How and what to drink when you work out

  • Two Fit
  • Friday, 26 Aug 2022

If you observe marathon runners at the water stations along the run, they will always reach out for a drink and either sip or pour it over their heads to cool down.

After a good, sweaty workout, we all long for a nice cool drink to quench our thirst.

Water is always the preferred choice, although to replace lost electrolytes, some would rather opt for sports drinks.

Whatever you choose to drink, hydration is key to exercise recovery.

However, it’s equally important to drink before and during exercise, not just when your throat is parched after workouts.

And guzzling is not the right way to rehydrate; instead, you need to keep sipping fluids throughout your workout.

Watch how endurance racers refuel – the cyclists carry a cycling hydration pack that enables them to cart more water than standard-size water bottles.

This makes transporting water and drinking more convenient as they don’t have to stop or slow down to take a sip.

They use the tube (like a straw) that’s connected to the pouch or water reservoir, and drink.

For marathoners, water hydration stations are placed every 5km during races.

Imagine yourself dehydrated and being intravenously given fluids – the doctor is not pumping you with loads of fluids at one go, but is dripping it in bit by bit.

If you have not hydrated well during the day, you may find yourself dizzy, confused or hit with a headache while you exercise.

No matter how many litres of fluid you gulp at that moment, it’s not going to alleviate your symptoms instantly.

Best to head home, hydrate slowly and rest.

The easiest way to check your hydration status is to observe the colour of your urine – if it’s pale yellow and flowing well, you’re adequately hydrated.

If the urine is dark yellow and you’re not peeing frequently, chances are you are dehydrated.

Bear in mind though that dark yellow pee can also be caused by consuming certain vitamin pills and is not a concern if you’re peeing normally.

Plan it well

Water is obviously best option for replenishing lost fluids.Water is obviously best option for replenishing lost fluids.

You read that right, you have to plan how to hydrate, especially on long workouts.

The average person will lose up to half a litre of sweat for every 30 minutes of exercise, depending on the intensity, and this fluid needs to be replenished.

When I (used to) go hiking, I wouldn’t carry a water bottle, thinking the two-hour workout would be over speedily and I could nip over to the store to get fresh coconut water afterwards.

Besides, I wanted free arms and didn’t like the idea of lugging a water bottle around in my hand or backpack.

Then one day, two of us were hiking on a nearby trail and my buddy started feeling faint.

She usually hikes on an empty stomach, and I guess the hot, humid day, coupled with the fact that her glucose level probably dropped, caused her to feel weak.

Tons of people were in the forest, so we couldn’t move fast enough to exit.

She had emptied her mini water bottle and I had nothing to offer.

Seeing us on the ground, other hikers quickly came to our rescue and fed her chocolates and water.

One poured cold water over her head to bring her body temperature down and advised us to always carry a big water bottle in the future, as a short hike could turn out to be a long, even fatal, one.

So, not only do you need water to stay hydrated, but it also comes in handy to splash yourself to cool down.

We rested for a bit and managed to get out safely.

After that episode, I never leave home without a water bottle, salted sweets, nut bar, minyak angin, an umbrella, and of late, hand sanitiser or alcohol wipes.

In the West, there are water fountains installed in most parks, but we have nothing of that sort here.

Even if we did, we may see the ugly side of Malaysians with the fountain possibly being vandalised, spat into or improperly maintained by our local councils.

Effects of caffeine

Post-workout coffee is a hot debate in the fitness and science world, but it seems that coffee can potentially help the body recover.

Caffeine can help keep glycogen levels elevated after a workout.

If your glycogen levels are depleted, you’ll feel muscle soreness and fatigue from exercising.

A 2021 study in journal Nutrients found that coffee with adequate amounts of carbohydrates increased muscle glycogen resynthesis during the four-hour recovery window following intense cycling exercise.

Some people swear by post- exercise iced coffee, saying it gives them a boost.

However, immediately after a workout, you should really be drinking water first before grabbing a cup of coffee.

As long as you prioritise hydration like water and electrolyte beverages, and use coffee as an add-on, coffee can be part of an effective post-workout recovery strategy.

Pre-workout, if you really need that coffee, drink it at least an hour before exercising.

But then again, every individual is different.

For example, I can have tea an hour before an aerobic workout and have tons of energy.

But it makes me nauseous if I’m doing yoga twisting poses, so if I have yoga class, I need to drink my tea at least 1.5 hours beforehand.

As for whether coffee is dehydrating, studies show that it is not.

In a 2019 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, researchers divided healthy men into three groups and served them beverages containing four different concentrations of either sucrose (sugar-rich), sodium or caffeine respectively.

They then collected the men’s urine output for the next four hours.

They discovered that urine output was lower with drinks that contained higher levels of sugar and sodium, compared to the ones that had lower amounts.

But when they looked at drinks with differing amounts of caffeine, the scientists didn’t see any change in the men’s urine output.

Thus, the researchers concluded that up to 400mg of caffeine (roughly four cups) has no impact upon the hydration potential, or the ability to retain the fluid, of beverages.

What about alcohol?

There’s nothing wrong with drinking a glass of light beer after a workout as it’s equally as hydrating as water. — AFPThere’s nothing wrong with drinking a glass of light beer after a workout as it’s equally as hydrating as water. — AFP

Hard liquor is a strict no-no, but drinking beer after a long, hike in the sun is the norm for many – it’s cool and refreshing.

Some may balk at the thought, but apparently, there’s nothing wrong with drinking light beer to aid post-exercise recovery, and it may even be as good as water in some aspects.

Beer is made from natural ingredients, including malted cereals (most often barley), hops, yeast and water.

Although its alcohol content can vary from less than 1% to over 15%, the typical beer contains about 5% alcohol by volume.

Based on the research of beer consumption related to endurance sports, beer with less than 4% alcohol can be effective as a post-workout hydrator.

Adding sodium to low-alcohol beer can improve its rehydration properties, but this may not be palatable to some taste buds.

Of course, you shouldn’t be having alcohol right before a workout as it will slow down all your body systems.

You may not be able to coordinate right from left, and could potentially get injured.

In conclusion, if you’re not a serious athlete, just go with the flow and keep drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

Every little sip counts.

Revathi Murugappan is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance to express herself artistically and nourish her soul. For more information, email The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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Exercise , workout , water


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