What Should I Drink While Exercising? 7 Tips

words Al Woods

Working up a sweat is a good thing. It means that you’re moving your body and getting some exercise. Do you know what’s not so good? Dehydration.

You become dehydrated when your body is losing more water than you’re putting back in. It’s a surprisingly common occurrence. Some estimates place dehydration levels among the adult US population as high as 75 percent. That means that on any given day, you’re more likely to be dehydrated than not.

When you work out, your body is under far more duress than it ordinarily is. The National Athletic Trainers’ Association says the average person loses up to 15 ounces of water while exercising. You also lose electrolytes These are minerals, like sodium and potassium, which are required in a delicate balance to keep your body functioning properly. 

Drink Exercising

If you’re not replacing all of this during your workout, you could be setting yourself up for failure and not achieve the maximum benefits from your exercise program. Dehydration may cause you to experience dizziness and headaches and can even do long term damage to your body. During your workout, you will fatigue easily and are likely to perform below the intensity needed to hit your fitness goals. 

Because we don’t want that for you, here are 7 tips that will help you hydrate the right way.

Tip #1 

Start Your Workout Hydrated

Yes, we know we said tips for “during” your workout, but if you start out dehydrated things aren’t going to end well. When you do high-intensity exercise in this state, you run the risk of muscle cramps and performing under your physical and mental peak. The workout will seem and feel harder to you. You may also be at risk for heatstroke and damage to your skeletal muscle system.

The American Council on Exercise recommends drinking 17-20 ounces of fluid 2 to 3 hours before working out. About 20 to 30 minutes before you begin, you should have 8 ounces of fluid.

Tip #2

Stock up on that good ole H20

Your primary go-to fluid while working out should be water. That’s because your body’s made of it.

  • 60 percent of your body weight is water
  • 75 percent of your muscle mass is water

How much water you’ll need will be dependent on a few factors:

  • The climate you live in. People in warmer climates will sweat more and need to replace more fluid
  • You have a higher level of fitness. Fit people cool down more efficiently, which means they sweat more and have higher fluid loss
  • The activity is high intensity. A more strenuous workout means you’ll sweat more
  • You have certain medical conditions e.g. diabetes

While it’s recommended that you try to have between 7-10 ounces of water for every 10 to 20 minutes of exercise, you can see from the above, your needs may vary. Water is best for moderate workouts that are an hour or under.

Exercise Drink

Tip #3

Add some protein and carbohydrates if your workout is going to be longer

If your workout is more demanding and in the 2 to 3-hour range, you may need some additional fuel to keep going. At this point, it isn’t just the fluid you have to replace. You would have lost electrolytes as well. You’re also going to need to replace the energy your body would have depleted.

One drink solution that meets all of these needs yet sits underused among the brightly colored sports drinks and branded water products, is milk.

Milk contains:

  • Potassium, calcium, and sodium, which are electrolytes
  • Proteins like casein and whey contain BCAA or Branched Chain Amino Acids. BCAA has been demonstrated to improve endurance
  • Lactose, which is a sugar (carbohydrate)  that breaks down into glucose. Glucose is used to replenish glycogen stores depleted by high-intensity exercise.

Some people are not able to use milk because they are lactose intolerant, vegetarian, or vegan. For this reason, they are also unable to use products like whey powder as it is derived from cow’s milk. Options for them include a vegan protein, which is a plant-based powder that can be made into shakes, or soy milk. Soy milk has protein and electrolytes that are similar to cow’s milk. It also aids in muscle recovery.

Other good workout drinks include:

  • Coconut water
  • Diluted fruit juices
  • Sports drinks that are electrolyte enriched

Tip #4

What not to drink

This list wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t tell you what to avoid. You’re going to undo all your good work if you drink caffeinated beverages during your workout. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it draws water out of the body. Also, avoid:

  • Sports drinks that contain artificial flavors, coloring and high levels of sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Soft drinks

Tip #5

Consider your training goals

What are you hoping to accomplish with your workout program? If you’re attempting to build muscle, then your drinks should have a protein component. If you’re training to build stamina and improve performance a drink that contains carbohydrates that quickly convert to glucose might be better.

Tip #6

Drink something cold

Your core temperature tends to rise slower when you drink cold beverages while you exercise. This prevents you from sweating too much and losing too much fluid. People also find colder beverages to be more palatable than warm Because of this, they are more likely to consume greater amounts, staying better hydrated during their workouts.

Tip # 7

Don’t drink too much

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as over hydration. The formal name for it is hyponatremia. This is when there is so much water in your bloodstream that you’ve dangerously diluted your sodium levels. Even though this is rare, it is quite serious and can lead to kidney failure and even death.

Having made the commendable decision to workout, it’s now important to follow the best practices to ensure you get the most out of your exercise program. Maintaining proper hydration levels is one of the best ways to do this.


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