Should I Drink Electrolytes While Cycling?

January 3, 2023

Should I Drink Electrolytes While Cycling?

Anyone who enjoys physical exercise and sports will have heard about the importance of electrolytes. However, how much do you really know about them?

How much should you be drinking? Should you be drinking electrolytes while you’re cycling?

These are all important questions, and you should know the answers! If you want to find out about drinking electrolytes while cycling, stick around! We’ll cover when you need to know, and so much more.

Should I Drink Electrolytes While Cycling?

Why Are Electrolytes Important?

Electrolytes are minerals within our bodies. These minerals have an electric charge, and are found in various body fluids, including urine, blood, and sweat.

A few electrolytes you’re probably already familiar with include things like chloride, calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphate! The food and fluids you take in contain these crucial electrolytes.

Electrolytes are important because they can help with the following things:

  • Remove waste from our cells
  • Balance our body’s base/acid pH level
  • Balance the amount of water that our body contains
  • Move nutrients to the cells
  • Ensure that muscles and nerves work as they should

Electrolyte levels in our bodies can be too high or too low at certain times. This might happen when the water levels in our body changes for any reason.

You should calculate the amount of water you take in by looking at how much you lose. When this balance is upset, you can either be dehydrated (too little water) or over hydrated (too much water).

There are other factors that come into play, however. Certain medications, as well as things like sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, and even kidney and liver problems can all upset this balance easily.

This is why it’s crucial to ensure that you’re drinking enough water when you have a fever, or are experiencing any of the other symptoms mentioned.

Knowing what causes the unbalance is the first step to treating it. In the case of cycling, the likely cause for this upset balance is sweating!

If we push ourselves hard, especially in the heat, we will sweat more, and upset the water balance in our bodies. As a result, our electrolyte levels will drop, and we can experience a range of side effects.

Side effects of low electrolyte levels include the following:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Fast heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle cramping
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Vomiting

You can replenish electrolyte levels by drinking replenishing solutions that many online stores sell.

Alternatively, you can eat a healthy and balanced diet, with foods like potatoes, spinach, avocados, beans, oranges, bananas, and strawberries.

Drinking Electrolytes While Cycling

If you’re on shorter rides, electrolytes aren’t necessary. However, you should definitely drink electrolytes if you’re on a long ride.

You should aim to drink small amounts, but often. Generally, this will equate to 2 or 3 gulps of your drink every 10-15 minutes. On hotter days, this could be every 5-10 minutes.

It’s important to drink small amounts from the moment you start riding. If you wait until you’re thirsty, then it’s already too late.

In rides that are only 60 minutes or less, plain water will be fine. However, this is only the case if they are low intensity rides, and you aren’t pushing yourself too much.

If you are going to be riding on a hot day, taking part in a race, or riding for more than an hour, electrolytes are a must.

This is because you will be sweating a lot more, so you will lose water and therefore electrolytes. These need to be replenished to help you perform your best.

There are lots of different electrolyte drinks or powder brands to choose from.

These brands have various flavours and sugar levels, with some having significantly more sugar than others.

It’s up to you to pick the one that suits you best, as long as you do your research beforehand.

Drinking Electrolytes Before Cycling

It’s also important to be drinking electrolytes before you start your cycling session. You should aim to drink around 500 ml of electrolyte drink between 1 and 2 hours before you start your cycle.

This is especially important if your session is going to be intense, long, or in the heat. Try to drink 150-200 ml of electrolyte drink right before you start cycling.

Electrolytes aren’t all, though. Hydration is a key piece of the puzzle and should always be taken seriously. While the NHS recommends taking in 1.2 litres of fluid daily, this can vary greatly.

Every person’s needs will be different. This can depend on age, weight, and climate, and activity levels, as well as genetic factors.

If you’re someone who exercises regularly, then 1.2 litres won’t be enough to replenish the water you’re taking in. Instead, you should aim to drink between 203 litres every day.

Instead of drinking large quantities of water before a ride, you should simply stay hydrated all the time.

This means that that day and morning before the ride, drink reasonable amounts of water. If you drink too much too quickly, you will just have to stop more frequently to relieve yourself.

Drinking Electrolytes After Cycling

You should try to take in 150% of the fluid that you’ve lost within 1-4 hours after you finish cycling. You will continue to sweat once the ride is over, so you still need to keep rehydrating yourself and replenishing those electrolytes.

Around 500 ml of electrolyte drink will go a long way to helping you balance the fluid and electrolyte levels in your body again.

If you’re hungry, you can also eat small quantities of the aforementioned foods that are high in electrolytes.

If you don’t feel like eating, an electrolyte shake can help get you on your way. These are usually full of protein and carbs, as well as electrolytes.

How Much Should You Drink When Cycling?

The amount of water you need to drink when you’re cycling will vary from person to person. The climate, as well as the intensity of the workout, and your own physical level, will all influence this.

Cycling in the heat will cause most people to sweat more, which means that they will need to drink more.

If you are someone who sweats very little, then you won’t need to replenish your fluid and electrolyte levels as quickly. The heat will usually play a key factor, as will your cycle’s intensity level.

However, you should decide what these mean for you, and find your perfect amount. Just bear in mind that this amount might change from winter to summer, and from workout to workout.

Final Thoughts

Electrolytes are incredibly important when doing any kind of exercise. As we sweat or lose fluid in any other form, we lose electrolytes. This can cause cramping, dizziness, fatigue, and a variety of other unpleasant symptoms.

As such, be sure that you are replenishing any water that you lose, but don’t overdo it.

Over hydration can be just as dangerous as dehydration, so be mindful of how much fluid you’re taking in, and the electrolytes you’re getting through your diet.

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