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The Best (and Worst) Drinks for Before and After a Workout

The Best (and Worst) Drinks for Before and After a Workout

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Think you're limited to Gatorade and water? Think again

What to drink before and after a workout.

We're not going to sugarcoat this: it's getting close to swimsuit season. And while we're ramping up our gym time, bike rides, and hikes, we're even more conscious of the weather outside that's making us sweat. Which is why it's more important than ever to think about what we're drinking before and after a workout.

Click here for The Best (And Worst) Drinks Before and After a Workout Slideshow

More important than the foods you're ingesting are the drinks you're ingesting, especially when you're hitting the gym. Most of us are dehydrated before we even hit the gym (you can check out symptoms of dehydration here), and that can cause some hiccups during a workout. A study from Loughborough University showed that dehydration during a workout didn't just affect the study participants' performance, but their mental clarity and physical capabilities as well. In severe cases, dehydration during or after a workout can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.

So you know you should be drinking tons of water while working out, but what about all the other drinks on the market? From coconut water to Gatorade, coffee to beer (say what now?), every drink claims to be the perfect drink for a workout — but that's not always the case. We'll break down why certain drinks are perfect for your pre- and post-workout hydration, and why some drinks just don't add up.

Best and Worst Drinks Before a Workout

Thirsty before hitting the gym? The question of what to drink before a workout has long been up for debate. Everyone has their pre-exercise ritual, whether it means chugging down a sports drink or not eating or drinking anything for fear of negative side effects during exercise. Yet, regardless of the diet we follow pre-exercise, most of us are unsure of what really is the best before we head to the gym.

To add to the confusion, the beverage industry has inundated us with a plethora of energy and sports drinks that claim to be improve performance and increase endurance. It is easy to get caught up in the hype and choose a drink without really knowing if it will actually help or harm you exercise regimen.

One thing that is for certain is it is important to stay hydrated during exercise. Keeping well hydrated allows you to replenish fluids lost as you exercise, preventing you from getting dehydrated, which can be deadly if severe. The best way to avoid dehydration during exercise is to drink fluids before, during, and after your workout. [slideshow:540]

The only question that remains is what drink is the best choice. The key is to keep an eye on the nutritional labels when perusing the beverage aisle of the grocery store. Sugar and fat can slow down your workout by giving you a sugar crash, cramps, nausea, and even diarrhea, so high amounts of these nutrients should be avoided. Electrolytes like potassium, sodium, and magnesium are lost from your body when you sweat so drinks that contain them may be a good way to either prevent the loss from being too great or to replenish what you have already lost.

Here are, in no particular order, the best and worst drinks to fuel your workout.

This story originally appeared on our sister site, The Daily Meal.

Whey Protein


Whey protein, one of the two proteins found in milk, may be beneficial both pre- and post workout because it supplies your muscles with the amino acids they need to repair and grow. According to a study published in the journal Sports Medicine, researchers found that whey protein in combination with resistance training was associated with small extra gains in fat-free mass or lean body mass. As Jim puts it, "A whey protein shake before a workout has shown to increase muscle synthesis." For optimal results, he recommends ingesting 20-25 g of whey protein within an hour before a workout.

The Best (and Worst) Drinks for Before and After a Workout - Recipes

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The best and worst drinks before and after training

We are approaching the swimsuit season, and with it our increased need to go to the gym. Equally as important is the food we eat, it is important that we consume a drink before and after exercise. There are drinks that improve the results of our exercise, as well as those that slow them down.

Pay attention to what you drink before and after training

Most of us can dehydrate in the gym and symptoms for organism dehydration are easily noticeable, hiccups during training, lack of mental and physical abilities, cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

What to drink:

Are you surprised? Small doses of caffeine increases our physical stamina and relieves pain after training. One study showed that people who consumed before training two cups of coffee, endured more training.

