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I had really bad headaches right after long rides, so I went to a doctor. They recommended that I drink a sports drink during the ride to replace my lost electrolytes, or get a premade mix from the pharmacy that I can spoon into my drink bottle. I had a ride today, and since I had forgotten to buy a premade mix, I decided to google how to make one myself.

I have 2 drink bottles. I put just water in one, and the mix in the other. For that, I filled the bottle up with water, added about 8 tsp of sugar (I read a few websites, all of them recommended 15 teaspoons per 1 litre, that seemed crazy high, so I decided to start off small), 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and a load of lemon juice and some lemon slices to that I could actually drink the thing.

My ride today was not that far compared to normal, but I did notice that I was doing better and felt better during the ride and afterwards.

Is it fine for me to keep doing this? I had a look, and a litre of Powerade has about 70g of sugar, while my homemade mix had 32g. Obviously less, but I wouldn't expect to drink Powerade every time I ride either. So what should I do?

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Here are my thoughts (I do not cycle much myself so they should be taken with a grain of electrolytes).

Salt only contains two out of the 6 of the electrolytes your body requires (sodium and chloride). You should therefore preferably buy an electrolyte replenisher from a pharmacy.

As I understand the main problems with sugar are:

  1. You can get fat
  2. It can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar which for complex reasons is not healthy

When you cycle you burn a lot of calory so I would not worry about 1. Regarding 2: when you are cycling and become exhausted your bloodsugar will drop. Then it should only be beneficial to stabilize it by taking in some sugar at a steady rate.

Here is what I would do:

  1. Buy electrolyte replenisher from the pharmacy. Mix it with water only. Drink this steadily from the beginning of the trip.
  2. Also buy or make a sugary sports drink. Drink this at a slow and steady state when you notice that your blood sugar is falling.

One thing that you should worry slightly about when doing long distance cycling is loosing muscle in upper body. If you cycle for a long time and do not fill up the glycogen your body may start burning fat AND muscle. Taking in some calories while cycling such as sugar will help against this. I think you should also take in protein soon after the ride to help repair musclecells.

References

What Are Electrolytes?

How protein helps your post-ride recovery

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