Do I need an electrolyte drink for a 1.5 hour training session?

Usually I would do a 1 hour or 1 1/2 hour indoor ride and used to just drink 800ml of pure water, but after high intensity training, it is possible to feel very tired and weak, and after checking the information, I suspected electrolyte loss.
I am in the process of losing weight with the aim of making my body look leaner, but I have a question.

  1. Is it appropriate to take just edible salt (1g) + 800ml of water as an electrolyte supplement for 1-2 hours of training (since I am from China, the law requires that the iodine content of commercially available edible salt is 20-30mg/kg)
    2.SIS gel is quite expensive in China, I can’t buy it for a long time, I read many posts in the forum about homemade electrolyte drinks, such as adding sodium citrate, honey (which contains glucose and fructose), fresh lemon juice
    But if I consume these sugars during my weight loss period, will it have an effect on the fat loss effect and I will gain weight?
    3.Can you recommend a list of recipes that fit my exercise schedule, or do I just need to consume water + salt?

It depends on you…

Even if you are losing weight you need to fuel the workout effectively, both pre, during and afterwards. If you did consume a gel or a mix on the bike you can work out the calories and then compare those to the caloric expenditure of each workout. I think someone on the podcast said that you’d have to really push out very little power over an hour or more to consume more calories than you’re burning,

Go for an electrolyte tab if you can or salt and see what effect it has. No one else can tell you what to take it usually comes down to trial and error.

if you consumed say 60g of the bulk powders maltodextrin during a workout it’s only 219 calories. A banana is around 90. Compare those numbers to your workout - which will also depend on your FTP and the work you would have to do to get through it.

Try with salt/hydration tab first but for harder efforts, even when trying to burn fat you may find that fuelling your workouts makes them feel easier - especially the harder sessions.
Personally for 90 mins on the turbo with sweet spot I’d use 2x 750ml bottles with mix in it (not as strong as some with only 20-30g per bottle and with a scoop of bulk powders electrolyte powder) and have a banana at the start which seems to prime my mind too as I do it most workouts of that duration. I’m not averse to popping a gel too if needed towards the end but that’s rare.

Try an easier workout with some electrolytes and see how you get on - if I ride or train without them I get banging headaches. But YMMV.

Try it out and see how it goes - we are all different and tolerate different things. I’m old and slow so need all the help I can get and have found fuelling my rides my bodyweight has dropped a chunk and also looking at the rest of my diet overall.

Overall if you’re burning more calories than you’re taking in you should loose weight but you need to be careful to make sure you don’t burn muscle and fuel enough to recover otherwise it can be a downwards spiral.

There’s a good post from Amber on the blog about fuelling -

Number 2…

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There are too many variables to give you a yes/no answer. But if you’re working hard and sweating heavily, then yes, I would add electrolytes.

The very old-fashioned way was a pinch of salt and a pinch of lo-salt in a 50/50 mix of water and flat coca-cola. That always worked for me, and was very cheap. You’d be looking at c. 20 kcal in 100ml.

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I can do a full XC race (1.5-2 hours) on water alone and never feel like I am out of energy. Some people can’t ride around the block without sipping sugar. Everyone is different.


It only would if you don’t remove some carbs/calories from another part of your day. As long as you end up in a caloric deficit you’ll be fine. But I would try to concentrate your carbs around your workouts. Both to fuel the work and because while working out the amount of the carbs you eat that convert to fat will be next to zero. That mechanism is basically turned off.


Yes, that’s fine. If sweating heavily, including table salt during your training is wise, alongside drinking to thirst, or just ahead of thirst. Blood volume retention is key for cardiac output.

No. As others have said, kcal deficit is what matters. One of the best times to consume carbs is during training and around training (before & after).

Salt your food. Put salt in your carb beverage during training.

RP Cookbooks are good for healthy eating recipes with known macros. (I do not profit from these, but am affiliated with the company as a contractor).

The RP Diet for Endurance goes into more details on exactly how to implement carbs, sodium, fluid, etc, for all lengths of training sessions. I’m absolutely certain it will attend to many of the questions you have. I DO profit from the sale of that book, since I wrote it. It can also be found in the recommended reading list here on TR.

It’s very likely that you would benefit from intra-workout carb fueling alongside electrolytes. Usually electrolyte loss doesn’t result in weakness. It results in lightheadedness and faintness, if dehydrated. Or it can result in cramping, when paired with fatigue. A far more common reason for feeling tired and weak is low blood sugar, which would be the expectation after 90min of higher intensity training with no carb intake.

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You don’t need to buy SiS gels or anything like that, that’s just a convenient way of carrying sugar. You can just use normal sugar in your drinks (and add salt), or eat sugary sweets. I usually just eat cheap sweets (like gummy bears or similar), but I also really like those sweets that are made from fruit juice and sugar (and then dried to like a thin sheet), I buy these in the Chinese supermarket!

There are other threads on here that discuss how much sugar to put into your drinks - as the others have said, sugar during your workout is not likely to turn into fat, but you need to make sure to eat a bit less some other time during the day to make up for it. Personally I usually don’t have carbs during 90 minutes, but it depends how hard the workout is.

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I think your post mixes two issues that should be kept separate: energy vs. electrolytes.


I live in Japan and it is hot and humid. I don’t know where you live in China and what the climate is like, but you should definitely replace electrolytes. There are non-energy electrolyte tabs you can get (e. g. on Wiggle from various companies). They have essentially zero calories (I need to double check, but the ones I currently have from SIS have 5 kCal per tablet, I think). On the trainer I need to drink a lot more than outdoors. Indoors I currently average 1,4 l per hour (two large bottles). Outdoors, I can make do with 0,7–1 liter per hour. As you can see, it also depends on your sweat rate.


The other issue is energy. I try to consume 80–90 g of carbs per hour. At my FTP that doesn’t come close to replacing the calories I need even for a super easy 1-hour recovery ride like Lazy Mountain. Needless to say, it doesn’t come close to the calorie needs I have. So even if you want to lose weight, I don’t think fasted rides are the way to go.

If you don’t want to use drink mix, you can use e. g. gummi bears. That works very well and has the advantage that I can precisely monitor my calorie and sugar intake.

I found that if I fuel well with 80–90 g of carbs, I’m quite full after a ride. No big surprise, I drank 1.5+ liters of water and had as many carbs as my stomach can handle. After a shower, I take in a recovery drink. I don’t do this because I think it is really necessary, I do it because I like the flavor. I use SIS chocolate-flavored recovery powder and use milk instead of water. (I know I am not supposed to, but with water it tastes like chalk. With milk it is delicious.) You can go cheaper by simply blending milk with 1-2 bananas and some honey or maple syrup. You can add e. g. cinnamon or other things for taste. That will stuff you.

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I look at workout hydration as part of a daily hydration plan.

So, for the narrow question do you need electrolytes for a 1.5 hour indoor training session? No. Is downing an electrolyte enhanced water bottle once a day helpful for your overall hydration needs? It may be. For me given my off bike hydration efforts (or lack thereof … ) the answer is almost always Yes. I use NUUN tablets which are around 10 calories for an entire bottle. I always make a full bottle for any trainer ride under 1.5 hours (long might mean another bottle) and drink the whole thing even if I finish it well after the ride (which is often the case).

Unless you get on the bike half starved, you shouldn’t need added calories to get through a 1.5 hour ride - unless you are using that time to consume calories as part of your daily plan.