The dog days of summer are upon us, and with the heat comes and increase in cases of dehydration. Most cyclists are good about carrying a water bottle and drinking during their ride, but when you are exercising and the sun is beating down, it does not take much to become dehydrated. As the temperature rises when you ride, you perspire more and pre-hydrating becomes more important.
Dehydration is common and is easily treated, but without rapid treatment, symptoms can mount. When you are dehydrated, your performance level decreases. In addition, you may struggle to make rapid decisions which, when cycling, can lead to an increase in bicycle crashes.
When on a bicycle, a slight decrease in response time is enough to lead to an accident. That is why you need to be at the top of your game all the time. Dehydration can deplete your senses and can be a contributing factor in some bike crashes. If you notice any signs of dehydration, take action! Do not wait as symptoms can quickly escalate.
Signs of dehydration in cyclists include:
Thirst, sometimes unquenchable
Headaches and cramps
Vomiting and nausea
Decline in performance
Increase in heart rate
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Treatment for mild dehydration from cycling requires more than just an increase in fluids. It is important to rest, preferably in a cool place. It can be difficult to find a cool place to rest if you are riding in the heat, but even a shaded area is preferable. You want to decrease your level of perspiration. While you rest, take in fluids.
If you have any energy chews or electrolyte tablets or drinks with you, consume them. When you sweat, you lose more than just water. You also lose salts and minerals. Although it is fairly easy to replace the water you lose, it is a little more challenging to replace salts and electrolytes.
Recovery from dehydration takes time. Headaches, muscle aches, and nausea are not uncommon, sometimes lingering for hours after the event. Take in cool fluids, gradually, and eat easy-to-digest snacks. Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade can help rehydrate you and replace electrolytes lost through sweat. Avoid cycling until you have fully recovered.
To prevent dehydration, avoid cycling unless you are already properly hydrated. Start out your ride with a bottle of water before you even begin. Better yet, add a small snack to give your blood sugar levels a mild boost.
If you are riding in the heat, especially at a high endurance level, bring along Gatorade or another electrolyte drink. Hydration levels vary throughout the day and with activity, so it is important to never ride without some fluids on hand.
The American College of Sports Medicine reminds cyclists that it is not enough to drink only based on thirst. You can become dehydrated without feeling thirsty. This is especially true for older bicyclists, who may not feel thirst as intensely as younger athletes.
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Remember that proper focus when cycling can prevent bike crashes and don’t risk it! Stay hydrated, stay alert, and stay alive. At Kass & Moses, we have represented injured cyclists for over 25 years and we have seen how something that seems insignificant, like dehydration, can play a role in a crash. If you have any questions about your bike crash, contact us today for a no-obligation phone consultation.