- Work out how much you need to drink.
Before you can finalise a hydration plan, you need to know how much to drink. An easy way to tell if you’re drinking enough (or too little or too much) is to step on a scale before and after a ride (this is what we call a fluid balance test). Take note of how much you drink throughout the ride as well. If you weigh less after the session than you did at the beginning, you need to drink more. If you weigh more, you’re drinking too much. Ideally you can ride hard for an hour and use this as a base measurement, multiplying the amount by the length of the ride you’re doing. For example, if you weigh half a kilogram less after an hour in normal conditions, then it’s likely you’ll lose roughly 1.5kg after a three-hour ride if the conditions are the same and you’re drinking at the same rate.
- Think about the conditions.
Your fluid needs will change depending on the conditions. You need to be able to adapt the amount you drink depending on temperature, wind, sweat rate, training intensity, duration and altitude. Hotter temperature, more wind, higher intensity, longer duration and higher altitude all increase fluid needs so factor this in. Repeat the fluid balance test explained above when training in different conditions so you get a feel for the differences in your fluid needs and can apply that when it comes to racing. This way, if you find it’s a particularly hot or cold race day, you’ll know how to adjust your hydration plan.
- Think about what happens after you step off the bike.
It is not necessary or practical to replace all fluid losses during a training session or race. Instead, use the next four to six hours after you get off the bike to rehydrate. To rehydrate properly you need to drink one–and-a-half times the amount you lose in weight (refer back to your fluid balance test). So, if you lose 1kg during a three hour race, you need to drink 1.5L in the next four to six hours to make up for it, all before you head to the pub!