From the lab (#2) - drinking and hydration
In this post I report on some research published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise* that is focussed on further understanding aspects of prescribed drinking and hydration and its relationship to cycling related performance.
Lack of hydration during cycling related races has been shown to reduced aerobic performance and increase thermoregulatory strain - especially during conditions in the heat. There continues to be some considerable debate with lay literature moreso than the sports science literature pertaining to the timing of hydration, with the old adage of drinking when you feel like it now being found to lead to dehydration independent of environmental conditions.
The purpose of this current study was to study the effect of a prescribed drinking protocol (PD) compared to drinking ad libitum (AD) (whenever you feel like it) during a criterium like cycling performance (water not electrolyte solution). The performance consisted of cycling three (3) sets of 5km at 50% of their max power followed by an all out performance for another 5km at 3% gradient equalling 30km total. The PD protocol consisted of drinking every 1km to match fluid losses (a familiarisation trial was conducted in the lead up to determine how much liquid), whilst the AD protocol consisted of drinking whenever (time) and however (how much) during the performances.
So what were the findings? There were no difference in cycling performance in comparing the groups during the first two trials (5-10km, 15-20km) although there were significant differences between the PD and AD in the final bout (25-30km) with cyclists in the PD group completing the criterium circuit 31secs (or 4.4% improvement) more quickly than the AD group. Furthermore cycling power output was significantly higher in the final 3km of the third cycling bout in the PD group compared with the AD group.
So what? OK based on the findings of this research it would make sense for athletes to drink more frequently (every km or so) during short duration events (like criteriums) to maintain their hydration status, especially in those conditions where the ambient temperature is greater than 30 degrees.
This type of research is still in its infancy and over the next few years it will develop as more and more research performance scientists examine the efficacy of different hydration protocols for cyclists.
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*Bardis CN, Kavouras SA, Adams JD, Geladas ND, Panagiotakos DB, Sidossis LS (2017) Prescribed Drinking Leads to Better Cycling Performance than Ad Libitum Drinking. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 49(6): 1244-1251