It's one thing to have fluid available to consume while riding or running. It's another to actually drink it. These tips will help.
Remaining hydrated is important for optimal performance in running and cycling. As a sports nutritionist, I train many athletes to be aware of the importance of hydration. However, to simply have the fluid available is no good if it is not consumed—and sometimes getting fluid down your throat is easier said than done. Most articles on hydration focus on the benefits and on the types and amounts of fluid athletes should consume. Very few address the mechanics of drinking while cycling or running.
This article addresses that neglected topic. So although this topic may be a tangent to sports nutrition itself, it may offer some great tips, particularly beginners who may either struggle with balance on the bike, or with comfort on a long run. But it’s not only beginners who struggle. Former marathon world record holder Paul Tergat once said that learning to drink while racing was the most difficult part of adapting to the marathon for him. I myself crashed and broke a collar bone while attempting to drink from my water bottle and thought I would share my research in order to overcome the challenges of hydration strategizing.
Drinking on the Bike
Drinking on the bike requires a certain level of skill, especially for the beginner. Practice on a stationary trainer by removing the water bottle from the cage and drinking while looking forward. Keep in mind, that once you’re out on the road, you will need to perform this action smoothly, without taking your eyes of the road. Cyclists should also concentrate on working their core muscles to enhance balance and confidence. Pilates classes, abdominal strengthening, and balancing exercise are key to feeling comfortable on the bike.
A fluid reservoir system, such as a CamelBak, offers a great alternative for staying hydrated. Although these items might not be as stylish as the cycling crowd’s usual guise, they have particular advantages over traditional water bottles, particularly for athletes with balancing issues. Reservoirs hold more fluid, which means less stopping for refills. With more fluid available, more fluid is likely to be consumed. Back-mounted fluid packs also stay colder than bottled fluid, and can even be frozen. They are even more aerodynamic. Their downside is that, when full, they are fairly heavy and add stress to your lower back.
In addition to CamelBaks, cyclists and triathletes have discovered various other fluid reservoir systems that can be affixed to their bikes. Again, these allow less stopping to replenish fluids and more consistent hydration on long rides. Water bottles mouth affixed between the aerobars with a straw leading directly to the athlete’s mouth are especially popular among long-distance triathletes. The advantages of having fluids readily available without changing position on the bike can be great. However, many athletes complain that these hydration systems have a tendency to shift on bumpy roads. Therefore you might not want to try this option unless you’re comfortable enough with your balance to deal with such unforeseen circumstances.
Regardless of the hydration method chosen, a good strategy is to set your watch alarm to sound every 15 to 20 minutes and to drink 4-6 ounces of fluid from whatever container works best for you. Practice and be comfortable before racing with anything new.
Drinking on the Run
Hydration on long runs is not as easy as on a bike. Simply carrying a squeeze bottle is the most basic way to go, but it spoils the symmetry of the arm swing. Using a neoprene adjustable hand strap that fits over the hand and an ergonomic fluid flask will help somewhat by allowing you to run without actively gripping your fluid supply, but the asymmetry is still there.
A waist pack soft-shell canteen with a belt and straw may offer some convenience. This system is comparable to the CamelBak reservoir mentioned above. It may feel heavy for many runners. It also has a tendency to cause blisters and rashes for runs greater than a half-marathon distance.
A single-bottle waist pack is lighter and more comfortable. There are many variations of this system. In some, the bottle is positioned horizontally, making it easier to pull out from the sides and offering some stability to the bottle. Angled bottles are another variation, and although this positioning makes it easier to reach the bottle from one side, angled bottles have a tendency to fall out. Look out for extra elastic bands that are available to snug up the top of the bottle so that it does not bounce in the pouch.
The multiple-bottle waist belt seems to be the most popular for drinking on the run. These products provide several small pouches for eight-ounce bottles spaced evenly on an elastic waistband. The bottles are light, and the wide belt does not have the same tendency to bounce and cause friction. Runners may experience elbows grazing across the top of the bottles occasionally, but because the belt is soft and light, it offers more comfort and the grazing is soon forgotten. Furthermore, one can conveniently put sports drink, water and/or a sports gel in different bottles.
Because one may experience comfort issues as well as some frustration in having to twist the belt when bottles are needed, it is important to experiment with this type of hydration system on training runs. This advice applies universally. Never use a new method for an actual event.
Nutrition article courtesy of PacificHealth Laboratories, makers of nutrition tools such as Accelerade, Accel Gel, Endurox R4, Endurox Excel and much more. For product information or to purchase products, please visit www.pacifichealthlabs.com.
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