I’ve been getting a lot of response to my fellow club member’s inquiry about what to drink on rides. While some people go for the drink mixes offered by nutrition companies (Hammer, etc.), it seems that most of us use more mundane mixes.
In fact, the number one hydration fluid — by a long shot — was plain old water. “Water, water, water, and lots of it!” said one. Others seconded the water idea, but did add some electrolyte mixes, such as Nuun.
Of course, there’s plenty of information online about maintaining electrolyte balance during cycling. It’s just that, for most of us, most of the time, we’re not straining ourselves that much. A couple of hours seems to be a routine ride, and in my experience, any kind of electrolyte replenisher will do the job. As I said before, one bottle of plain water and another with some kind of electrolyte drink will work. Gatorade — many folks dilute theirs — and their ilk will do the job, although lots of people don’t like Gatorade.
One of my friends, Don Bynum, does put a lot of thought into what he takes on a ride. Since he rides a recumbent trike, he carries a lot more fluids than diamond frame riders carry, anyway. On his blog earlier this summer, he recounted a 53-mile ride in 90–plus degree heat, and how he was able to stay fresh throughout (he’s 69 years old).
“I have tried numerous electrolyte replacement products over the last eight years of cycling. Nothing I tried comes even close to Hammer Nutrition’s Endurolyte capsule product in preventing cramps and heat exhaustion in our Texas Summers. A few minutes prior to rolling out I took two Endurolytes, with water, then a Hammer Perpetuem Solids ‘thing.’
“In the course of the ride and lunch I went through five liters of water and/or iced tea, nine endurolytes and six Perpetuems, plus a hamburger. That kept me going through 53 miles.”
I’ve been known to replenish my electrolytes by grabbing some pretzels or a Payday candy bar during rides. Don is leery of that strategy:
“I have heard people make statements about getting electrolytes by eating salty food. That is foolish and not supported by what we know about our bodies. A good electrolyte suppliment will have some sodium salt, but also salts of phosphorous, magnesium, and manganese as well as some other stuff that helps our boduies assimilate the salts. Too much sodium chloride actually blocks the other electrolytes from getting through the cell walls. Don’t bother to comment about how great you do with the salt from a bunch of On the Border toastadas. The simple, inarguable truth is that you would do even better with a balanced load of electrolytes.”
Finally, our guest poster Jeff Hemmel chimed in about his favorite electrolyte supplement: Skratch Labs. That’s the mixture developed by cycling physician Alan Lim for pro cyclists.
“Flavor is actually from fruit and not some chemical,” he said. “Low calorie, no stomach issues, different kind of salt, and actually tastes good.”
A few others had an issue with the price of Skratch Labs, however. A pound of the mix costs $19.50 online. A 16-oz. tube of Nuun tablets is $7.00. For Jeff, the price difference is worth it. And I haven’t checked lately, but if you do order Skratch Labs online, try using the code BIKENOOB at checkout, for a 15 percent discount.
With August winding down, a lot of us are looking forward to cooler fall riding. But we’ll still need to drink.