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By: PAIGE GREENFIELD, JAMES HERRERA
How to Ride in Hot Weather
Your guide to staying cool and riding strong all summer long. I grew up in the scorching west Texas city of El Paso, where people would often comment, “At least it’s a dry heat.” The truth is, any variety of excess warmth can sabotage your cycling performance if you’re not ready for it. Here are several things to keep in mind as the mercury climbs.
How hot was it today?
Today the official temperature according to the local weather station reached 34 C. Our own thermometer in the shade in the garden said 37 C, but I don’t do “hype“. I trust the official figure, presumably taken by a proper calibrated thermometer sited in a way that corresponds to some official standard or other which leads to consistent readings, above our cheap domestic digital thermometer.
Isn’t 34 C “too hot for cycling”?
It’s often the case that people elsewhere claim that their high temperatures make cycling impossible “because it’s too hot”. Others claim that they can’t cycle “because it’s too cold”. Now I don’t doubt that in some extreme parts of the world it is sometimes genuinely too hot or too cold, but I’ve yet to see a temperature here in Assen at which people stop cycling.
The difference between summer and winter temperatures in this area is very broad indeed so we can make a range of comparisons with places where it is claimed to be “too hot to cycle” as well as those where the claim is that it is “too cold to cycle”. People cycle through all seasons in the Netherlands, and as the weather station we use is based half way between Assen and Groningen, and the highest rate of cycling in the world is in Groningen, I think we can safely say that any temperature which is within the range of what is recorded by our weather station is not too extreme for cycling elsewhere either.
Here are five hydration tips for cyclist riding in hot weather.
1. On days that are going to be hot, first thing in the morning drink 300 to 500 ml. of water when you wake up… If you have a lemon handy, squeeze some of its juice in with it. This wakes up your metabolism and replaces lost water from sleep. Plus the vitamin C from the lemon helps build resistance to catching colds and flus.
2. Consume at least 300 to 500 ml of fluid, water 1 to 2 hours before your cycling workout to get a head start. This is particularly important on the hotter days. If you are riding your bike on cold days try to avoid consuming large amounts of fluids in the morning before your bike ride. This is because in cold weather your body will want to reduce the supply of blood going around your body. It will do this by making you want to go to the toilet to get rid of excess fluid. If you do consume large qualities of fluid before your bike ride on cold days it won’t be long into the ride before you’ll want to relieve yourself.
3. Replacing fluid lost when exercising with an electrolyte drink. Evidence shows that people hydrating with plain water don’t replace electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride resulting in a dramatic drop in performance. Use a richer mix during the winter (because you are drinking less) and a weaker solution during summer (because you’ll be drinking more). On longer base building rides I like to combine my electrolyte drink with grapefruit juice. For long road races lasting more than two hours I use gels with water. This is due to the high carbohydrate burn rate.
4. When cycling, drink before you get thirsty. Sip on the water and the electrolyte drink on those hot days. Ideally target around 1.25 to 1.5 litres of fluid an hour on really hot days. Everyone is unique so this still might not be enough on really hot days. So… start to keep your fluids up early on in the ride to help reduce the chance of hydration issues later on in the day.
5. Hydrate and replenish after each and every bike ride. Do not just get home and have some water! You need to replace protein, carbohydrates, electrolytes, and water to recover your body and get it ready for the next days work load. And just a quick recovery drink isn’t enough, you have to pay attention and keep hydrated the rest of the day too. Finally, hydration is unique to you so experiment it find what works for you.
Remember – If you feel faint, dizzy or start to get a headache while out riding please stop and seek shade (or better still a air conditioned room) and medical assistance ASAP. Dehydration is a serious issue for athletes on hot days and can lead to death.
Morning vs. Evening
Avoiding the midday sun is an obvious way to duck the heat. But should you ride closer to when it rises or sets? You decide.
Morning: Lowest after sunrise, but the day’s not getting any cooler
Evening: Heat absorbed by road surfaces radiates and keeps air warm
Morning: Cooler air has more relative moisture, so sweat evaporates slower and you take longer to cool
Evening: Drops as the temperature rises; sweat evaporates (and you cool off) faster
Morning: Lower just after you wake up
Evening: Higher later in the day
Three More Ways To Chill
Deflect the sun. You learned in middle-school science that pale colors reflect light, while dark ones absorb it. But few of us can legitimately rock a blinding-white skinsuit. Instead, try Pearl Izumi’s new dark-colored kit made with coldblack, a special fabric treatment designed to reflect sunlight. Jerseys, bibs, and shorts start at $100.
