Best and Worst Drinks to Sip on 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.

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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 chose a drink without really knowing if it will actually help or harm you exercise regimen.

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One thing that is for certain is it is important to stay hydrate 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.

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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.

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

Best Drink: Water
There is nothing better than water for your workout. A classic choice, water gives you what you need to stay hydrated during your workout and is the best way to replace lost fluids. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, try to drink two to three cups of water during the two to three hours before exercise.

Best Drink: Low Sodium V8 Juice ($3.79 for a 46-ounce bottle)
Packed with vegetables, V8 is a great source of potassium and sodium, two electrolytes you sweat out during intense exercise. Choose the low sodium variety, as it still supplies plenty of sodium for your workout. Try drinking an 8-ounce glass an hour before you exercise to get 900 mg of potassium (20 percent of your daily needs!) and 140 mg of sodium.

Best Drink: Zico Coconut Water ($2.49 for a 14-ounce bottle)
Coconut is quite the trend recently, and for good reason. It naturally contains the potassium, sodium, and magnesium that sports drink companies pump their drinks with. It also contains less sugar then traditional sports drinks like Gatorade (12 grams of sugar in a 14-ounce serving as opposed to 14 grams of sugar in 8 ounces of Gatorade).

Best Drink: Green Tea
Like coffee, green tea contains caffeine, which can benefit your workout. On top of that, green tea is one of the best sources of ECGD, an antioxidant that has been shown to have weight loss benefits. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was shown that ingesting green tea extract before exercise helped men burn 17 percent more fat during a 30-minute cardio workout.

Worst Drink: Coca-Cola ($1.49 for 2 liters)
It is a well-known fact that soda is nutritionally void and loaded with sugar, so it should come as no surprise that is a poor choice for your pre-workout drink. Sodas high sugar content on top of its carbonation can lead to not only a sugar crash but also stomach cramps and nausea during your workout.

Worst Drink: Minute Maid Lemonade ($2.29 for 64 ounces)
The store-bought varieties of this classic beverage are made with the same sweeteners as soda and contain just as much sugar. So the damaging effects of lemonade on your workouts are the same as soda. If you crave that citrus kick, try making flavored water by soaking lemons or limes in ice water.

Worst Drink: Rockstar Energy Drink
There are rows upon rows of energy drinks at the grocery store these days. They all claim to provide the energy you need to power through anything, whether it's an intense workout or a long day at the office. But what isn't mentioned is the high amount of calories and sugar found in these drinks. Rockstar is one of the worst, with one 16-ounce can coming in at 280 calories and 62 grams of sugar.

Worst Drink: Jamba Juice's Protein Berry Workout Smoothie ($4.00-$6.00 for 24-ounce Original)
Sure, fruit smoothies have the image of being an innocent beverage, but take a closer look at the nutrition facts at your favorite smoothie store and you'll be in for a surprise. Jamba Juices pre-workout smoothie has 380 calories and 62 grams of sugar.

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- Sheela Prakash, The Daily Meal