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What should I drink during workout?

Staying hydrated is crucial for performance and recovery during exercise. Depending on the duration and intensity of your workout, your fluid and electrolyte needs can vary significantly. Choosing the right beverage to drink can optimize hydration, energy levels and exercise performance.


Water is always an essential component of hydration. It helps replace the water lost through sweat during exercise. The amount of water you need depends on factors like exercise duration and sweat rate. For workouts under 1 hour, plain water is usually fine for maintaining hydration. But for longer or more intense sessions, a sports drink with electrolytes or coconut water may better promote hydration and performance.

How much water should you drink?

As a general guideline:

  • 2-3 hours before exercise — 17-20 oz (500-600 ml)
  • During exercise — 7-10 oz (200-300 ml) every 10-20 minutes
  • After exercise — 16-24 oz (450-700 ml) of water for every pound (0.5 kg) lost during exercise

However, the optimal amount can vary significantly based on factors like body size, sweat rate, exercise intensity and climate conditions. The key is to drink enough to minimize excessive dehydration and overhydration.

Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are formulated to hydrate and provide energy during exercise. They contain water and electrolytes — like sodium and potassium — to aid hydration. Electrolytes are lost through sweat and support fluid retention. Sports drinks also provide carbohydrates to fuel working muscles.

When are sports drinks beneficial?

Here are some general guidelines on when sports drinks may be useful:

  • Sessions over 1 hour
  • High intensity workouts
  • Exercising in hot and humid weather
  • Individuals who sweat heavily

For shorter, lighter workouts, water is usually fine. The additional calories and sugars in sports drinks are unnecessary.

How much should you drink?

Aim for 7-12 oz (200-350 ml) every 15-20 minutes during exercise. Consuming too much fluid and electrolytes when you don’t need it can lead to overhydration. Don’t exceed 48 oz (1.4 liters) per hour.

Coconut Water

Coconut water is naturally rich in electrolytes — like potassium, sodium and magnesium — that are lost through sweat. It provides a hydrating alternative to sports drinks without artificial colors or flavors. The light coconut taste makes it a refreshing beverage for exercise.

When is coconut water best?

Coconut water works well for:

  • Exercise lasting over 1 hour
  • Hot yoga sessions
  • High intensity interval training
  • Outdoor sports in hot weather

For short, low intensity workouts, plain water is fine. Coconut water is lower in sodium than most sports drinks.

How much to drink?

There are no specific guidelines, but aim for around 2 cups (16 oz or 500 ml) per hour of exercise. Start early to make sure you’re well hydrated. Have 8-16 oz about 30 minutes before starting.

Protein Shakes

Protein shakes can help rebuild and repair muscles after tough training sessions. Whey and casein protein powders mixed with water or milk provide a convenient source of high quality protein.

When are protein shakes beneficial?

Drinking protein shakes is most advantageous:

  • Within 1 hour after strength training
  • To help meet increased protein needs from heavy training
  • When your carbohydrate and protein intake is insufficient

Protein timing and amount needed varies based on your goals, training program and diet. Protein shakes are less beneficial during exercise when carbohydrates are more important.

How much protein is optimal?

Most research suggests:

  • Strength trainers need 0.14–0.23 grams of protein per pound (0.3–0.5 g/kg) of body weight per day
  • 20-40 grams of protein per shake provides ample amino acids to stimulate muscle growth after training

Consuming more than 0.36 grams/pound (0.8 g/kg) of protein daily during intense training is unlikely to provide additional benefit.


Milk provides hydration, carbs and protein. The natural electrolytes and high water content make it an ideal beverage for rehydration after exercise. Chocolate milk has become popular since studies show it may boost recovery.

When is milk a good choice?

Drinking milk can be beneficial:

  • After strength training to promote muscle repair and growth
  • As a recovery drink after endurance exercise like a marathon
  • For adolescent athletes to meet higher protein needs

Milk provides protein, fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat. It’s less suitable during exercise due to its higher fat and protein content.

How much milk should you drink?

For recovery after exercise aim for:

  • 16-24 oz (500-750 ml) of milk
  • 16 oz (500ml) of chocolate milk

This provides 10-16 grams of protein along with fluids, carbs and electrolytes. Avoid drinking more than 24 oz (750 ml) at a time to prevent stomach upset.

Fruit Juice

Fruit juices like orange juice can provide carbohydrates to fuel your muscles during exercise. They also contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. However, the high sugar content means they may be best in moderation.

When is fruit juice useful?

Fruit juice may help:

  • Boost carbs on training days when muscle glycogen needs replenishing
  • Provide electrolytes like potassium lost through sweat
  • Supply fluids to assist hydration

However, the high sugars mean juice may cause stomach upset when consumed during intense exercise.

How much juice should you drink?

Up to 12 oz (375 ml) an hour prior to exercise can help supplement carb intake. For recovery, 12-16 oz (375-500 ml) provides electrolytes and carbs without excessive sugar. Limit juice to 16-24 oz (500-750 ml) total per day during training.


Coffee can enhance exercise performance due to its caffeine content. Caffeine is shown to improve endurance, strength and focus during training. But timing is important, as it can also cause stomach upset.

When is coffee useful?

Drinking coffee may be beneficial:

  • 30-60 minutes before a workout as a pick-me-up
  • Prior to a race to reduce perception of exertion
  • When you need help getting motivated

However, consuming it immediately before or during exercise may cause indigestion. Those sensitive to caffeine may need less.

How much coffee should you drink?

