Cycling Hydration Myths

Truth: CAFFEINE IMPROVES CARB BURNING

A review of ongoing research recently revealed that caffeinated drinks don't make you pee that much more than equal amounts of beverages without the buzz. The stimulant also doesn't worsen the effects of summertime heat. In fact, caffeine makes you feel better. Numerous studies have shown that it lowers your rate of perceived exertion while improving your strength, endurance and mental performance. Even better, researchers from the University of Birmingham, in England, found that riders who drank a caffeinated sports beverage burned the drink's carbs 26 percent faster than those who consumed a noncaffeinated sports drink, likely because caffeine speeds glucose absorption in the intestine.

Hype: YOU NEED MORE PROTEIN

Initially, carbohydrates were the essential building blocks of the sports beverage. Then protein muscled its way onto the scene, after early studies showed that carb-protein blends seemed to shoot into the bloodstream and enhance endurance cycling performance better than carb-only beverages.

More: Stay Hydrated During Anaerobic Performance

Truth: YOU NEED A LITTLE PROTEIN... MAYBE

Recent research on 10 trained cyclists performing an 80K trial showed that riders drinking carb-only beverages did just as well as those drinking carb-protein beverages, and both groups did better than those consuming flavored water. However, the International Society of Sports Nutrition recently reported that taking in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) during vigorous aerobic exercise can decrease muscle damage and depletion. "If you're on a long ride where you're also eating, you'll be taking in protein already," says Ryan, "so it's likely not necessary to also have it in your drink."

Hype: HYDRATION DURING EXERCISE IS THE BE-ALL AND END-ALL

Big beverage companies would have you grabbing your sports drink during every ride, no matter how long or short the effort, lest you suffer the ill effects of dehydration.

More: Is Training in the Heat Good for You?

Truth: DRINKING EVERY DAY IS ESSENTIAL

"Your first priority should be staying on top of your daily hydration," says Ryan. Research on gym-goers found that nearly half began their workouts in a dehydrated state. "Many people don't consume enough fluids during the day," Ryan says. "If you hydrate properly on a regular basis, you won't need to worry as much about getting dehydrated during a typical moderate ride." The old eight-glasses-a-day dictum is a good guidepost.

More: Summer Cycling Gear Guide

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