I have read in a number of places that people are not finding the right method of hydration or energy supplements. I am no doctor or pro trainer. However I will give my personal feeling and experience. There are two experiences I have with this. One is cycle touring and the other is endurance racing. There is a huge difference in these two categories compared to short MTB and road races. On the short race you can almost make a magic mix of energy and re-hydration that will fit for all races you normally do. However the long road has a different set of challenges.
When touring or endurance racing you are often challenged with space to carry enough of all the magic powders to mix to keep you going. When they run out they are also not readily available along the track/road. Also the flavors of all these artificial powders stays on your tongue and after a few days it feels like you have been dragging your tongue along the ground for kilometres. This is why you have to look at a different stratagem.
I now have settled down to the following stratagem:
- Carry some Re-hydrate sport packets for when the heat draws the water out your system faster than you can replenish the water. This can be life threatening. For this I have one 750 ml sport re-hydrate bottle mixed on hot days.
- Have a plain water bottle to rinse mouth out and keep mouth moist.
- Energy is always taken in by eating solids. That way you can balance your hydration and nutritional needs seperatlly.
Let me look at these individually.
Re-hydrate sport is light and compact and can be pushed into all the small gaps between all your other kit. These drinks can be tempting to drink to much when you are feeling thirsty. If I have drunk to much during the day my body naturally balances out this in the night when I sleep. If I wake up in a sweat and all my clothes are wet. This is the way the body gets rid of all the water it did not need. Then I know I should take it easy on the re-hydrate. This can help you also make the re-hydrate go a lot further resulting in you not having to carry as much with you. Dehydration can be very dangerous in hot climates so be prepared when planning your trip. There are also natural ways around over heating and loosing water from your system. These can be cooling down under a tree, wearing long sleeves to protect from the sun, taking a swim in every river you cross or splashing water over you (water can be in short supply) and cycling in the night. Some of these options are not on for endurance racing so may have to use re-hydrate or cycle at night.
Plain water bottle is the best and main hydration method to use. This can be filled at any time from backup water supply bladders or local water sources.
You do not have to wait till it is empty to make a mix so when you stop it can just be topped up. I like to have a bladder in a frame bag so can just take a sip when you want. In hot climates I fill this with ice blocks at any shop I can find.
If you can keep the water cool it helps to cool you down. Bottles in bottle cages are exposed to the heat off the road or environment can become like tea, making you more thirsty. However if it is hot the water in the pipe coming from the frame bag can get hot and make you feel more thirsty. There are insulated sport drink bottles that can be used to keep water cool.
Energy or nutrients as solids are wonderful. They can be timed to the need. For example on the long road you see a big mountain a head. Pull out a high energy bar or fruit before accent to give you a burst of energy to take it on. This takes practice to get used to when to use it. The body can tell you what is the right time and how long it takes to be released into the blood stream. These energy and nutrient solids have to be sourced along the road. This way you do not have to carry so much with you. If you are going to be touring in Africa or Europe it will be good to get an idea as to what the local supplies are. Then practice with them a little before the time. I like suckers or sweets that can melt in your mouth slowly releasing energy over a long time. Even a mouth full of plain water with them can turn it into a refreshing cool drink.
Safe water to dink is also a challenge to get hold of. You can filter water for piece of mind. Treat it with chlorine. UV treatment is also available or just buy some water. This is another discussion. Here are a few photos. Happy cycling just get out and find away to get out.