To chug, or not to chug?
I’m a fast drinker. I’ve always been. It’s not a great habit, and I learned recently that it may actually be detrimental to my performance. And while I’m actually better with not chugging while riding than off the bike, it’s important both during and outside of exercise.
I’ve often read that it’s better to sip water slowly throughout your ride than to take in large gulps or to chug, but I never really knew the reason why. Of course there’s the “sloshing” that some folks will experience in their stomachs with taking in two much liquid at one time during exercise. This is worse for runners than cyclists, but can still be a problem for cyclists. It can also upset your stomach or make you feel bloated if you drink too quickly.
An underlying scientific reason to not drink large amounts quickly is that it can actually dehydrate you as it will activate the kidneys. According to, Coach Cindy Stonesmith ACSM HFS,
“It’s important to sip throughout the day, because ingesting a large amount of fluid over a short time will over activate the kidneys leaving you more dehydrated.”
As someone who’s spent hundreds of hours riding and racing on rough terrain, I fully recognize that sometimes you just have to drink quickly when you get a chance. An example would be a short dirt road section between challenging singletrack sections in a mountain bike race. On that smoother section, you need to get in what you can. But largely, it seems beneficial to sip your fluids while staying true to your hydration plan. If you’re targeting 30 ounces an hour, taking in 5-6 ounces over 6-5 sips through the course of the hour is quite likely more beneficial, and not detrimental, compared to slamming 15 ounces twice.
Something to experiment with both on and off the bike. It might lead to more effective hydration, and, if nothing else, it could mean less trips to the little boys’ or girls’ room.
Here are two great, quick reads that might shed some light on your hydration strategies and make it more effective.
Sip that drink!
Coach B.L. is the head coach at BJL Coaching and an avid racer and cycling enthusiast himself.