Hydration Tips for Cyclists: Are You Taking Enough Water?

Your body is up to 60 percent of water. Every day, you lose a lot of water through sweat, urine, and breath. To keep the body performing optimally, therefore, you need to keep topping up the amount of water in your body.

Cyclists take hydration seriously. If you are a professional cyclist, for instance, you will need to train every day, and that means losing a lot of water through sweat. As a professional, you might have to weigh yourself and even take urine tests to ensure that you have enough water in your body.

Hydrate to Enhance Performance

You will sweat a lot when you ride, and this can significantly lower the amount of water in your body. If, for instance, you lose two percent of water in your body through sweat, you might end up losing up to 1.6 kg for a rider who is 80 kg in mass. When that happens, your performance will be impaired significantly. Your capacity to do muscular work might suffer by up to 30 percent.

If you lose water by up to 7 percent, the condition becomes dire as you might experience hallucinations, heatstroke, circulatory collapse, and even death.

Some of the effects of low water in your body when you are cycling include:

  • Low blood volume
  • Less blood flow to the skin
  • Reduced rate of sweating
  • Less heat dissipation
  • Increased body temperature
  • More glycogen use by the muscles
  • Less digestive function

Monitor How Much Water You Take

As a cyclist, you need to stay hydrated at all times. One way to do that is to weigh yourself every day and observe any sudden drops in weight. Look at the color of your urine and use online charts to see whether you are taking enough water.

You need to hydrate every day, whether you are biking or you are just at home. When you do so, it will be easier for you to drink enough water when you start riding. At home, for instance, you can have a water softener and a water purifier to have enough water all the time. You will not have a shortage of water at home with a water softener, and neither will you get to experience the burden of buying bottled water. You can then eat enough of the minerals lost during biking.

Taking Water Before a Ride

If you take a lot of water a night before the ride trying to play hydration catch up, you will only make yourself take so many comfort breaks. Two hours to the ride, you need to drink at least half a liter of isotonic sports drink.

How Much Water to Drink While Biking

You can tell how much water you need to drink on the bike by taking a sweat test. If you hydrate well during the day, you will not drink any water during the ride (as long as you are riding 60 minutes or less). Weigh yourself nude before the ride. After the ride, wipe off all sweat from your body and weigh yourself again. The difference between the two weights will be the amount of water you lose during the ride.

In most cases, you will lose between 500 and 1000 grams (the equivalent of 500ml – 1000ml of water) in an hour’s ride. You might want to do that many times to get accurate readings. If you are on the upper end of that range, ensure you replace at least 75 percent of the water loss after the ride – you can replace the remaining later.

When to Hydrate When Cycling

You should not wait until you feel thirsty to drink water. You need to start drinking water from the start of your ride. Every 10 – 15 minutes, you need to take a few gulps of water. Just like when you eat on the bike, you drink water so you can have enough a few minutes down the line. At the end of the ride, take a recovery drink. Irrespective of how careful you are, you might still get dehydrated during a ride. Include the necessary electrolytes at the end of your ride.

Plain Water or Water with Electrolytes for a Ride?

If you are only riding for 60 minutes or less, you need to take plain water. However, if you are taking longer rides, you need to include electrolytes and carbohydrates. For longer rides, plain water will not give you the energy you need. A lot of plain water can also make you feel bloated and make you feel less need to drink water before you feel thirsty.

Electrolytes give you the salts that lost through sweat. Most sports drinks come with enough electrolytes, so you will not have to add them. If you choose to buy electrolyte tablets, they will give you the energy you need as they contain carbohydrates.

Can You Drink Too Much?

There is drinking enough water and drinking excess. If you are not taking enough electrolytes with your water, you will end up diluting your body fluids. You will feel bloated, perform less. Extreme cases of hyponatremia can lead to death. Besides replacing the fluids, you need to replace the electrolytes that you lose. Athletes have experienced cases of reduced performance by taking too much water and forgetting to replace electrolytes.


Drinking water should not be only for when you are feeling thirsty and when you are biking. If your bike occasionally, the best way to ensure you hydrate at all times is to estimate the amount of water you need every day and ensure you drink that much. This way, you will not need to drink so much water when you are cycling.

If you start feeling thirsty, it means that you are taking less water than you need. Again, if you are feeling bloated, it means you are taking more water than you need and fewer electrolytes. If you are feeling weak, you need to take more carbohydrates to replenish the energy you lose during the ride. When you are not taking water, you need to eat food rich in magnesium and calcium. If necessary, you can supplement these minerals.