12 Best Cycling Hydration Drinks

cyclist drinking pickle juice

Proper hydration for cycling involves more than just replenishing fluids–it involves striking the right balance of carbohydrates and electrolytes without over or under-fueling. Popular sports drinks like Gatorade often fall short of providing sufficient sodium for efficient nutrient absorption by your gut. That’s why opting for sodium-rich electrolyte or carbohydrate hydration drinks is typically the best approach, ensuring your body can meet the demanding needs of cycling. We’ll share the best cycling hydration drinks to keep you hydrated and help you perform your best and provide insights on when and how much to drink on your rides.

Our top 12 hydration recommendations

Best carb and electrolyte-rich hydration

The best low-carb electrolyte hydration

Read on to learn more about the best hydration drinks and the importance of good cycling hydration habits and how they benefit your performance.

The importance of hydration when cycling

Hydration when cycling is important for your health and performance. Fluid is contained in our cells and blood vessels, but as we become dehydrated, blood plasma volume decreases. A reduction in blood volume is directly related to a decrease in performance. Blood transports oxygen and essential nutrients to your muscles, and when blood volume is inadequate, the reduced oxygen transport leads to fatigue and reduced power output. Transportation of carbohydrates and other nutrients through the blood is also essential for muscle repair and recovery and for regulating blood pressure. Low blood volume also means that the lactic acid that builds up in your muscles while cycling doesn’t get removed efficiently and causes you to feel fatigued.

While sweating helps regulate our body temperature by cooling us down when we become overheated, the electrolytes lost in sweat must be replaced. Dehydration means electrolytes, like sodium, potassium, and calcium, aren’t replenished, and their importance in performance can’t be overstated. Electrolytes keep fluids in our bodies balanced for muscle and nerve function and nutrient absorption. We need them so our muscles can contract and relax properly, and our nerves can help us respond with quick reflexes and coordination. Dehydration also reduces focus and mental clarity and makes us more prone to injury without enough lubrication for our joints.

You can dedicate a lot of time to improving your cycling power and speed, but if you don’t hydrate properly, all the time invested in training goes to waste. Making hydration a priority before, during, and after rides is one of the simplest ways to aid performance. All it requires is a plan and practice.

What should you drink when cycling?

1. Water

If your ride is short (less than one hour) and low-intensity, plain water can keep you hydrated. But longer rides and even short rides that make you sweat a lot require electrolytes and possibly even carbohydrate replacement.

2. Electrolyte supplement drinks

Drinks with high concentrations of sodium are necessary for intense or endurance rides. Between 500–1,000mg of sodium per liter of fluid is recommended for long-duration exercise. Hydration drinks should also contain other electrolytes lost with sweat, like potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Most electrolyte supplement drinks are low in carbs and calories, meaning energy should be replaced through food or gels on rides longer than 90 minutes.

3. Carbohydrate drinks

Carbohydrate hydration drinks contain a mix of carbs and electrolytes. These drinks are made for rehydrating and refueling. Endurance cyclists should consume a certain number of carbs per hour depending on the length of their rides. Carbs can be consumed through drinks, gels, foods, or a combination.

Carbohydrate drinks are called isotonic if they contain the same concentration of carbs, electrolytes, and water as cells in the body. Isotonic hydration drinks enable rapid absorption so your muscles have a readily available energy source for performance.

2:1 fructose drinks are a type of carbohydrate hydration drink that provides energy in a 2:1 ratio of glucose to fructose. Carbs are essential for endurance cycling, but the body can only absorb 60g per hour on average; however, the amount increases to 90g with the 2:1 ratio of glucose to fructose. Glucose and fructose have different molecular structures and are absorbed by different transporters. Glucose is the body’s primary source of fuel during exercise and is absorbed faster, but fructose has been proven to enhance the transportation of glucose. The combination of the two provides the benefit of rapid absorption from glucose and the benefit of sustained energy from fructose.

Relying completely on hydration drinks as fuel gets expensive, so you may prefer to use a combination of hydration drinks and food or energy gels as a source of fuel. Learn how to fuel for cycling and how to avoid bonking with the right amount of carbohydrates for your ride.

How often should you drink when cycling?

How often you drink while cycling depends on the intensity and the duration of your ride. Moderately intense rides require around 16 oz. of fluid per hour, and high-intensity rides require 32 oz. an hour on average. The amount may vary depending on the temperature and how much you sweat. You’ll need to hydrate more frequently outdoors in July than you would in the spring. You’ll also need to drink more per hour on longer rides. Warm-weather, multi-day rides demand about 48 oz. per hour.

