Advanced Hydration for Distance Riders

September 20, 2008 by  
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If your new to the sport there is a simple rule, if your thirsty drink; in fact you should be drinking before your thirsty since you are already 2% dehydrated by the time you crave water. If you’ve been riding for a while, and starting to travel outwards on some longer rides, water can be an important factor in how far you can travel. Know the signs and symptoms of dehydration and learn how to plan ahead for your next distance ride.

Water is essential to life: 75% of the human body is comprised of it. Survivalists live by the rule of threes. The average person can survive 3 months without human contact, 3 weeks without shelter or food and 3 days without water. Of course every person is different. Eventually, as we exercise in the outdoors, our body becomes more efficient at using its’ resources, including water. Environmental factors including temperature, humidity and cover will also play greatly on the body’s need for water, as will activity level. Dehydration is the enemy and slight thirst can quickly lead to more severe and crippling symptoms.

2-5% Dehydrated: Thirst, irritability, nausea and weakness.
10% Dehydrated: Dizziness, headache, inability to walk and tingling sensation in the extremities.
15% Dehydrated: Dim vision, painful urination, swollen tongue, deafness and numb feeling in the skin.
Greater than 15% Dehydrated: Eventually leads to death.

There are some other indicators you should be aware of as the best way to combat dehydration is to know when it is approaching.

  • Dark Urine
  • Low Urine Output
  • Fatigue
  • Emotional Instability
  • Loss of Skin Elasticity
  • Trench Line Down the Center of the Tongue
  • Delayed Capillary Refill in Fingernail Beds
  • Thirst

Water Requirements:
The typical mountain biker can go through anywhere from 10-40 ounces of water an hour. Before embarking on your next cross country journey be sure you are prepared. The best way to determine your specific water requirement is to ride. Fill up your hydration pack and go ride for 2-3 hours under the same stress and conditions you will face on your distance ride. Remember that the intensity of the ride (i.e. climbs and technical stuff) will drastically affect your water requirement, so be as accurate as possible. At the end of the ride check to see how much water you drank and divide that by how many hours you were out. From there it’s a simple matter of estimating how long you’ll be out and multiply that times your water need. Now add in 10-30 extra ounces in case of a detour or unplanned stop. It’s a good idea to keep extra water in your vehicle too, so when you do make it back, you won’t be scrambling to quench your thirst.

Water on the Trail:
200 ounces of water is about the max you’ll want to carry on your bike: You may not even be comfortable with that much. That being said longer rides may require more water than you can carry. The first thing to look for is any nearby stores, parks or other areas where you can readily obtain water. If that isn’t an option nature may be able to provide what you need. Natural creeks, rivers and lakes can provide you with a refill point. If you plan to pursue this option you NEED some form of water purification. Nature, as beautiful as it is, hides many nasty bacteria, viruses and insects, especially in water. The easiest solution is a portable filter or filter bottle. You can purchase one of these at almost any outdoor store or online. Look for something with a three stage filter that eliminates tastes, odors, sediments and bacteria. Also look at the micron size of the filter. The smaller this measurement is, the more pure the water will be. If you plan to use a natural source of water be absolutely certain the creek or river you plan to take water from will be full when you ride. There is nothing worse then getting to your refill point only to find nothing but dry dirt. Also try to plan your water stop when you will be about half out. If something happens and your water supply is not what you expected, you still have enough to get you back home safely. Never drink from stagnant pools or down river from dead animals that may be lying in the water. In an emergency if there is water drink it, but otherwise use caution and common sense. In a pinch a shirt or other fine fabric can filter sediments and insects. You can also dig a hole next to a water source, below the water line. It will fill up and the surrounding dirt will trap insects and even some bacteria. Do not use any of these methods unless it is an emergency!

classic camelbak Advanced Hydration for Distance Riders For rides over 45 minutes you will need to replenish your electrolytes. Electrolytes help your body store water, which helps prevent dehydration. Most energy drinks include sodium and potassium so if you are going to use an energy drink mix, you probably already have this covered. If not you might want to bring a water bottle full of Gatorade in addition to your Camelbak. Either way make sure you replenish your electrolytes for longer rides.

Be prepared, be smart and know what you’re up against. Plan ahead and don’t underestimate your terrain or overestimate your abilities. Training and knowledge are two of the most important tools you can ally yourself with. But don’t be afraid to get out there and experience the beautiful wonders nature holds. Happy riding!

Basic Nutrition for Every Cyclist

September 12, 2008 by  
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sandwich Basic Nutrition for Every CyclistYour body needs energy to function. When you’re out blazing the trails your body uses the food you have consumed throughout the day, and eventually if you do not replenish it, your body will begin using less efficient sources of energy. Here is the breakdown:

Protein: Protein helps build and maintain muscle as well as thousands of other functions throughout the body. Ingesting protein is especially important in the two hours after a workout. Always try to drink some sort of recovery drink or consume protein after exercise. Even chocolate milk will work: Just make sure your stomach has settled before you drink it! If you exercise frequently without providing your body with extra protein you can lose muscle. This is because the protein in your muscles will be broken down and processed by your body.

Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates provide the main source of energy for your body; they are the best source of energy. Any carbohydrates that your body does not use for energy become fat. There are simple carbohydrates, (sugars) that break down quickly and provide very short bursts of intense energy, and complex carbohydrates, (starches) which provide longer less intense bouts of energy. Continue reading below for more carb info.

Fats: Fats are an energy source used by your body when it runs out of carbohydrates. For endurance events such as marathons or centuries fats are the optimum source of energy as they release a small amount of energy over a long period of time. This is why many endurance athletes try to gain fat before a race.

Our body needs a combination of fats and carbohydrates for energy. Fat really takes care of itself. Your body has plenty of fat stores so you never have to worry about running out of fat (unless you don’t eat or are into the ultra-endurance type of stuff). Carbohydrates, unlike fats, must be replenished. If you will be exercising for a period longer than 45 minutes your body needs some sort of carbohydrate intake. There are two main ways of doing this. One is to eat a snack like an energy bar or even your own homemade trail mix: The other way is to consume an energy drink. Either way your body needs 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Your intake will depend of the intensity of activity you are doing and your metabolism. Check your labels and make sure you are getting the energy you need. If you find that part-way through a ride your energy level decreases dramatically, take a look at your carb intake. It’s better to have too much than too little. Happy cycling!