Monday, February 16, 2009

Hydrate or Die...or at least cramp up and feel like crap for a few days

It's sizzling hot out there. You find yourself craving sickly sweet drinks. For the distance you've gone, and the terrain you're riding, you're unusually tired. Your brain feels sluggish and your legs feel like lead weights. You're dehydrated!

In Mexico the fridge is always full of Coca Cola, and often you can find some brand of sport or energy drink, but there is also a much more natural alternative to help you stay hydrated while on the go in Mexico. Basil (my beau) promotes it as "Basilade" to our riders who join us every year for a little bit of riding in the sun...

Suero Oral - (unflavoured electrolytes in powder form) are available for free at all public health centres (Centro de Salud) and artificially flavoured ones are available at some pharmacies. It comes in little envelopes (see photo above) filled with the correct balance of electrolytes to rehydrate an infant suffering from severe diarrhea. We use it as a preventative measure adding one or two ice cream taster spoonfuls to a bicycle water bottle. Now an important and often overlooked step in our home made gatorade is to add in a little sweetness to assist in absorption. Some people add a little juice, or a little world class Mayan honey (the brown stuff in the bottle in front of my water bottles), or a little sugar, and a little something else for flavour...I went through a little Matcha phase (that's what is in the circular tin in front of the water bottles featured above), but a truly local choice is Jamaica or Hibiscus flowers. I've posted about this fantastic little flower before, but above is another picture I took of some drying by the side of the road. A few of these flowers along with some honey and some salts is DeeLish and good like cranberry juice is for a ladies pee parts which is always helpful for when your chamois is smooshed up against a saddle all day! While this beverage is traditionally served cold here in Mexico, as your bottles heat up throughout the day you can pretend you have been invited into an Egyptian home for some hot hibiscus tea. Hot or cold you can't lose with tasty sweet-tart hibiscus.

In pharmacies you will also see plastic bottles of liquid Pedialite which is also used for rehydration, but it has a terrible artificial taste and once opened must be kept cold which is a problem while bike touring. The powder works well because you can mix as you go. This brings me to another important point, you really don't want to over do it with the salts too many can cramp you up and make you feel as bad as if you cycled around in 37 C heat all day without any salts at all. You just need a little bit. Experiment - it is a very personal balance. Some people need half a taster spoon and a ton of sugar, some people need two heaping taster spoons and a little bit of sugar - we're all different! Listen to your body and you'll learn your own recipe.

And two last things about keeping those muscles feeling good by staying hydrated in the heat:
1. Do not keep your Basilade drink longer than 24hrs. It will go bad. Mix as you go...
2. Rinse your bottles and let them dry EVERY night! The tropics are a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus. If you do not rinse your bottles then you will be ingesting a jungle full of bad guys.

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