Drinking While Cycling

By: Neil Bever
Drinking while cycling

Are you drinking enough during your ride?

Are you drinking too much during your ride?

Dehydration and overhydration are both potentially dangerous for cyclists. Dehydration can increase your risk of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and muscle cramping (O’Neal, Eric K et al.). Exercise-associated hyponatremia happens when your blood sodium concentration gets too low, and the main cause is believed to be excessive fluid intake (Leggett, Thomas et al.).

So how much fluid do you need? 

Especially when some have lots, and some not any. 

(Sorry, lots of Dr. Seuss in the house right now)

Drinking while cycling

There’s two approaches to this problem. You can base it on your thirst, or you can have a planned structured intake. Both have been shown to be effective (Holland, Justin J et al.).

For rides between 1 and 2 hours, it’s best to consume fluid at a rate of 0.15-0.20 mL/kg body mass/min. 

For rides over 2 hours, the rate is 0.14-0.27 mL/kg body mass/min. (Holland, Justin J et al.)

For a 200lb person that’s about 1 liter per hour. 

In either case, drinking when you’re thirsty is also effective. The only way to really gauge this is through practice. Try different strategies while you ride and see which works best for you! 

Drinking while cycling

And finally, what should you be drinking?

Water is always a good choice for hydration, but due to the additional loss of electrolytes (sodium and chloride and a smaller amount of potassium), a sports drink might be a better choice. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), for physical activity shorter than 3h an isotonic drink (0.5–0.7 g/L Na+) should be assumed, whilst for physical activity longer than 3h a more concentrated drink is recommended (0.7–1 g/L Na+) (Orrù, Stefania et al.).

Due to the physical nature of cycling, you might also consider replenishing your body with liquid calories of protein, carbohydrates, and fats to ensure you’re still performing at your highest level. 

Drinking is important, but moderation is key.



O’Neal, Eric K et al. “Half-marathon and full-marathon runners’ hydration practices and perceptions.” Journal of athletic training vol. 46,6 (2011): 581-91. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-46.6.581

Leggett, Thomas et al. “Intended Hydration Strategies and Knowledge of Exercise-Associated Hyponatraemia in Marathon Runners: A Questionnaire-Based Study.” Journal of athletic training vol. 53,7 (2018): 696-702. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-125-17

Holland, Justin J et al. “The Influence of Drinking Fluid on Endurance Cycling Performance: A Meta-Analysis.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 47,11 (2017): 2269-2284. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0739-6
Orrù, Stefania et al. “Role of Functional Beverages on Sport Performance and Recovery.” Nutrients vol. 10,10 1470. 10 Oct. 2018, doi:10.3390/nu10101470