Hydrating Through the Heatwaves

female athlete drinking from hydration pack

Hydrating Through the Heatwaves

Heatwave reports and notifications are blowing up across the country.  Staying safe during the summer’s most extreme temperatures can take a little foresight and planning.  It is vital that hydration become not only a principal concern for all people but especially for cyclists and exercise enthusiasts.  While most of us recognize the importance of staying hydrated we sometimes ignore the warnings. It is good to remind ourselves of the symptoms of dehydration during the record high temperatures:  dry-mouth, lethargy, weakness in muscles, dizziness, and headaches.

Get Your Sweat On

Most athletes love to go out and work up a good sweat, it is during extreme heat that we need to “exercise” (pun intended) extreme caution.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “more than 600 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year.”  These deaths are most common among the very young and very old, but heat doesn’t discriminate. Heat stroke and/or exhaustion can happen to the most fit.  Bodies are typically able to cool ourselves by sweating, although high humidity can prevent us from feeling the need to sweat. Consequently, our internal temperature can rise to unsafe levels and cause brain and organ damage.

Bottoms Up

The CDC recommends that everyone, even those in great physical shape minimize exercise during extreme heat.  If you aren’t accustomed to exercising in the heat, it would be best to avoid it altogether. But, if you can’t imagine not riding, it is best you plan your outing early in the mornings or early evenings.

Drinking plenty of fluids is definitely what the doctor ordered.  The CDC recommends that women drink 91 ounces and men drink 125 ounces a day. When it is humid, you can’t wait for the “thirst” cue to tell you to drink.  Often your body is well on its way to dehydration prior to it being “thirsty.” To ensure you are drinking your water on hot days, fill up a number of water bottles in the morning and try to drink them all  throughout the day. You can also set alarms on your phone and, OF COURSE, there are APPS that will remind you to get your hydration on.  Decrease the drinks with lots of sugar, as well as alcohol, because they often exacerbate dehydration.  These drinks may quench the thirst but don’t necessarily hydrate. It is counterintuitive to not drink ice cold drinks on these record-breaking days but note that they can cause stomach cramps.  

Hydration Mixes

If you are working out and riding, it is extra important to stay on top of hydration.  The salt and minerals you sweat out need to be replenished. Sports drinks are super for replenishing, not to mention they often help us to drink just a little more than we would if it were just plain water.  Runner’s World selected five hydration mixes that were the best in nutritional value and flavor:

  • Nuun Immunity
  • Bonk Breaker Real Hydration (Bonkbreakter.com)
  • Skratch Labs Sport Hydration Mix
  • Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier
  • Maurten Drink Mix (for endurance workouts)

Here are some great sources of hydration that are easy to find, and you might have them already in your kitchen:

Coconut Water: For simpler, easier to find sources of hydration, try coconut water; you get the same amount of potassium as a banana and get hydrated at the same time. Be on the lookout for versions with excess sugar. 

Fruity Water:  How about infusing your water with a little fruit to add flavor and encourage more consumption?  You will enjoy the taste and get hydrated.

Guayusa Tea: It is a great natural energy supplier.  It also has antioxidants and chlorogenic acids that are good for your heart. (Keep in mind it has caffeine). 

G2: With zero-calories and no sugar and electrolytes, this is a good addition to water. 

Performance Days

You certainly can’t choose the weather on event days so you may decide to do a competition regardless of the extreme heat.  You probably have been training for extreme conditions, but it is good to review some recommendations from Data Driven Athlete to ensure a great performance as well as ensure your safety and well-being.  Their recommendations in a nutshell are:

  1. Make sure you are hydrating on the days up to the race.
  2. Check your urine color.  “Very pale yellow to pale yellow” is what you are going for.
  3. For short races (under an hour), drink every 10 minutes.
  4. For longer races, and in hot conditions, a sports drink is recommended.
  5. While training, try weighing yourself before and after long training sessions to see how much fluid is lost to determine the amount of fluid needed during race day.

For more recommendations check out the full article at Data Driven Athlete.

Heatwaves aren’t something that has to completely deter you from riding.  You might savor the nice sweat you get during these rides. Keep in mind it is harder on your heart to workout in extreme heat. Let hydration be at the very forefront of your mind as you keep on pedaling!  

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