How does this work? Caffeine blocks the pain from the muscles to the brain for half an hour, because half an hour before the workout, drink espresso. Experts recommend 2.3 milligrams of caffeine per kg of body weight one hour before training. If you stick to the prescribed value, you will dehydrate after training.

Sour-cherry juice
Tart cherry juice, rich in antioxidants, relieves inflammation and swelling after practice. Research conducted in the UK reveals that the muscles in runners who regularly drank cherry juice to pre-and post-workout, his muscles recover faster.

Chocolate milk
Chocolate milk has the right ratio of proteins and carbohydrates that regenerate tired muscles. One study found that milk stimulates the synthesis of muscle. In addition, sodium and sugar in milk increases the level of insulin in the body retains water and restores our energy.

The study was conducted in Spain showed that beer quickly to any sports drink rehydrates the body after exercise. Like chocolate milk, beer has the right combination of carbohydrates and protein that the body recover after physical exertion and relieves pain.

What you don’t have to drink:

Energy drinks contain sugar and caffeine to kill training results. Rich in sugar are not good for re hydration of the body, a huge amount of caffeine in them act as diuretics.

The Best and Worst Hydration Beverages

What’s your go-to hydration beverage? For workouts moderate in length, under 90 minutes, water is a suitable beverage to sip. If you exercise longer, you can benefit from a drink that contains electrolytes since you lose electrolytes when you sweat. The more you sweat, the more critical it is to replace the sodium, potassium, and chloride you lose through sweat. But all liquid refreshment isn’t created equal when it comes to keeping your body hydrated and functioning at peak capacity. Some are better than others and some you should avoid entirely. Let’s look more closely at the best and worst beverages for staying hydrated and why.

Worst Hydration Beverages

You know they aren’t good for you anytime, but you should definitely skip soft drinks before and during a workout. A recent study points out why these fizzy, too sweet beverages don’t make the cut. For the study, healthy adults exercised in a hot environment for 45 minutes. Afterward, they drank either 16 ounces of water of 16 ounces of a soft drink. They repeated the trial so that the same participants consumed the opposite beverage in a separate training session. The results? Those who drank the soft drinks showed changes in markers of kidney function. These changes were suggestive of a temporary reduction in healthy kidney function. Plus, they had higher levels of a hormone called vasopressin that elevates blood pressure. In addition, the soft drink didn’t hydrate the participants as well as water.

They may be popular, especially among young people, but don’t sip an energy drink before a workout. Some people gravitate toward them because of the caffeine. Studies show that caffeine can enhance sub-maximal exercise performance and, possibly, high-intensity exercise performance as well. But studies have linked these beverages with changes to the electrical activity of the heart. It’s electrical activity that sets the rhythm of the heart and determines whether the heart beats regularly. Energy drinks contain caffeine and other stimulants, including taurine. The combination of the caffeine plus other stimulants may cause the arteries to constrict too much, increasing demand on the heart. Energy drinks also cause a rise in heart rate. Combine the effects of the energy drink with vigorous exercise, particularly in the heat, and you compound the stress on your heart.

Believe it or not, there are marathon runners who drink beer to stay hydrated. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Especially when you consider alcohol is a diuretic and you’re trying to stay hydrated. If you consume alcohol, don’t do it before a workout!

Best Hydration Beverages

We already mentioned water, but for longer workouts when you need to replenish electrolytes, coconut water is a good option. Coconut water is naturally high in potassium but a bit lower in sodium relative to a commercial sports drink. You can solve that problem by adding a pinch of salt to coconut water. If you buy pure coconut water, you can also avoid the additives and sweeteners in most sports drinks.

Other good hydration beverages are milk and orange juice. How do we know this? In one study, researchers calculated a hydration score for a variety of beverages. The beverages included skim and regular milk, tea, diet cola, regular cola, a sports drink, an oral rehydration solution, orange juice, lager, and sparkling water. As you might expect, the oral rehydration solution outperformed water for hydration. Makes sense since it’s used in hospitals for rehydration. However, orange juice and milk also performed better than water in terms of hydration in the study.

