You’re supposed to drink 43 glasses of water a day, basically triple your body weight. If at all possible, this should be “spring” water, bottled at the source, and that source should be distant, possibly tinged with minerals, but certainly imbued with a magic that just doesn’t run from your kitchen tap. If you are not doing this, you’re letting yourself down. Water is the basis of all life on Earth. When you are not maximally hydrated, you are basically dying. Basically.
The truth is, all those numbers about how much liquid you need during a day are made up, likely by a water salesman (I would have said salesperson, but let’s be honest.). And like any myth that gains currency, it is just plausible enough. We tend to feel better when we’re hydrated vs. not. This feeling can be subtle. In fact, how the body manages water and electrolytes through storage, filtration, and purging is designed to maintain balance, even in variable conditions.
You should drink water, or whatever actually (even coffee), as you want. Obey your thirst. Be consistent, but don’t feel compelled to drown yourself to stay afloat. The point really is, drink the amount that makes you feel good, not the amount the water-industrial complex has decreed you must.
The only caveat here is that once you start exercising, you actually do need to pay a little attention, particularly if it’s hot and/or humid, because you’ll be losing liquid and salt, calcium, magnesium, etc. faster than your body can reestablish that balance we were talking about a minute ago. As a heavy sweater, this has been a particular challenge for me, leading to some epic bonk/dehydration crises. I’ve had to devise some aggressive strategies to try to keep myself going in warm weather.
Any ride over an hour I can’t afford to run straight water in my bottles. I have to add electrolyte. Anything over 2 hours I bring along salt tabs. My body seems particularly anxious to drop salt, for whatever reason.
Despite what I said above about not following bogus rules, I do tend to fill a 32oz Nalgene with water in the morning and keep it with me during the day. I add 3-4 cups of coffee on top of that, and a 12oz can of seltzer with dinner. So I am consuming something approaching the mythic 98 bottles of water a day, but if I don’t. I don’t sweat it (see what I did there?).
This week’s TCI Friday asks, what’s your hydration strategy on and off the bike? Do you struggle with electrolytes on long efforts? Or can you get by, for hours at a time, on water alone?