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What to drink when you ride a bike

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What to drink when you ride a bike

Whether you’re doing a workout, a gran fondo, a simple relaxing ride at the end of the day or a cycle touring-style trip hydration is crucial for your health and performance. Physiology, climate and weather play a big part in deciding what to drink when you ride a bike. For this to know what is the best hydration drink for cycling helps you create a hydration plan that’s easier to follow, allows you to reach your goals or otherwise avoid dehydration problems.

What to drink when you ride a bike

There are lots of options when it comes to what to put in your water bottle. Depending on your hydration and nutrition needs, these are the best hydration drinks for cycling.

Water Electrolyte drinks Moisturizing tablets and blends Carbohydrate drinks

The importance of cycling hydration

It’s hard to overstate the effects of dehydration on cycling performance. The level of hydration significantly affects the volume of blood plasma. As you become dehydrated, your plasma volume decreases, causing decreased blood flow and an increase in body temperature. What does this mean when in the saddle? Basically, you won’t be able to produce as much horsepower and these effects become more significant during long duration endurance events.

The simplest solution to avoid cycling dehydration

The simplest solution to dehydration is drink more water during your rides. However, the problem is a little more complicated. We not only lose water through sweat, but sodium as well. Replacing lost fluids with water alone can lead to hyponatremia. This condition is dilution of sodium levels in the blood, which is dangerous and potentially life threatening. It occurs when you lose a lot of sodium and drink too much water. The good news is that with the right hydration strategy, you can ensure you’re drinking enough throughout your ride.

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How much water to drink while cycling

Deciding how much to drink can vary greatly based on many variables. Your physiology plays a significant role, along with the intensity and weather conditions of your ride. But some general principles can be applied to allthe. How much you sweat and the rate at which you lose sodium are highly individual. Do you sweat a lot? You will need to drink more. Do you have salt stains on your underpants or shirt? You will want to drink something with sodium.

Regardless of individual sweating rate, it will increase as temperature and intensity increase. In hot or humid conditions, your body will sweat more to keep you cool, which means you’ll need to drink more. Furthermore, your body temperature will rise as the intensity of your pedaling increases. If you’re having an easy ride, you won’t need to drink as much as if you were having a tough race.

Drinking when thirsty? It may not be enough

“Drink when you’re thirsty” is a old cycling saying. There is much truth in this idea. However, it’s not necessarily the best advice in some circumstances. If you’re participating in a long endurance event, the conditions are hot, or you’re someone who sweats a lot, drinking only when you’re thirsty may not be enough.

Drinking one bottle an hour is the golden rule

That said, a general rule is to aim to drink one bottle per hour. Tip: You can set a timer on your phone as a reminder to drink. You will have to adjust the amount according to the conditions and your physiology. Your cycling needs may be higher or lower than this amount. It’s best to listen to your body and take note of what works for you.

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The best hydration drink for cycling

There are lots of options when it comes to what to put in your water bottle. Depending on your hydration and nutrition needs, water or a sports drink may be sufficient. Determining the best hydration drink for cycling mostly comes down to personal preference, weather conditions, weather, and intensity. Broadly speaking, these options fall into four categories.


The first thing to drink when riding a bike is plain water. If your workout or ride is short, water can be a good choice. He does note, however, that you may need to get sodium from another source. However, for longer rides or in hotter conditions, water alone is a dodgy choice. This is because carbohydrates play a vital role in the absorption and transport of electrolytes.

Electrolyte drinks for cycling

These electrolyte drinks focus on getting sodium, potassium and other electrolytes with little or no carbohydrates. Electrolyte drinks are great when you’re getting enough calories from other sources like gels, chews, or bars. However, if this is your only source of nutrition while cycling, it will probably be best to opt for a more carbohydrate-rich drink blend.

Moisturizing compresses and blends

The next option is to use moisturizing tablets or blends. These blends usually contain a combination of carbohydrates and electrolytes. These drinks have a carbohydrate concentration of 3-4% because they help transport water and sodium through the small intestine. If you’re using a hydrating blend and aiming for 60-90g of carbs per hour, you’ll need another way to get more carbs in.

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Carbohydrate drink mix

A third way to stay hydrated while cycling is use a high carbohydrate drink mix. Typically, these drinks contain more carbohydrates than a hydrating blend but with a similar amount of sodium. These types of drinks are an easy way to get carbohydrates and hydration at the same time. Using a mixture of carbohydrates in one bottle and water in another is a popular choice because it can help avoid gastrointestinal problems caused by excess carbohydrates.


Whatever you choose to drink when you ride a bike, listen to your body. By learning your needs and factoring in weather conditions and intensity, you can create a hydration plan that will help you reach your goals.

READ ALSO: The difference between isotonic, hypotonic and hypertonic drinks

Photo by Viktor Bystrov / Markus Spiske / Joana Abreu


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