Why would orange juice and milk be better than water for hydration? Orange juice contains sugar and the extra sugar helps the body better absorb and retain the fluid. Beverages with sugar or salt are both effective at hydrating since they boost absorption of the fluid into the bloodstream. Adding sugar to a beverage also increases the effectiveness of electrolyte absorption. Orange juice also supplies glucose to help preserve glycogen stores during periods of sustained exercise.

What about milk? Milk is a good source of electrolytes, including sodium and potassium. Plus, it has an ideal ratio of carbohydrates to protein. Carbohydrates are important for replenishing glycogen stores and protein helps muscles repair after a workout. Plus, research shows the protein in milk helps restore fluid balance. Chocolate milk is a good choice too, as it contains anti-inflammatory compounds due to the chocolate. In fact, a study found that athletes could exercise longer before becoming fatigued and their workout felt easier when they hydrated with chocolate milk. Plus, their heart rate at a given level of exertion was lower.

The Bottom Line

Choose your hydration beverage wisely, but make sure you’re staying hydrated! Even mild dehydration can limit your endurance and the total volume of training you can do. In fact, as little as 1% dehydration can reduce exercise performance by 15%. It can even negatively impact your strength and hypertrophy gains by reducing total training volume. Exercise feels more taxing and strenuous when you’re in a dehydrated state.

As a general guideline, drink 15 to 20 ounces of water within a few hours of a workout. Consuming lots of liquid right before a workout doesn’t work well as your body needs time to absorb the water. Plus, you don’t want a large volume of fluid in your tummy when you’re doing high-impact exercise. Drink another 6 to 10 ounces 30 minutes before your workout begins. Then, drink about 8 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes during a workout.

If you’re unsure whether you’re drinking enough, check the color of your urine. If it’s darker than pale yellow, you’re not optimally hydrated. You can also weigh yourself before and after a workout. For each pound that you’re down, drink 24 ounces of fluid. Keep tabs on your hydration! It matters in terms of health and exercise performance too.

The 5 Worst Things to Drink Before a Workout

Hydrating the right way before a workout helps your muscles operate at prime condition.

&ldquoWhen your body is dehydrated, you don&rsquot have the proper muscle power, accuracy, and balance you need to complete a decent workout,&rdquo says Angela Onsgard, R.D., resident nutritionist at Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona.

But what you put in your body pre-workout definitely matters. According to Columbia University, you&rsquore supposed to drink 20 ounces of water two hours before a workout, another eight ounces during warm-up, and an additional eight ounces every 10 to 20 minutes depending on the amount of sweat you&rsquore producing.

That&rsquos a lot of liquid&mdashso let&rsquos make sure you&rsquore sipping the right stuff.

Here what you should never chug before a workout.

Save any drinks with dairy for after the workout.

&ldquoDairy-containing beverages are better to consume post-workout as opposed to before or during,&rdquo says Onsgard.

Since milk contains protein, carbohydrates, and fat, it takes a lot of time to digest, she says.

Instead, try whey protein packets mixed with filtered water. You&rsquoll get the benefits of the protein, minus the fat and longer digestion time you&rsquod get with dairy.

As a kid, you might have loved those squeezable Capri Sun packs, but they&rsquore just not the best choice to drink before your workout.

&ldquoMost of these fruity drinks are loaded with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a manmade sweetener that&rsquos been shown to initiate liver dysfunction, metabolic syndrome, and obesity,&rdquo says Onsgard.

Instead, add some flavor to your water with fresh citrus fruits, berries, mint, or basil.

&ldquoOr opt for coconut water, which replenishes the electrolytes you&rsquoll lose during your workout,&rdquo Onsgard says.

This one might sound like a given&mdashbut even sipping a beer hours before you go to the gym can mess up your workout.

