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The Key To A Successful Ride? Hydration!

debbie petitpain stands in a garden

Debbie Petitpain, a registered dietitian with Sodexo at the Medical University of South Carolina, shares why hydration is so important for cyclists and how fun it can be when you try out two of her favorite ways to hydrate — a Watermelon-Mint Cooler and a Melon and Mozzarella Salad.

Here are her top tips:

  1. Make hydration part of your training plan.

    Did you know that 75% of the body’s weight is water? It’s in your blood, brain, muscles, fat and bones. It’s no wonder then that staying hydrated is so important to overall health. It helps:

    • maintain a healthy body weight by increasing metabolism and regulating your appetite.

    • reduce joint and/or back pain.

    • moisturize skin, giving you a healthy, glowing appearance.

    • flush out waste and bacteria that can cause disease.

    We not only lose fluid by sweating and going to the bathroom but also through our skin and when we exhale. If you lose more water than you take in, you can get dehydrated, causing muscle cramps, heart palpitations and lightheadedness, especially when standing. In extreme cases, it can cause coma and death. Even mild dehydration can cause headaches and daytime fatigue. In fact, the feeling of thirst is a sign that you are already behind on your fluid intake.

  2. Learn the signs of being dehydrated

    Everyone’s fluid needs are different. In general, the National Academy of Medicine determined that men should consume about 13 cups of total beverages a day and women should consume about nine cups of total beverages a day. If you want to be more precise and calculate your needs based on body weight, drink as many ounces per day as half of your actual body weight. You will need more on hot days or with excessive sweating or panting. To determine how much extra, weigh yourself before and after you cycle. Add three cups of fluid for every pound lost through sweating on your ride.

    As you train for LOWVELO, here are some hydration tips to keep in mind:

    • Drink water one to two hours before you cycle. Consume at least 300 to 500 mL (1-2 cups) of water, especially on hot days.

    • Watch the color of your urine. If it is dark like apple juice, drink more water!

    • Thirst is a sign to drink. If you are thirsty, your body is letting you know that you’re already mildly dehydrated. You may think you’re hungry when your body actually needs more fluid.

    • The best drink while exercising is water. If you are excessively sweating or exercising for more than 90 minutes, a sports drink may be warranted.

    • Avoid unnecessary calories from beverages. Stick to water, “diet drinks,” unsweetened tea and coffee, non-fat milk and 100% fruit or vegetable juices. Caffeinated drinks can count toward your fluid goal, but alcohol cannot.

    • Drink and eat after every ride. Don’t just drink water. Replenish your body with protein and carbohydrates to help your body recover.

  3. Make hydration fun

    While water is the best drink for staying hydrated, it can get boring after a while. You can infuse water with different flavors, which make staying hydrate while you cycle fun and interesting. Try making your own “spa water” by combining different fruits and herbs; let them sit and chill for an hour before taking them on the road. (Try the watermelon mint cooler recipe below or infused water recipes from the MUSC Urban Farm website.)

    In addition to what you drink, 20% of your fluid needs are met by foods so consume lots of high water produce like berries, watermelon, citrus, cantaloupe, apricots, apples, pears, grapes, lettuce, zucchini, radish, celery, cauliflower, eggplant, red cabbage, peppers, spinach, broccoli and other green leafy veggies. Eat foods that have a high-water content to hydrate and nourish your body before your ride. (Try the melon and mozzarella salad below.)

    With all these tips and tricks, you’re sure to meet your body’s needs and stay hydrate while cycling!

Recipes to Stay Hydrated:

Watermelon-Mint Cooler

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups seedless watermelon chunks

  • 1 ½ cups low-sugar lemonade

  • ½ cup fresh mint

Preparation: Blend the watermelon and lemonade in a blender. Strain if desired. Stir in the mint and serve over ice.

Nutrition Per Serving:

  • 89 calories; 0 g fat (0 g saturated); 9 mg cholesterol; 4 mg sodium; 20 g sugar; 1 g fiber

Melon and Mozzarella Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cubed cantaloupe

  • 3 cups cubed watermelon

  • 3 cups cubed honeydew

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

  • 2 tablespoons honey

  • 8-ounce container mozzarella, drained and cut in half

  • ½ teaspoon salt

Preparation:

  • Place melon cubes in large bowl. Add basil and combine well.

  • Drizzle the honey over the melon. Add mozzarella and salt. Serve.

Nutrition Per Serving:

  • 311 calories; 14 g fat (8 g saturated); 146 mg cholesterol; 317 mg sodium; 12 g protein; 39 g carbohydrate; 35 g sugar; 3 g fiber; 1 mg iron; 29 mg calcium

Petitpain is a registered dietitian with Sodexo at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston and a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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