Many men interested in fitness consider what to eat before and after a workout, but they rarely consider what to drink. Arguably, food can wait because of the body’s ability to mobilise glycogen and stored fat tissues but drink can’t. If you’re not hydrated, your body doesn’t have any additional stores or reserves it can call on, affecting your performance.
If you’ve ever struggled with what to drink before, during, and after a workout, then this post is to help. Tequila is obviously off-limits for serious gym nuts, but there are actually a large number of beverages that can help improve your performance.
The great thing about drinks is how rapidly they get into your system. They can start having beneficial effects almost immediately, whether you’re looking to get pumped up before a workout, or recover afterward.
How much support drinks offer depends on their nutrients and composition. Some are fantastic for weight gain and bulking, while others inject you with energy and help you get through the most grueling workout schedules.
So which drinks should you be taking before, during, and after a workout? Let’s see, shall we?
Before Your Workout
The purpose of drinking before a workout is to prepare your body for what’s about to come next. You need something that’s going to fuel your body and provide adequate hydration to prevent loss of performance later on.
Ideally, you want to drink around 500 ml of water in some form, around 15 to 30 minutes before hitting the gym. This provides your body with time to absorb the nutrients and fluids and shuttle them into cells.
With that said, fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders rarely choose water alone. They also use other compounds and chemicals to ensure a superior workout.
Some, for instance, add fast-release carbohydrates to their drinks to provide fuel to the muscles and brain. Having glucose in the system may enable you to do more intense workouts and push your body harder.
Most high-quality sports drinks contain carbohydrates in the form of maltodextrin. The idea is to reduce sugar content while providing your muscle cells with a safe amount of glucose they can use for intense activities. Runners and aerobic athletes can also benefit from having these carbs in their systems.
It’s also a good idea to take some sodium before working out if it is low in your diet generally. (That is if you don’t eat processed foods and you don’t add salt to your food). Ideally, you want an iodized salt if you’re not on an iodine supplement, as levels can fall significantly if you are engaging in challenging daily workouts.
Some fitness professionals use freshly roasted coffee beans before a workout to provide them with a caffeine kick. It’s a more natural way to feel stimulated than taking pre-workouts. Caffeine and citrulline may prime the muscles and nervous system to work harder, improving the intensity of workouts.
Lastly, we couldn’t discuss your pre-workout drinks without mentioning creatine. Many people like to add the monohydrate form of this powdery substance to juice to get them pumped and ready for exertion. Creatine is one of the most studied supplements on the market and not something you can replace with food.
During Your Workout
During your workout, your drink requirements change. If you’re doing endurance training, you’ll want to take plenty of water with electrolytes with you. Some people can wind up sweating out too much sodium and potassium, causing them to feel nauseous or fatigued before their muscles give out. If that’s you, then a simple tablet added to your drink could help.
As a general rule, you should drink about 150 to 250 ml (5 to 8 oz) of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. You’d be surprised by just how much water you can lose in a short space of time.
If you are exercising for less than an hour, you don’t usually need to take any water with you. However, if you want to go for longer than that, then a proper beverage is essential.
However, you may need to start drinking from the outset if you are in a hot or humid climate. High temperatures and water-saturated air increase the amount you need to sweat to maintain a constant internal temperature.
Some athletes and fitness professionals take sports drinks during periods of intense activity. These may offer formulations that improve performance and hydration. However, many professionals claim they are unnecessary. The best approach is to experiment with what works for you. If you find you can push yourself harder by using commercial preparations, then go for it.
After Your Workout
After your workout, the purpose of drinking is to replenish lost hydration and nutrients. Ideally, you should drink as quickly as you can after a workout, and continue drinking until your urine turns a pale, straw-like yellow.
You can usually tell if you’re hydrated if you go to the bathroom within 40 minutes of drinking a large pint-sized tumbler of water. If you don’t pee, it suggests you need to take on more water. You’d be surprised how much water you need after intense exercise, especially if you are not used to it. A couple of pints might not be enough for some people.
Interestingly, there is a formula you can use to work out how much water you need to take on after a workout. The easiest way to do this is to weigh yourself before and after. For every 2.2 pounds of body weight you lose, you want to consume around 50 ounces of water.
The form of the fluid you drink also matters. Water is good for rehydration, but it doesn’t provide any additional nutrients. It’s not “empty calories” in the conventional sense, because it doesn’t contain any. But when you’re trying to build yourself up after a workout, that’s a problem.
There are several nutrients the body needs after an intense workout, so it makes sense to replenish them as soon as possible. These include:-
Each of these elements serves a purpose. Adding electrolytes helps to maintain a healthy nervous system and improves your energy levels. Proteins are the building blocks of every cell in the body and are essential for combating muscle breakdown after an intense workout. Carbs fuel the entire process, and antioxidants help to douse some of the dangerous free radicals intense exercise generates.
There are many recovery drinks you can experiment with after a workout. Many people immediately reach for a whey protein shake. These are popular among enthusiasts because they contain high-quality protein the body easily absorbs.
Fruit smoothies are another option for those who aren’t as concerned with building muscle. They contain enormous quantities of micronutrients and antioxidants to assist recovery and potentially reduce muscle soreness. They also have carbohydrates that can restore muscle fuel levels and glycogen in the liver for the next workout.
(Sometimes, you may need to take carbohydrate-containing drinks with you while you exercise. Endurance events can deplete sugar stores, leading to a severe energy crash if you don’t replace levels quickly.)
Coconut water is another option. It contains high quantities of the electrolyte potassium, which is useful for rehydrating the body and preventing cramps. It also contains a small number of antioxidants and carbs. You can use it as a base for protein shakes if you’re worried about getting sufficient nutrition after several sets of heavy squats.
Lastly, some people drink chocolate milk after a workout. While it might sound like a strange option, it can be excellent for people who want to bulk up.
So, What’s Next?
As you can see, figuring out what to drink before, during or after a workout can be a little complicated. But, now you’ve read this, you’re in a much better position. Sure, water improves hydration and benefits people who engage in sports, but you may need to supplement it with extra nutrition, depending on what you’re doing.
Say, for instance, you want to do a quick 20-minute session in the gym. In this case, you probably don’t need to hydrate during the session. But if you’re planning on a monster 60-minute treadmill workout, then taking water with you is probably a good idea.
Also, people who regularly exercise every day may need drinks with protein, carbohydrates, antioxidants, and electrolytes. These provide a rapid “hit” of nutrition that helps the body recover.
Remember, the type of fluid you choose (and when you drink it) will depend on:-
- The duration of the exercise – the longer it is, the more supportive the beverage needs to be
- The intensity of the nutrition – the more intense the exercise, the more hydration and nutrition are required
- The environmental conditions – heat and humidity reduce the ability of your sweat to cool you down
- Your personal sweat rate – some people sweat more than others and, therefore, require additional hydration around workouts
- What you enjoy – finally, you’ll need to consider your preferred arrangements, including which drinks you feel support you the most, and which you enjoy taking
Of course, you’ll need to do a bit of experimentation to get your hydration routine right. Keep working at it until you find a formula that’s right for you.