Ice your legs. Cyclists who soaked their lower bodies in cold water for 20 minutes before a 40-minute time trial on a hot day generated, on average, 20 more watts of power than when they skipped the soak, reports the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. No pool? The Transformer shorts ($110) made by clothing manufacturer 110% Play Harder come with ice packs that slip into built-in panels. Try wearing them for 20 minutes before riding on the hottest days.
Drink protein with carbs. The combo helped cyclists go faster in an eight-day race in 90-degree heat than those who fueled only with carbs. “Protein helps the body retain water, so there’s more blood to divert to the skin to cool you,” says study author Chris Easton, PhD. During a long ride, sip a drink with a 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio, aiming for 56 grams of carbs and 14 grams of protein per hour.
(Key Skill) Make A Preride Slushie
1 cup ice + 1 cup water + 1/4 cup sports drink
Icy-beverage devotees were stoked last year when research concluded that slurping a slushie before exercise helps you go 20 percent longer in the heat than sipping cold water. Toss the above ingredients into a blender. Start drinking 40 minutes pre-ride and try to finish it about five minutes before you roll.
Why It Works Your body shuttles warmth to your stomach and away from your extremities to melt the slushie, which prolongs the time it takes you to overheat, says study author Paul Laursen, PhD, a physiologist at the Sports Performance Research Institute of New Zealand. The electrolytes in the sports drink enhance hydration.
“The biggest hot-weather mistake cyclists make is riding in the heat without preparation,” says Stacy Sims, PhD, founder of Osmo Nutrition. If you don’t acclimate to hot-weather riding, you won’t reap as many benefits from your workout and you’ll increase both perceived effort and potential for injury. Instead, ride early or late in the day, when it’s coolest, and use your down time to get used to the heat—try Bikram “hot” yoga or a sauna.
A sunburn does more than fry your skin, Sims says. It contributes to fatigue and increases your metabolism. The latter might sound like a good thing, but it also increases fluid needs, which can be a problem on a hot day when you’re already struggling to stay hydrated. Do everything you can to prevent sunburn: Always wear sunscreen; choose jerseys, shorts, and arm skins with built-in sun protection; and wear a cap under your helmet to shield your head.
To prevent your drink from quickly turning the temperature of warm tea, freeze one bottle at half full and another at the three-quarter mark before topping them off. (Mountain bikers: Put ice cubes into your hydration pack.) For longer rides, figure out in advance where you can restock with cold beverages.
While it may be tempting to toss ice cubes down your jersey, don’t. Sims advises against it: “Ice against the skin causes blood vessels to constrict, which shoots hot blood back to your core.” If your core temperature climbs too high, performance and health can suffer. Instead, pour cool water over your neck and forearms, or wipe them with a cool, damp towel.
Don’t try to maintain the same pace or power you’d put out on a milder day, says cycling coach Derick Williamson, cofounder of Durata Training in Austin, Texas. “Once the sum of the temperature in Fahrenheit plus the relative humidity gets above 130, we dial power ranges back by about 10 to 15 watts,” he says. “If you’ve been doing 15-minute intervals at 220 to 240 watts, that becomes 205 to 225, or we may reduce the efforts to 10 or 12 minutes.” If you’re racing in steamy conditions, cut your warm-up time in half or more.
In the days leading up to a big ride, increase your consumption of watery fruits and vegetables (such as watermelon and grapes), Sims says. Sodium helps your body hold on to the fluid you’re drinking, so sip an electrolyte beverage during your ride. Sims’s company makes Osmo Active Hydration, but there are many others to choose from. Aim to drink at a rate of 10 to 12 milliliters per kilogram of body weight, about a 20-ounce bottle every hour for a 150-pound rider. Postride, “a protein-based recovery drink will rehydrate you faster than a carbohydrate-only one,” Sims says. Protein pulls water with it when it travels to muscles. If you opt for plain water after a ride, pair it with a snack or meal that contains protein, carbohydrates, and sodium.
On hot race days, my USA Cycling BMX athletes wear Arctic Heat cooling vests and immerse their hands in a bucket of cold water. During warm-ups or between races, the vest lowers skin temperature, delays the onset of dehydration, and reduces the heart’s workload, all factors that increase performance. The company makes a neck wrap and a cooling cap that also keep the heat’s negative effects at bay. ($33-$22)
Have a good and healthy season.
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