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

Flickr/ jamailacFlickr/ jamailacWe'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.

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

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.

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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.

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What to Drink: Coffee

Surprised? We were, too. But it turns out that a little dose of caffeine can help increase endurance, boost your workout (especially if you don't work out much), and even help relieve post-workout soreness. Plus, caffeine can reduce your perception of pain and exertion if you're, say, lifting weights. A study of men lifting weights found that those who drank a liquid with the caffeine equivalent of two cups of coffee were able to complete more reps when bench-pressing. How does it work? Caffeine blocks pain signals from your muscles to your brain. Try an espresso shot about a half-hour before your workout, or a post-workout cup of joe. The experts recommend 2.3 milligrams of caffeine per pound of body weight about an hour before your workout, to get the most out of your coffee. And provided you don't drink a ton of coffee, it won't dehydrate you too much post-workout. Hey, if Michael Jordan was doing it back in his heyday, we can imagine you'll like the results from a cup of joe, too.

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What to Drink: Cherry Juice

No, not the cherry juice cocktail (obviously). But one drink to get a lot of workout buzz recently is tart cherry juice. The antioxidants in cherries, namely the flavanoids and anthyocyanins, can alleviate inflammation and swelling post-workout. A study from the U.K. found that runners who regularly drank cherry juice before and after a workout had faster muscle recovery.


What to Drink: Beer

Now we know why those beer and running clubs are so popular: researchers in Spain found that beer can rehydrate the body faster than a sports drink or water. Just like chocolate milk, beer has the right combination of carbs and protein to help the body recover faster and rehydrate faster. And bonus points, the beer also alleviated post-workout aches and pains (because well, it's beer).


What to Drink: Chocolate Milk

The drink of Olympic champions - and clearly, they're doing something right - chocolate milk has the right amount of protein and carbohydrates to replenish tired muscles. (One study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that milk-based protein promotes muscle protein synthesis better than soy-based protein.) Plus, the amount of sugar and sodium in milk is just enough to boost insulin levels for the body to retain water and regain energy.


What Not To Drink: Energy Drinks

Even though caffeine is a known stimulant for a workout, there's one ingredient that can kill a workout fast - sugar. And energy drinks are chock-full of sugar; and they're not great for rehydration because the huge amount of caffeine acts as a diuretic. Don't believe the hype: an energy drink won't boost your workout.

More of the Best (and Worst) Drinks Before and After a Workout


- Marcy Franklin, The Daily Meal