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How to stay hydrated on a sportive

If you are participating in a cycle event and you want to maximise your performance it’s essential to learn how to stay hydrated properly. While exercising, the increase in muscle activity raises the body’s temperature, causing you to sweat in order to keep it cool. When you sweat you also lose electrolytes, which results in increased fatigue.

Endurance events can take their toll on the body and hydration plays a key part in keeping you going for longer. As a part of our cycling special, Ted Munson from Science in Sport (SiS), has prepared a hydration guide for your typical sportive lasting around 100 miles.

Take note, too, they’re the official nutrition sponsors of Team Sky and WIGGINs, so they know a thing or two about keeping you on the straight and narrow (and the ups and downs) of competitive cycling. This guide can be used for any form of endurance racing however.


“Firstly, as with any form of endurance sport, when it comes to hydration you need to be drinking at least 500ml per hour of exercise. This is a basic rule of thumb, however; depending on your body composition and environmental composition, you could be drinking up to 1L of fluid per hour of activity. 

The amount of fluid you need to drink will vary according to the temperatures, humidity and your own sweat rate. It’s a good idea to try out your plan in training before going to an event so that you can settle on a balance that suits you. That can mean doing the simplest of things, such as checking the weather forecast to see if the sun’s going to be out. As a good starting point, check the colour of your wee first. Your urine should be straw-coloured before you commence exercise and the same colour throughout.

Dehydration illustration ()



Your hydration strategy should go further than water, however. During exercise you can lose up to 1-2L of sweat per hour and this can accelerate in warm temperatures, so it’s essential to replace lost salts, particularly sodium (electrolytes), which effect the body’s thermoregulatory system. Hydration tablets can be your friend here; they replace the electrolytes lost through sweating to reduce the risk of dehydration, improving concentration and cognitive performance.


Taking on carbohydrates will provide you with energy and help you absorb fluid and electrolytes more effectively to fuel you for the demands of the event. Again, supplementing your training rides with an energy drink that hydrates helps give you that much needed boost when you’ve been in the saddle for several hours, and hydrates you effectively so you’re not cramping up.


Now you have your approach confirmed, you should look ahead to your race day strategy. As a basic guide, you should look to consume 500ml of water, combined with a hydration tablet three to four hours before heading to the event, and then an additional 500ml of fluid sipped slowly until you reach the start line.

During the event, we advise consuming 500-1000ml of water per hour to prevent thirst and dehydration. If temperatures are high on the day, the amount of water you need to consume will increase as you sweat more.

Once you’ve crossed the finishing line, the aim is to replace fluid lost through sweating immediately. A good way to estimate how you should rehydrate properly is to measure your body weight before and after exercise. For every 1kg lost through sweating, 1.5L of fluid should be consumed. Do take it easy rehydrating, though; drink too quickly and you may experience gastrointestinal problems.”

Illustration: Dale Edwin Murray


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