A young woman drinks water while exercising.

How much should I drink each day? Is water enough? How do I know when I am becoming dehydrated? There are a lot of questions surrounding the topic of proper hydration. To make it easier for you, we have identified the top 5 myths about hydration and what you need to do to make sure you stay hydrated on your next ride.

Myth 1: Drink 8 glasses a day

Truth: You’ve always heard it. Drink 8 glasses of water a day, everyday. Yet, research has shown that optimal hydration depends upon many factors including age, activity level, and gender.

One number does not fit all. The Institute of Medicine has set a general recommendation that women get 91 oz of water (about 12 cups) from all beverages and foods each day, and men 125 oz (about 16 cups) of total water. Again, factors such as activity level and age will either increase or decrease these estimates.

Myth 2: If you wait till you’re thirsty to drink, it’s too late

Truth: Surely you have heard the saying that by the time you feel thirsty your body is already dehydrated. Though the statement is somewhat true, it is also exaggerated. Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, states about healthy adults, “When you get thirsty, the deficit of water in your body is trivial—it’s a very sensitive gauge.”

The Institute of Medicine says, “the vast majority of healthy people adequately meet their daily hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide.” This means that taking a drink of water whenever you feel thirsty is a good way to stay hydrated for healthy adults.

However, research has shown that the thirst sensation is less responsive in children, the elderly, and athletes doing high-intensity workouts in high temperatures, meaning they may need to drink more often than just when they feel thirsty in order to stay hydrated.

Myth 3: Clear urine equals optimal hydration

Truth: The Mayo Clinic advises to drink enough each day so that you “rarely feel thirsty and your urine is colorless or light yellow.” However, if you are hydrating with the goal of having clear urine, you may be drinking too much. Color in your urine could also be coming from excess vitamins and minerals your body is getting rid of. So, as long as your urine is a light yellow you are doing just fine.

Myth 4: Have a sports drink after every ride

Truth: On easier rides, drinking water is the best way to hydrate. You will get the electrolytes and carbs that you need from your meals before and after the ride, so getting them through a sports drink is unnecessary.

On the other hand, for more intense rides that last over an hour or are in the heat of the day, a sports drink will help replenish your electrolytes a little faster. If you chose to have a sports drink, stay away from those with a high amount of calories.

Myth 5: The best sports drink out there…

Truth: For endurance and long distance riders the amount of salt you sweat out during a ride determines the amount of sodium you need in your sports drink. One type does not suit all.

If you are a really salty sweater and leave white marks on your clothing and helmet, then you will need a sports drink with more sodium. Even if your friends swear by their favorite sports drinks, their recommendation may not be the best for you.

Image courtesy of freestockphotos.