Looking to maximize your performance in the gym, or in whatever other athletic activity you’re looking to excel at? Then stay away from these gains-killers. These are the five worst things to drink before exercise. Some of them are obvious (alcohol) and others may surprise you.
- Worst Drink Before Exercise: Alcohol
Don’t drink booze before exercise, even if it’s in moderation. Alcohol dehydrates you and messes up your balance. It also impairs your decision making and promotes inflammation. Put those together and you’re more likely to overstretch yourself, get hurt, and have a harder time recovering. You also smell like beer in the gym. Not a good look.
- Energy Drinks That Contain Dairy
In the immortal words of Ron Burgundy, “Milk was a bad choice.”
If you like any health drinks that have dairy in them, save them for after you work out. They contain a lot of protein, carbs and fat, which take a while to digest. They can also make you gassy. Farting in the gym is almost as bad as dropping the bar from the top of a deadlift.
If you want to get some protein in before exercise, try whey protein and water. It’ll digest faster without the extra carbs and fat.
- Fruit Drinks
Most fruit-flavored drinks, even the “natural” ones, are loaded with sugar. And most of that sugar is in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, the most infamous food additive currently on the market.
Your fruit drink might be okay – just check the label. If it’s sugary, skip it. Or at least save it until after your workout. Good alternatives are water with fresh fruits added for flavor, or coconut water.
If you’re chugging Coke before you hit the weights and you don’t know you’re doing something wrong, it’s time to re-evaluate your fitness outlook.
But even if you’re drinking non-sugary carbonated beverages, they can still interfere with your workout. Fizzy drinks can cause abdominal pain, gas and bloating. They also contain a lot of sodium, which can encourage dehydration.
Diet sodas are bad news, too. Artificial sweeteners are dodgy in terms of their health footprint. Especially aspartame, the most common sweetener. It can lead to memory loss, mood swings, dizziness and migraines. Not helpful when you’re trying to push yourself.
- Sports Drinks
This one might come as a surprise. Most sports drinks do not actually give you that many health benefits. Some are low in sugar and high in electrolytes, which can help you rehydrate and recover after you exercise. But most of them are basically non-carbonated soda.
If you pound a sports drink before exercise, you’ll get a sugar rush and then a sugar crash. It also messes with your hormones and extends the amount of time your body needs to recuperate after you exercise.
When in doubt, just drink water. It’s what your body is asking for, anyway. And you’re probably not getting enough of it. In fact, research suggests you drink 20 ounces of water two hours before you work out, eight ounces during your warmup, and eight more ounces every ten to twenty minutes, depending on how hard you’re pushing. That’s a lot of liquid.