&ldquoAlcohol is dehydrating, inflammatory, and negatively impacts balance and decision-making,&rdquo says Onsgard.

Not ideal when you&rsquore trying to decide how much weight to lift.

&ldquoIf you need a pick-me-up, have some coffee of the dark roast variety (which has less caffeine than lighter roasts)," Onsgard says. "[It] can increase alertness and improve exercise performance."

Fizzy drinks, like soda and seltzer, can cause bloating, abdominal pain, and gas.

They also contain significant amounts of sodium, which draws water out of the body&rsquos cells and can cause dehydration.

If you&rsquore a diet soda fiend, know that most brands contain aspartame, an artificial sweetener that&rsquos been linked to a number of side effects such as migraines, dizziness, memory loss, and mood swings.

&ldquoInstead of soda, go for an iced-cold green tea drink,&rdquo says Onsgard. &ldquoIt&rsquos naturally high in antioxidants and is shown to reduce the risk of several types of cancer.&rdquo

Lebron James&rsquo defined pecs and bulging arm muscles might tell another story, but most sports drinks on the market are actually loaded with sugar and contain little-to-no nutrition.

&ldquoYou might get some added vitamins and electrolytes from some brands on the market, but the high sugar content goes right through your system to cause an energy crash later on,&rdquo says Onsgard.

&ldquoIt can wreak havoc on your hormonal system and is a strain for your body to process, on top of the repairing requirements that follow a workout.&rdquo

Instead, gulp down some additive-free tomato juice, which provides potassium, has natural sugars, and promotes healthy blood pressure.

Shelf-Stable Kombucha


Kombucha is a probiotic drink that's teeming with live probiotic cultures that are beneficial for gut health. But if you buy your kombucha off a shelf—and not from the refrigerator—that's a sign that what you're about to drink isn't the real stuff. These pasteurized drinks, like those from búcha, kill off all those naturally-occurring beneficial bacteria, and then further dilute the fermented drink by adding carbonated water.

Drink This! Instead: For the best brews, don't miss our list of the best kombuchas.

Is it good to drink Red Bull before exercising?

Whether consuming Red Bull before exercising is a good idea varies from person to person.

It&rsquos going to depend on what exercise you&rsquore doing, when you&rsquore exercising and whether you have any health conditions.

What I mean by this is that if you come back after a long day at work and need to work out but you are so tired you can&rsquot bring yourself to do it, then Red Bull might help you boost your energy to get your workout done.

I&rsquove tried it and found that Red Bull is very helpful for me, and I actually had a very productive workout after having some.

However, there are some risks to having Red Bull daily. Be sure to check out my other article for all the info on that.

Fortunately, we don&rsquot need to speculate about whether Red Bull is good for exercise. We can turn to scientific studies, of which there have been at least a few that are directly relevant to this topic.

In this study published in the Human Kinetics Journal, athletes who drank Red Bull had significantly increased upper body muscle endurance than those who drank the placebo.

However, another study found that drinking Red Bull did not alter sprint performance in women.

At least it didn&rsquot harm sprint performance I guess.

There was also this study on how sugar-free Red Bull affected the run time-to-exhaustion of young adults. The study found that the Red Bull had no influence to the young adults&rsquo run times.

So, that&rsquos another study that found no change in performance, but one that did find some benefit for exercise.

I interpret these results to mean that energy drinks (including Red Bull) are unlikely to hurt your sporting or athletic performances, but they might give you an edge over your competition in some cases.

Post-Workout Hydration

To help you determine the amount of fluid you lose during exercise, you can weigh yourself before and after exercise. For each pound lost during activity, drink 24 oz. of fluid. If your body weight increased, you have overhydrated and you should drink less fluid in future exercise sessions.

After a practice or competition, drink to quench your thirst and then drink some more. Because the thirst mechanism is an inaccurate indicator of dehydration, you'll have to monitor your urine to determine whether or not you've had enough.