Hydration is a critical issue for RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI occurs during the hottest time of year here in Iowa and it’s important that you maintain a constant fluid intact. Even before I start this I can hear the comments about ‘drinking’. Well, sorry to burst your bubble but I’m going to follow the straight and narrow here and talk about non-alcoholic fluid intake.
Sweating is the body’s mechanism to cool itself off. When moisture evaporates from our skin, it requires energy which pulls heat from our skin, giving us the cooling effect. The hotter we are, the more we sweat. When it’s humid out, the sweat doesn’t evaporate very quickly and we literally get soaked from the inside out. A hot, humid day demonstrates just how much we sweat. The moisture in sweat comes from our body’s fluids, mainly cellular fluid and blood.
We need to constantly drink when we are riding to replenish these fluids lost to sweat. If we don’t drink enough, a number of things can happen. Your body weight will drop, sometimes in the order of several pounds. Unfortunately this is not a desirable way to lose body weight. Losing fluid decreases blood volume and upsets your electrolyte balance, decreasing your muscles’ ability to work properly and may lead to cramping. In more extreme cases, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion and then heat stroke. It’s best to avoid these by staying hydrated and using other means to keep cool while riding.
Drink one to two water bottles of water or a sports drink during each hour you are out riding. Then when you get done each day, make a conscious effort to keep drinking to replenish your body fluids. Keep a water bottle with you all afternoon and evening and keep sipping. You will feel much better then next day if you do. Rule of thumb – if you are only urinating 2-3 times per day, you aren’t drinking enough.
Okay, can’t resist: one comment about alcohol. Alcohol, like coffee, is a diuretic, meaning it forces the body to eliminate water through urination. This is not something you want to do while trying to hydrate yourself during RAGBRAI. But if you are going to have a beer, make sure you have a bottle of water along with every beer you drink to counteract this diuretic effect. And if you are out riding and sweating heavily, it’s best to stick with water or a sports drink and skip the beer until you get done riding for the day and have a chance to cool off and rehydrate first.
Stay moist and have a great RAGBRAI!
If you would like more cycling training information, check out my website www.CyclesportCoaching.com where you will find numerous free articles.
By the way, I also just had a book published, by the name of ‘101 Cycling Workouts’ and as the title suggests, it contains 101 different workouts to improve your cycling, both on and off the bike. Check it out at www.101CyclingWorkouts.com
Coach David Ertl
David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 (Elite) Coach. He coaches individual cyclists, the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team and the JDRF Greater Iowa Chapter for the Ride to Cure Diabetes. He is also an NSCA certified Personal Trainer. He can be contacted at Coach@CyclesportCoaching.com .