The 4 Worst Pre-Workout Drinks (and What to Have Instead)

Staying hydrated is key for making the most of your workout.
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It's important to stay hydrated throughout the day, and especially during your workout if you want to perform your best.

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The type of beverage you hydrate with matters just as much as staying hydrated: Choosing your drinks wisely can help ensure your body is functioning at its peak and can help prevent low energy and stomach issues.

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Foods and drinks that are high in fat, fiber or alcohol may inhibit your ability to feel energized and can get in the way of your workout. Below, find a list of the worst pre-workout drinks to avoid and what to sip on instead.

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1. Vegetable Smoothies

Veggies tend to be high in fiber, which is what helps make them so healthy in the first place. While fiber is important for supporting healthy gut function and preventing chronic disease and constipation, it can spark some digestion issues if you enjoy it too close to a workout.

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Foods high in fiber take time to digest and may contribute to constipation, bloating, gassiness and indigestion during workouts. This is particularly true of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, arugula, kale and radishes. You should avoid drinking veggie-based smoothies within one to two hours of your workout to prevent discomfort.

And just an FYI: smoothies are different than juices. When vegetables are juiced, most if not all of the fiber is removed and just the water, vitamins, minerals and sugars remain. Vegetable juices can give you an energy boost before your workout without the risk of fiber causing indigestion.

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Tip

Sip on vegetable juices one to two hours before your workout for a good energy boost and enjoy vegetable-based smoothies for post-workout nourishment.

2. Whole Milk and High-Fat Drinks

A venti latte at Starbucks may taste delicious, but its high-fat content (from milk) may lead to side stitches and indigestion during your workout.

To avoid these negative side effects, you'll want to limit or avoid foods and drinks high in fat prior to working out, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

An eight-ounce glass of whole milk contains 8 grams of fat, while skim milk contains 0 grams of fat, per the USDA. Swap out the whole milk for skim milk or a non-dairy alternative like almond milk, which has lower fat content, to avoid uncomfortable symptoms.

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3. Kefir

Kefir is a thick yogurt drink that makes for a great replenisher post-workout, but it's not the best pick for before you exercise.

The drink is made by fermenting milk with kefir grains, which contain yeast, polysaccharides and lactic acid bacteria. This tangy and satisfying beverage contains high-quality protein, probiotics and fat — all of which all support post-workout recovery and health.

Like with milk, kefir's fat content can cause indigestion and a sour stomach during workouts if you drink it too close to starting a workout. One cup of whole milk kefir contains 8 grams of fat, according to the USDA. Avoid kefir before your workout or consider switching to low-fat kefir.

4. Alcohol

The alcohol in liquor, beer and wine doesn't just compromise your safety during a workout, but can also hamper your ability to perform. Alcohol acts as a diuretic, limiting your body's ability to hydrate itself.

While alcohol contains water, not all of the substance makes it into your cells to hydrate you. In fact, a large portion of the water ends up in your urine and never gets to where it needs to go for hydration purposes. If you do drink alcohol, you should drink in moderation to limit its diuretic effects and ensure you stay properly hydrated, per the American College of Sports Medicine.

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The Best Pre-Workout Drinks to Try Instead

You'll want to drink something that's alcohol-free and low in fat and fiber before your workout. The following drinks can help keep you hydrated and ready to tackle your exercise feat without the risk of indigestion, constipation, bloating or gassiness.

  • water
  • water with a lemon squeeze
  • tea
  • black coffee
  • 100-percent fruit juice
  • sports drinks

You'll want to drink between 16 and 20 ounces of fluid at least four hours before exercising, per the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association. Closer to your workout — about 15 minutes before — you'll want to drink eight to 12 ounces of water or another hydrating beverage.

To ensure you meet these recommendations, it's smart to keep a water bottle nearby. Getting enough fluids is critical to keeping the body hydrated and regulating your core body temperature during workouts. If you don't get enough fluids, you run the risk of early fatigue and overheating during your workout.

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