The sensation of thirst can be unreliable, so don’t let it be your hydration guide. We often feel thirsty once we’re already slightly dehydrated, and when cycling, it’s important not to lag behind with hydration. You can estimate how much to drink by weighing yourself before and after a ride. Weight loss could mean that you haven’t consumed enough fluid, and, generally, one liter of water equates to two pounds lost.

Good hydration habits are important before and after a long ride. This means drinking several liters of fluids a day, cycling or not. A couple of hours before a long or intense ride, try to consume 500–750 ml of an electrolyte supplement drink to start your ride off well. As you ride, take a drink every 15 minutes or so to make sure you replenish the right about of fluids each hour.

How much fluid should you carry while cycling?

For rides less than one hour, one bottle of water or electrolyte drink should be plenty. For long rides, assume you will need 1–3 liters of fluid each hour, depending on the duration, intensity, and how you sweat. Electrolyte or carbohydrate hydration drinks usually come in a powder mix or dissolvable tablets that are easy to pack for the long haul.

Plan your route well on long rides where you’ll need more water than you can carry. Hydration is not optional, so you’ll need to ensure there are points along your route where you can fill up on water.

Dangers of dehydration when cycling

Dehydration is always dangerous, regardless of the activity. But like any intense sport, cycling depletes your body of fluids faster and demands more fluid intake to support your muscles, nerves, and blood flow. When dehydrated, you won’t be able to perform as well because your body will not have enough blood plasma volume to assist your muscles. Your muscles and heart will have to work harder to sustain your performance, causing you to fatigue faster and your endurance to decrease. An imbalance of electrolytes would mean that your muscles would not contract properly and cramp easily. Dehydration also hinders your body’s ability to regulate its temperature through sweat, which can result in exhaustion or a heat stroke. And it increases your chances of an accident by impairing your coordination, balance, and cognitive ability.

Signs of dehydration when cycling

If you experience any of the following symptoms while cycling, it’s a good idea to stop to cool down, rest and rehydrate with electrolytes. If you don’t begin to feel better or your symptoms are severe, you should seek help.

  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle fatigue and decreased endurance
  • Inability to maintain cadence
  • Dizziness and headaches
  • Lack of sweat
  • Lack of concentration and mental clarity
  • Vomiting

Learn more: Tips for Cycling in Hot Weather

What not to drink when cycling

You should limit your cycling hydration options to water and electrolyte-rich drinks designed to meet your body’s performance needs and absorb quickly. The following drinks would not fit the bill, so save them for after your ride.

  • Carbonated beverages because they make you feel bloated and less likely to drink enough
  • Dairy-based drinks that are high in fat will cause digestive issues and discomfort
  • Coffee because it has a diuretic effect
  • Fruit juice that’s full of fiber and sugars that aren’t easily digested
  • Alcohol because it can hinder your coordination and reaction time

12 best cycling hydration drinks

Choose a hydration drink that provides enough electrolytes and carbs to sustain your ride. If you’re new to cycling hydration, you may want to try a few different options until you find one that you can stomach well.

Best carb and electrolyte-rich hydration

1. F2C Nutrition Glyco-Durance Drink Mix

🏆 Hincapie All-Star Product

F2C Nutrition Glyco-Durance

  • Cost: $59.99
  • Nutrition information per scoop (29.9g)
  • Carbs: 25 g
  • Calories: 100 kcals
  • Flavors: Mango, Strawberry Kiwi, Green Apple, Lemon Lime, Unflavored
  • Why we love it: Energy derived from non-GMO potato and rice that absorbs quickly without cramping and bloating.

Glyco-Durance drink mix is packed with 25 grams of carbs and absolutely zero sugar per serving. The carbs are derived from non-GMO potato and rice to help your body rapidly absorb them without unpleasant bloating or cramping. Plus, its sustained release of glucose means you’ll have a steady supply of energy to keep you going strong throughout your ride. Glyco-Duraance is also designed to stimulate glycogen production, which enables your body to absorb electrolytes much faster.

2. Powerbar IsoActive Drink Mix

🏆 Hincapie All-Star Product

IsoActive Drink Mix

  • Cost: $39.99 (40 servings)
  • Nutrition information per 1½ scoops (33g)
  • Carbs: 29g
  • Calories: 120 kcals
  • Flavors: Raspberry Pomegranate
  • Why we love it: Made with 5 essential electrolytes and designed for rapid absorption.

IsoActive Drink Mix is a classic favorite carb-based drink designed to enhance your performance by promoting efficient hydration with a blend of five essential electrolytes. This drink mix combines glucose and fructose sources in a special ratio claimed to increase energy delivery to muscles by up to 55% when consumed regularly during exercise. It also aids rapid absorption for efficient energy transport to your working muscles.

