Hydration is power. Keeping your blood volume high ensures your muscles can get the oxygen and nutrients they need while you still have enough fluid to send sweat through your skin to cool you down when the effort heats up. Your physical and mental performance dips with as little as 2 percent dehydration. By the time you lose 5 percent of body weight to dehydration, your performance can plummet as much as 30 percent.
What you put in your bottles can also help replace what you’re sweating out or burning off, including essential electrolytes and carbohydrates. Whether you’re heading out for a hilly hundred miles or sprinting for points at your weekly hammerfest, these mixes will help you go the extra mile.
For Everyday Rides:
Research shows that up to 75 percent of Americans may be chronically dehydrated. What’s more, sports scientists find that even mild levels of dehydration can be a brain drain, leaving your cognitive power impaired. That means you could be starting your daily rides with low energy and nowhere to go but down. Perk up by popping some hydration-enhancing electrolytes in your H20.
Nuun Hydration Electrolyte Tablets
Nuun Electrolyte tablets are the perfect pick-me-up for everyday rides. At just 10 calories per tablet, they’re low in sugar but high in electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Plus, they come in 13 different flavors, so there’s sure to be at least one you really like, which makes it even more likely that you’ll drink the fluids you need.
For Hard Efforts:
Spicy group rides and interval workouts will have you working up a sweat in no time, so you want a solution that shoots straight into your bloodstream without getting bogged down in your belly. A drink with the right osmolality (concentration of salt and sugar) will be transported rapidly from your gut into circulation. For the fastest absorption, you want a fluid that has osmolality lower than that of your blood plasma (the watery part of blood). Drinks with a combination of a little sugar and sodium work best because the sugars bind to the sodium and water to deliver the water and nutrients to your muscles quickly. Low carb sports drinks, which are those that contain about 3 to 4 percent carbohydrate or 60 to 80 calories per 16-ounce bottle fit that bill and will help turbo charge your next hard ride. Note: Because these drinks are low carb, you’ll need to stash some food in your pocket for longer and/or harder rides where you need extra energy.
For Truly Epic Adventures:
There are epic rides—like when you’re out with your buddies, the storm of the century rolls in, and you have to break the land speed record sprinting to safety—and then there are truly epic rides such as the Dirty Kanza 200, Leadville 100, and that small, three-week ride to Paris called the Tour de France. These epic adventures require extra juice in your bottles.
For one, your carbohydrate and calorie needs are sky high when you’re riding for many hours (or days…or weeks). General guidelines call for 30 to 60 grams of carbs (120 to 240 calories) per hour after the first hour or so during endurance exercise. That number shoots to 60 to 90 grams (240 to 360 calories) per hour if you’re going hard for more than two and a half hours. It can be physically difficult to feed yourself enough to meet those demands, especially on rough terrain where taking your hands off the bars is a challenge, and at some point, you may just not have the appetite or digestive capacity for much solid food. That’s when liquid nutrition can be a lifesaver.
Science in Sport Beta Fuel
Beta Fuel by Science in Sport is specially designed for long rides, serving 80 grams (320 calories) of carbohydrate per 16-ounce bottle using a 2:1 ratio of maltodextrin to fructose. This isotonic solution, meaning that the osmolality is the same as your body fluids, gets absorbed from your gut into your bloodstream quickly with limited GI issues. Use it along with water or an electrolyte drink to meet your hydration needs.
For Sensitive Stomachs:
Anyone who has tried to take in carbohydrates during hard efforts or competition when the gut is already compromised knows that what you put in doesn’t always stay put. The result: You find yourself tossing your cookies or hightailing it to a porta-potty.
Maurten Drink Mix 160
Maurten is a high-tech drink mix that uses patent-pending technology to get the carbs out of your stomach and through the intestines without undue disruption. The drink mix is built on what the company calls hydrogel technology: When you mix the maltodextrin/fructose drink mix with water, the drink instantly converts to a jelly-like substance when it hits the acid environment of your stomach. From there, it passes straight through to your intestines where it is easily absorbed. This system allows you to get high amounts of carbs through, so you can choose between the 160, a solution that contains 40 grams of carbs (160 calories) and works best when you need hydration but little energy, or the 320 solution, which contains 80 grams of carbs (320 calories) and provides plenty of energy for long endurance events.
As an ultra endurance cyclist who struggles with belly woes, I have been thrilled with this product. It’s pleasantly but not excessively sweet and goes down easy even after five or six hours in the saddle when my stomach often starts to get sour.
For Hot and Humid Conditions:
When the temperatures rise, your hydration needs soar, and it can be a struggle to drink enough fluids to keep from running low. If you’re out in the high heat, or you’re a heavy, salty sweater, you need a drink mix that will replenish key electrolytes like sodium.
Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier
On steamy days, Liquid I.V. can be a lifesaver. The company claims that drinking one bottle spiked with Liquid I.V. can provide the same hydration as drinking two to three bottles of water, which isn’t hard to believe as water sits and sloshes in your stomach and can be slow to enter your bloodstream. The company credits its trademarked “Cellular Transport Technology” (CTT), which uses a specific ratio of potassium, sodium, and glucose based on World Health Organization science to create an osmotic force that allows fluids to be absorbed from the upper digestive tract twice as fast as water. I’ve used it during hard mountain bike races with temps in the high 80s and was pleasantly surprised by how hydrated and energized I felt throughout.
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With 500 milligrams of sodium and 370 milligrams of potassium (the same amount in a small banana), Liquid I.V. is especially high in electrolytes. It’s also low in carbs, delivering just 12 grams (48 calories), mostly in the form of cane sugar and dextrose, so if you’re going longer than 90 minutes, you’ll need to stash snacks in your pockets. It comes in three flavors: Lemon Lime, Acai Berry, and Passion Fruit. All taste pretty salty but are otherwise very palatable. Along with the electrolytes, the product delivers 110 percent of your daily value for vitamin C, as well as energy-boosting vitamins B3, B5, B6, and B12.
For Before a Race:
When it’s ready, set, go time, you want your body to be prepared. Being well fueled and hydrated helps, but you can give yourself a leg up by adding a little rocket fuel to your pre-race bottle in the form of Beta Red beetroot juice powder.
Beta Red Pre-Workout Performance Formula
Beta Red is naturally rich in nitrates, which your body converts to nitric oxide, a gas that relaxes and widens blood vessels so you can get more oxygen-rich blood to your hard-working muscles. It also contains amino acids beta alanine and citrulline malate, which help increase blood flow, delay muscle fatigue, and improve muscle fiber firing rate (how quickly your muscles activate). They also help speed up recovery between hard efforts so you can go harder and faster for longer. The taste is pretty strong, even if you’re a beet fan (and I am), but you can just think of it as the flavor of “fast.”
For Post-Ride or Race:
Recovery drinks—which contain carbs, protein, and, of course, fluids—pull off a post-hard effort hat trick by helping you rehydrate, top off your glycogen stores, and initiate protein synthesis to repair muscles when your body is most primed for it. They also go down easy when you may not have much of an appetite for anything else.
Floyd’s of Leadville CBD Recovery Protein
For a protein drink that goes the extra mile, try Floyd’s of Leadville CBD Recovery Protein. It’s all natural, without any additives or fillers, low in sugar, and delivers a healthy hit of 27 grams of protein plus 8.5 grams of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) to help repair your muscles. It also contains 25 milligrams of CBD (a.k.a. Cannabidiol), which calms inflammation and promotes relaxation—a difficult feat when you’re all keyed up from racing.