A Problem Drinker

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Water, water, every where,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, every where,

Nor any drop to drink.

–Samuel T. Coleridge

In the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, thirst leads to madness. Thirst is often the cue for many of us to re-hydrate. There is only one problem with using that cue as a method: when you begin to feel thirsty you are already way behind in hydration. As many people train in the colder months, dehydration can be a huge performance killer. We learned in school that water makes up 50 to 70 percent of an adult’s body weight. We have to be hydrated to maintain proper body temperature, excrete waste, and have normal biological reactions. We should also remember that we don’t just become dehydrated by exercise. We also lose water by urinating, sweating, and yes . . . breathing. How do you think you are able to fog up your glasses to clean them? So all we need to do is drink water throughout the day? Maybe not.

Water is good. We use it to help maintain our body during low-intensity exercising or normal everyday activity. There is one slight drawback to drinking nothing but water: it acts as a diuretic, diluting your body of electrolytes and sodium; and this urges your system to produce more urine to eliminate the excess water. The story of Gatorade is fairly common to most people. In 1965 the Florida Gator football team had problems with performance, especially with the climate in which they were training and playing. Water was plentiful at practices and games, but the players were losing strength, focus, and energy at a rate that could not be replaced by drinking water. In fact, drinking water seemed to cause more harm than good. The birth of Gator-ade happened when two local physicians developed a drink that balanced carbohydrate and electrolyte loss in athletes who were performing at a high level. From that discovery, the isotonic sports drink phenomena exploded. So drink only isotonic drinks? Maybe not.

In a recent article in Ride Fit, Nicola Smith sites a study in the sports journal Peak Performance. The journal claims that losing just two to three percent of our body weight as sweat can can result in noticeable impaired performance, losing four percent can cause muscle activity to decline rapidly, and losing five percent could lead to heat exhaustion. In conjunction with that study, the articles sites sports nutritionist Matt Lovell who claims that between two to three percent dehydration is equal to a ten percent loss in strength and an eight percent loss in speed for cyclists. Anyone who has not hydrated properly on a ride of any significant length knows this to be true. So back to the question: How do we hydrate properly? Most of the isotonic drinks in the stores are loaded with artificial ingredients, and drinking only water is out of the question when pushing your body in training.

Just a  quick search on the Internet can reveal many do-it-yourself isotonic drinks. Of course, you will have to experiment with the flavor and see what is best for your training level. Make sure that the recipes come from a reputable source. It is my goal this year to improve my nutrition and stay hydrated. I’ve tried two of these three, saved money, and tasted pretty good. 

Fruit Academy

  • 200ml ordinary fruit squash
  • 800ml water
  • A pinch of salt
  • Mix them all together in a jug and cool down in fridge.

Thirst Burst

  • 500ml unsweetened fruit juice (orange, apple, pineapple)
  • 500ml water
  • Mix them all together in a jug and cool down in fridge.

Feelin’ fruity

  • 50-70g sugar
  • One litre of warm water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200ml of sugar free squash
  • Mix, cool and drink

More on Making Your Own Drink


Smith, Nicole. “The Drink Problem.” Cycle Fit Sept. 2013: 134-38.


3 thoughts on “A Problem Drinker

  1. Nice post. Interesting story about Gatorade, i hadn’t heard that. Taking on board enough fluid on a long ride can be a pretty tedious process, and i actually find that the more tired i get the less frequently i reach for the bottle (surely a concentration issue). Perhaps i should stick a post it to my bars to keep reminding me!

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