hotter days when you expect to sweat a lot it’s much more important to fill your bottle with an electrolyte drink.
Each litre of sweat contains roughly 900 mg sodium, 1 mg magnesium, 300 mg potassium, and 15 mg calcium. Look for a drink that covers those electrolytes. If you want to maximize the speed of hydration go for hypotonic drinks, those have less than 4% of sugar and absorb fastest. You can also make your own isotonic electrolyte drink with this recipe.
Which is better a bottle or a hydration pack?
The main advantage of using bottles is that you can easily tell how much you drank. The problem is that you can’t realistically carry enough bottles for a long ride. They work best when you have opportunities to refill at aid stations in a race or during planned stops during your adventure.
Hydration packs give you’re the option to carry much higher quantity of fluids. This can save up time during a race or allow you to plan an adventure route with no stops. The problem is that it’s easy to lose track of how much you are drinking as you don’t feel the changing weight of a bottle in your hand. You can solve this by simply setting an alarm on your watch and drink a set number of sips 3x an hour on a schedule.
In many scenarios, it might be best to use both methods. Have plain water in your hydration pack and electrolyte drinks in your bottles. This way you can choose between water and snacks for hot days when you need to maximize hydration and electrolyte drinks on cooler days. This leads us to what type of snack should you use on the bike and how many grams of carbs to aim for. That will be a topic for the next article.