Kinetic 365 Coaching Basic Hydration plan for Cycling and Triathlon events.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
I get a lot of questions about hydration. I felt it smart that I shared again my basic info regrading hydration and how to easily create your own structure.
Everyone has their own unique way to prepare for a race, event or challenge. Many though, don’t
include a clear hydration plan. I always like to challenge my athletes too always seek to improve the
areas that they have control over. Hydration is one such area. So, I challenge you now! ‘Have you got
an easy to follow and manageable hydration plan that at least forms a rough backbone to your race
preparation?’ I emphasise the point ‘backbone’ as no one plan suits everyone and as athlete your
schedule may change so always be prepared to tweak and add to the ‘backbone’.
Understanding how your body loses fluid is also key to your hydration plan and (of course) what the
weather will be like. For many cyclists and especially triathletes up here in Scotland, they are training
in cooler climates and competing in warmer countries. As I was born and bred in the West of
Scotland, I find traveling to even Carlisle like the South of France! So, the point is, train and
understand your sweat habits and train appropriately to mimic your race conditions. This is
obviously not a piece about training specifics, but I am sure you get the idea.
So, your race plan shouldn’t suddenly be some Tibetan like monk behaviour that you feel will give
you the ‘Froome’ or ‘Brownlee’ edge on the day. Sadly, it is more likely to make you want to go to
the toilet more or even worse, it will flush out some of those essential electrolytes!
The main hydration plans that are used by pros follow two main strategies:
‘Drink all you can drink’. Sounds like your Xmas party eh �� You can research several studies and
theories on this but basically it is what it states. As Father Jack would say, ‘DRINK!’ and continue
regularly. Even right up to the start of the race. I always wondered where you pee in a triathlon but
obviously this was in the water, but I have tried this and even when someone is tugging your toes it’s
annoyingly hard to unleash your ‘octopus’ like defence mechanism. However, taking points from the
ideology is important. A hydrated athlete is crucial and as such you must be a hydrated person. So,
you must get your body in tune with fluid intake on a daily regime. It just wont hold onto extra fluid
if you cram. Regularly sipping during the day and aiming for a minimum of 2 litres is easily achievable
and up to 4 or even 5 on post heavy training days. So, start by getting into good habits about
understanding your sweat loss.
Measure Body weight (kg) before and after at least one hour of training
Wear minimal clothing but don’t scare anyone!
Dry well after exercise and get weight measured within 5 mins of finishing session.
Here comes the ex-teacher bit in me. Sweat loss (litres) = your body weight before exercise (kg) minus body weight after exercise (kg) plus fluid consumed during exercise
To convert to sweat rate per hour you just divide by the time your trained/raced for in minutes and multiply by 60
After the session/race you should set the target of drinking 1.3 – 1.5 times the amount you lost,
ideally starting as soon as possible. You need to drink more as you will still be producing pee
internally (we never stop) and you are likely to have slightly increased sweat loss continually for
some time after (depending on conditions). Importantly you need to replace the electrolytes (salts)
lost in your sweat.
Here is a simple example:
Athlete is 65kg at start of 2-hour training session and post training is 64kg. Easy then – 1kg loss.
However, they drank one 500ml bottle of water during the session. So total loss is 1.5kg.
Now you calculate - 1.3 x 1.5 = 1.95L
For your sweat rate per hour it’s more advanced but not quite PhD Mathematics level.
(1.95 litres/120) x 60 = 975ml of sweat per hour
Also consider this – this 65kg athlete loses 1.3kg of sweat! That equates to 2% of body weight! It is
claimed that 2% loss in fluid is equal to a 5% loss in performance. Now start doing the maths and add
up the mins that you are losing! So, you don’t need me, or some Lucozade add to tell you what will
happen to performance. However, it’s the knock-on effect of your recovery as well. A simple process
to follow in all weather conditions! I have seen plenty of riders lose 1kg in a winter ride!
Many Triathletes are training at least twice a day, so this has a huge knock on effect to the next
session. There is also the fact a lot of athletes are swimming late in the day and not aware of this
sweat loss and doing nothing about it! Monitor closely!
Replacing salts is easy nowadays with the various electrolyte tablets on the market so no excuses
there but like everything, don’t take more than you need! However, pay close attention if your
Sweat tastes very salty
Your sweat leaves white marks on your clothes
You sweat a lot in general
Then you probably stink! No sorry – Old PE teacher humour there! It means that you are losing a lot of salt and need to monitor your salt intake
Got that – so back to ‘Drink…’ If you follow this mantra then check out literature around what is
termed EAH – Exercise Associated Hyponatremia. It relates to excessive fluid drinking diluting and
flushing out key electrolytes from our system. This has led to some serious and fatal consequences
for athletes. Scared you now – Wikipedia getting hammered!
The other model is ‘Drink to Thirst’. This was produced by Dr Tim Noakes back in 2012 and
published in his book. ‘Waterlogged – The serious Problem with Overhydration in Endurance
Athletes. The book contains a lot of great research but like any theory it works for some and not for
all (the book will certainly help you get to sleep if you struggle!!!). However, I like Noakes as he
blames certain hydration/nutrition companies for tricking folks into believing that need G……e etc,
better not mention any as you know how sensitive folks are these days. Noakes basically states
that we drink to thirst, so just drink when you feel the urge. The trouble though with this is that the
evidence it uses are from studies that are dated. We evolve! The masses weren’t doing Sportives and
Triathlons 20 or even 10 years ago as they are now.
So, where are we? Ok, let’s put together these ramblings together. So, here is a simple way to get a
ballpark figure of volumes the Kinetic way. As I mentioned early, most folks are looking at around 2
litres a day. I know this because it’s one of the more commonly used hydration formula used.
Your body weight in Kg x 30-35ml/kg = your approx. fluid intake per day.
65kg athlete comes out at 1950ml – 2275ml.
A couple of litres before any exercise. (yes you get (yes, you get more than you realise from food but
just pipe down and keep things simple)
Do you even manage this basic volume?
Finally, there is your pee colour – simple this one. However, when the colour darkens it’s too late.
You are already dehydrated and may have been for around 12-18 hours! Huge loss of performance,
20% or more! Might as well ride with the brakes rubbing or run with your shoes on the wrong feet!
So, putting together all my drivel, the following is therefore what I term as a ‘basic’ guideline that
will give you a good starting point. This is based loosely around figures I got from the American
Sports Council for Cycling some time ago (I do mix in some weird and wonderful circles, at least in
this group there are no funny handshakes!) but works as a start for most athletes.
Follow your normal daily plan and post exercise drinking habits as normal during your week leading up to the race
1 – 2 hours pre-race you take approx. 450ml – 570ml of water
30 mins before the race take 220 – 450ml
Every 15 mins of race aim for 100 – 200ml of water
Your consumption will be inhibited by the intensity, duration, heat, altitude and your level of fitness
So now you have an idea of how to maintain your fluid uptake after training/racing, have an idea of
sweat rate and how to get your body hydrated for your next race. Not bad surely.