This morning on my ride in, I got passed (brutally passed) by another woman cyclist. I really don’t expect to be the fastest bike commuter out there. In fact, I often find myself “taking in the scenery,” and taking my time. But, I don’t like getting passed, I admit to my competitive bone. So I asked myself, how could she be so much faster? For starters, she was on a road bike and I was on May, my hybrid. She also was wearing the “biking garb” compared to my non-ergo-dynamic old college jersey shorts and t-shirt. She had a shiny sleek helmet, versus my cracked, rounded one. But sensibly, I finally came to the conclusion, that most likely she a) probably trains more b) trains harder c) is genetically gifted. I did however, make some adjustments to my diet in case I see her on the way home. I drank more water. I realized that I had not been following my typical hydration routine. Water has numerous vital roles in maintaining our optimal health. Regarding physical performance, a 1-2% reduction in body weight due to dehydration can significantly impair your morning jog or afternoon bike ride home. This dehydrated state causes your blood volume to drop and makes your heart work harder to move blood through your body. So how much water does one need? Honestly, I can’t give you an exact answer. You are unique. You sweat differently, you lose water differently, and the length and intensity of your exercise differs from everyone else. SO, finding the right amount varies. I do have two easy ways to know whether or not you are hydrating properly. 1) Check out the the output and color of your urine. If you urine smells, is yellow to dark in color, and is little in regard to volume: you need to drink more water. 2) Weigh yourself (naked-sweaty clothes after exercise will weigh more) before and after exercise. If you weigh less after exercise, you did not hydrate well enough during the exercise, if you weigh more, you over-hydrated (which can also be a bad thing). If you are about the same weight, guess what? yes, you did a good job. Some rules of thumb for hydrating during exercise. 1) Drink about 2-3 cups, 2-3 hours prior to exercise, & top it off with one more cup of water 10-15 minutes prior to exercise. 2) During exercise, drink 1 cup every 10-15 minutes. I realize this may be difficult depending on the circumstances… 3) After exercise: If you lost weight, drink 20-24 oz of water for every 1# lost. 4) For exercise lasting 90 minutes or longer (for some 60 minutes depending on the intensity and weather) incorporate carbohydrate into your beverage (ie Gatorade or Powerade). Happy exercising, and if you find yourself passing me on your bike at least say hello (:
Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.