For years, cyclists have been urged to replace every ounce of water lost during exercise. They’ve also been warned to avoid caffeine, and to drink beverages with added protein for better cycling performance. However, recent research may prove that advice to be misguided. According to registered dietician, Monique Ryan, author of the book Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes, here’s why:
MYTH #1: Replace 100% of fluids lost during cycling.
New Rule: Pace your water intake. Our bodies simply can’t absorb fluids of any sort as quickly as we lose it, so it’s impossible to replace “every lost ounce” of liquid. Instead, cyclists should concentrate on replacing about 75% of the fluid lost through sweating during a long cycle ride. One tip: Weigh yourself before and after a relatively short one-hour ride to derive your sweat rate, and then determine how much to drink during a long ride.
MYTH #2: Protein-carb drinks are a panacea for lost fluids.
New Rule: Go easy on protein drinks. Carb-protein blended beverages became popular when research showed they enhanced performance during endurance cycling. However, points out Ryan, cyclists on long rides typically eat, consuming protein in their food. Plus, research with 10 trained endurance cyclists showed no difference in their performance among those drinking carb-only versus carb-protein drinks. Interestingly, both groups performed better than cyclists who drank plain flavored water.
MYTH #3: Avoid caffeine.
New Rule: Caffeine is your friend. Although heralded as a demon diuretic, many studies show that caffeine actually lowers the rate of “perceived exertion”—improving the strength, endurance and mental performance of athletes. In fact, a study by the University of Birmingham (UK) found that cyclists consuming caffeinated sports drinks burned carbs in the drink 26% more quickly than those who drank sports drinks lacking caffeine.