3. Skratch Labs Super High-Carb Sports Drink Mix

  • Cost: $41.95 (8 servings)
  • Nutrition information per one 7-scoop serving (105g)
  • Carbs: 100g
  • Calories: 400 kcals
  • Flavors: Lemon & Lime, Raspberry
  • Why we love it: Easy but gradual digestion with its unique glucose structure and light and tasty flavors.

4. Torq Energy Drink

  • Cost: $25 (15-serving pouch)
  • Nutrition information per packet (33g)
  • Carbs: 30g
  • Calories: 120 kcals
  • Flavors: Orange, Black Currant, Pink Grapefruit, Vanilla
  • Why we love it: 5 essential electrolytes and delicious flavors with no artificial sweeteners.

5. Maurten Drink Mix 320

  • Cost: $48 (14 servings)
  • Nutrition information per sachet (80g)
  • Carbs: 89g
  • Calories: 320 kcals
  • Flavors: Neutral
  • Why we love it: Provides smooth and efficient carb absorption as turns to a hydrogel when it reaches the stomach and is loved by pro athletes.

6. SIS Go Electrolyte Powder

  • Cost: $40.50 (1.6 kg jar)
  • Nutrition information per 2-scoop serving (40g)
  • Carbs: 36g
  • Calories: 146 kcals
  • Flavors: Black Currant, Lemon & Lime, Orange, Tropical
  • Why we love it: A classic favorite with bold and delicious flavors.

7. Tailwind Endurance Fuel

  • Cost: $39.99 (50 servings)
  • Nutrition information per scoop (27g)
  • Carbs: 29g
  • Calories: 100 kcals
  • Flavors: Mandarin, Lemon, Berry, Naked (Unflavored)
    • Caffeinated: Matcha, Raspberry, Tropical, Cola
  • Why we love it: Light and easy on the gut and mixes clear.

8. High 5 Energy Drink Mix

  • Cost: $27.44 (2.2kg)
  • Nutrition information per 47g serving
  • Carbs: 44g
  • Calories: 175 kcals
  • Flavors: Berry, Citrus, Orange, Tropical
  • Why we love it: Smooth and tasty isotonic drink that’s a good choice before or during a ride.

The best low-carb electrolyte hydration

9. Extra Strength Pickle Juice

🏆 Hincapie All-Star Product

Extra-Strength Pickle Juice

  • Cost: $22.99 (12 2.5 oz. shots)
  • Nutrition information per container
  • Carbs: 0g
  • Calories: 0g
  • Flavors: Pickle Juice, Chili Lime
  • Why we love it: Simple USDA Organic Certified ingredients with a proven track record of relieving muscle cramps.

Extra Strength Pickle Juice is a clean and natural source of hydration, with no sugar, caffeine, artificial flavors, GMOs, or gluten. Pickle Juice’s exceptional electrolyte content and ability to stop muscle cramps set it apart from other hydration options. Using a proprietary blend of vinegar and grains, it targets the neurological signal responsible for cramps and effectively prevents them. It also aids in recovery with its blend of essential vitamins and minerals.

10. LMNT Recharge

  • Cost: $45 (30 pack)
  • Nutrition information per stick (6g)
  • Carbs: 2g
  • Calories: 10
  • Flavors: Citrus Salt, Watermelon Salt, Orange Salt, Raspberry Salt, Raw (Unflavored), Mango Chili, Lemon Habanero, Chocolate Salt
  • Why we love it: Comes in fun, tasty flavors and is perfect for sweat-heavy rides.

11. Nuun Sport Hydration Tablets

  • Cost: $7.49 (10 tablet tubes), $59.92 (8 tube box)
  • Nutrition information per 1 tablet (5.5g)
  • Carbs: 4g
  • Calories: 10 kcals
  • Flavors: Strawberry Lemonade, Citrus Fruit, Fruit Punch, Grape, Lemon Lime, Orange, Tri-Berry, Tropical, Watermelon
    • Caffeinated: Cherry Limeade, Fresh Lime, Mango Orange, Wild Berry
  • Why we love it: Tasty, light flavors with only 1g of sugar.

12. Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier

  • Cost: $24.99 (16 pack)
  • Nutrition information per stick (16g)
  • Carbs: 11g
  • Calories: 45
  • Flavors: Seaberry, Strawberry Lemonade, Tropical Punch, Pina Colada, Concord Grape, Golden Cherry, Acai Berry, Guava, Lemon Lime
  • Why we love it: Radid absorption and delicious natural flavors.

Equipped with proper fuel and hydration, you’ll be ready to ride your best and conquer new cycling challenges. Join us for a Gran Fondo Hincapie ride and start your training with our cycling training plan for beginners.


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