What to Drink, When

How to hydrate before, during and after exercise.

Staying hydrated is an important aspect of exercise—it can make or break your workout performance. So what type of beverage is best? Find out when you should use energy or sports drinks, coconut or electrolyte waters, juice, milk or just plain water.


Hydrate With Water

Hydrate With Water

Calories: 0 per 8 oz.
Electrolytes: No
Carbohydrates: No
Caffeine: No
Protein: No

The Science Says: Hydrate pre-exercise with 2 to 3 cups, 2 to 3 hours before exercising. If you’re working out less than 60 minutes drink 3/4 to 11/2 cups every 15 to 20 minutes.

What It's Best For: Zero calories and free, water should be your everyday go-to.


Hydrate With Enhanced Waters

Hydrate With Enhanced Water

Examples: Flavored, Electrolyte-and Vitamin- and Mineral-Containing (e.g., Smartwater, Aquafinda FlavorSplash, Propel, O Beverages, Vitaminwater)
Calories: 0-50 per 8 oz.
Electrolytes: Yes
Carbohydrates: Yes
Caffeine: No
Protein: No

The Science Says: Many waters are enhanced with flavor, electrolytes or vitamins and minerals—or any combination of the above. Flavored water could make it easier to consume more: in one study, people given flavored water while exercising drank more than exercisers given plain water. Electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium and magnesium) are excreted in sweat, but not all electrolyte waters replenish these losses. Some don’t contain sodium. Vitamins and minerals added to waters aren’t necessary if you’re eating a healthy, well-balanced diet—and more doesn’t mean you’ll be healthier.

What It's Best For: When plain water isn’t tantalizing enough, flavored varieties could make it easier to stay hydrated. Choose wisely: some brands can deliver as much added sugars as soft drinks while others use artificial sweeteners to cut the calorie load.


Hydrate With Hydrate With Coconut Water

Hydrate With Hydrate With Coconut Water

Examples: Zico, Vita Coco, C2O
Calories: 35-40 per 8 oz.
Electrolytes: Yes
Carbohydrates: Yes
Caffeine: No
Protein: No

The Science Says: Coconut water naturally contains some electrolytes (potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium). But research on the drink is still limited. One 2002 study found that exercisers who consumed coconut water drank more, but weren’t any more hydrated than those who drank water or a sports drink.

What It's Best For: If you want something other than water that’s natural. Be mindful of the extra calories.


Hydrate With Sports Drinks

Hydrate With Sports Drinks

Examples: Gatorade, Powerade
Calories: 50 per 8 oz.
Electrolytes: Yes
Carbohydrates: Yes
Caffeine: No
Protein: No

The Science Says: Research shows that the easily digestible carbohydrates in sports drinks fuel prolonged physical activity better than plain water. Plus sports drinks replace electrolytes (particularly sodium and potassium) that are lost via sweat.

What It's Best For: During exercise that lasts longer than 60 minutes, especially intense exercise in the heat.


Energize With Coffee

Energize With Coffee

Calories: 2 per 8 oz.
Electrolytes: No
Carbohydrates: No
Caffeine: Yes
Protein: No

The Science Says: Drinking the amount of caffeine in about 2 cups of coffee (200 milligrams) before or during exercise can help boost performance.

What It's Best For: If you need a boost. If you’re not used to caffeine, it could make you jittery and cause GI problems.


Energize with Energy Drinks

Energize with Energy Drinks

Examples: 5-hour ENERGY (2 oz.)*, Red Bull, Monster Energy
Calories: 4*-110
Electrolytes: No
Carbohydrates: Yes
Caffeine: Yes
Protein: No

The Science Says: You’d have to drink 21/2 cans of Red Bull to get 200 mg of caffeine. There’s no evidence that the “energizing” ingredients (ginseng, taurine, B vitamins) added will give you a boost.

What It's Best For: If you don’t like coffee, but need a pick-me-up. Buyer beware: there are no studies on how the ingredients act in your body when combined. And the caffeine in them when mixed with alcohol may make you feel less intoxicated than you really are.


Replenish with Juice

Replenish with Juice (100 Percent)

Calories: 110-150 calories (per 8 oz.)
Electrolytes: No
Carbohydrates: Yes
Caffeine: No
Protein: No

The Science Says: Juice delivers antioxidants that mop up the harmful free radicals produced when you exercise. A daily dose of cherry juice may help ease inflammation that causes sore muscles.

What It's Best For: Post-exercise. Fructose, the primary sugar in fruit, takes longer to digest than other sugars (like those in sports drinks), so drinking juice during or before exercise may cause stomach cramps.


Replenish With Milk

Replenish With Milk

Examples: Opt for Nonfat or Low-Fat
Calories: 80-160
Electrolytes: Yes
Carbohydrates: Yes
Caffeine: No
Protein: Yes

The Science Says: The carbohydrates and protein in plain or chocolate milk will help replenish your glycogen stores (energy stored in muscles) and aid muscle recovery—more so than a carb-only sports drink.

What It's Best For: After a workout lasting an hour or more. Substitute with a post-workout snack of banana and peanut butter, if you prefer.