Most research suggests 3-6 mg of caffeine per kg (2.2 pounds) of body weight. This translates to:

  • 150 pound (68 kg) person: 200-400 mg caffeine
  • 200 pound (90 kg) person: 270-540 mg caffeine

To maximize benefits with minimal side effects, limit intake to 2-3 cups of coffee spaced out before intense training.

Green Tea

Green tea provides hydration along with natural caffeine to potentially enhance exercise performance. It contains antioxidants that may aid muscle recovery. But similar to coffee, timing is key.

When might green tea be helpful?

Green tea offers benefits when:

  • Consumed 30-60 minutes before intense training when caffeine can boost performance
  • Drank between sets at the gym to stay hydrated
  • Added to your post-workout smoothie or meal due to its high antioxidant content

Avoid drinking it immediately before or during exercise since the caffeine may cause stomach issues if consumed in excess.

How much green tea should you drink?

Most research shows:

  • 2-3 cups of green tea 30-60 minutes before exercise
  • 8-12 oz (250-375ml) sipped during exercise
  • 12-16 oz (375-500ml) after a workout

Higher intakes of caffeine may cause side effects like insomnia, anxiety, headache and fast heart rate in some individuals.

Beet Juice

Beet juice is rich in nitrates, which may improve exercise performance and cardiovascular function. But more research is needed to confirm optimal use.

When might beet juice help?

Beet juice could provide benefits when:

  • Consumed 2-3 hours before high intensity or endurance exercise
  • Drank regularly over 7 days to boost nitric oxide levels
  • You need help meeting high vegetable intake goals

Timing matters since acute and chronic exposure to beet nitrates may have differing effects on exercise performance.

How much beet juice should you drink?

Most studies showing benefits provided:

  • 5-8 oz (150-250 ml) of beet juice 2-3 hours before exercise
  • 8-16 oz (250-500 ml) per day for about 7 days

Consuming beet juice immediately before training is not ideal, as the nitrates require time to increase nitric oxide levels. More research is still needed on optimal intake.


Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) may help stimulate muscle protein synthesis during exercise and reduce post-workout muscle damage and soreness. But benefits are still debated.

When might BCAAs be advantageous?

BCAA supplements could be beneficial when:

  • Consumed during intense training to potentially reduce muscle breakdown
  • Taken immediately after a workout to supply amino acids when muscles are repaired
  • Trying to increase lean muscle mass from resistance training

However, whole protein sources like whey appear more effective than isolated BCAAs for muscle recovery and growth.

How much BCAAs should you consume?

Little research defines optimal dosing protocols, but a typical amount is:

  • 5-10 grams of BCAAs during exercise
  • 5-20 grams after strength training
  • Up to 40 grams for maximizing lean mass gains

Higher intakes may provide no additional benefits. Excessive BCAA supplementation could potentially lead to side effects in some individuals.


Pre-workout supplements often contain caffeine, BCAAs and other ingredients intended to boost athletic performance. But they aren’t necessary for most exercisers.

Who might benefit from pre-workout?

These supplements may enhance performance for:

  • Athletes performing maximally who need an edge
  • Individuals training early mornings who need an energy boost
  • People who struggle with fatigue during workouts

However, the high caffeine content should be considered as it may cause unwanted side effects in some.

How should pre-workout be dosed?

Typical servings provide:

  • 2-5 grams of BCAAs
  • 100-350 mg of caffeine
  • 2-15 grams of carbs like creatine

Follow label directions, starting with half a serving to assess tolerance. You may not need more than one serving. Avoid use after late afternoon workouts which could disrupt sleep.


Drinking alcohol around exercise is not recommended. Alcohol causes dehydration and impairs exercise performance, muscle recovery and judgment. Consume in moderation.

When should alcohol be avoided?

Do not drink alcohol:

  • Several hours before exercise as it can cause dehydration and hinder coordination
  • During a workout as it decreases strength and endurance
  • For several hours after training since it may suppress muscle repair

Alcohol also disrupts sleep quality, which can undermine performance gains.

Are there any benefits of drinking after exercise?

Moderate alcohol intake may provide:

  • Some rehydration when consumed after exercise due to its high fluid content
  • Post-workout antioxidants when consumed occasionally in moderation

However, sports drinks and whole foods are far better choices after training for hydration, carb replenishment and muscle recovery.

Water vs Sports Drinks vs Coconut Water

Here is a comparison of water, sports drinks and coconut water to help you choose the best option:

Beverage Pros Cons
Water Provides hydration without calories

Easy to consume during exercise

Readily accessible and affordable
Does not supply carbs or electrolytes for fueling exercise and recovery
Sports drinks Provides fluids, carbs and electrolytes

Fuels intense and endurance exercise

Enhances hydration
Unnecessary sugars and calories for light workouts

Artificial ingredients
Coconut water Natural source of electrolytes

Provides fluids and carbs

Light, refreshing taste
Lower sodium than sports drinks

Higher cost


Staying properly hydrated and fueled during exercise optimizes performance and recovery. Water is essential for any workout, while sports drinks provide added benefits during prolonged, intense training. Coconut water, milk and fruit juices can also provide hydration, carbs and nutrients.

Caffeinated beverages like coffee and green tea may improve endurance and focus when consumed pre-workout in moderation. Post-workout, chocolate milk and protein shakes help rebuild muscles.

Listen to your body’s needs to determine the best beverage options before, during and after your workouts based on the duration and intensity of training. Consuming adequate fluids and fuel can help you perform your best.