You'll be more energetic, go longer without feeling fatigued and recover more quickly after you're done working out if you drink the right thing in advance, says certified sports nutritionist and Precision Nutrition writer Brian St. Pierre. There isn't one best beverage that works equally well for all women, but good options keep you hydrated and supply needed nutrients without excess calories or sugar. Whatever you choose, avoid soda, sweetened energy drinks or fruit punches and alcohol before working out. Ask your doctor or a dietitian for advice.
When You Have Plenty of Time
If it's still an hour before you plan to work out and you have access to fresh ingredients and a blender, a smoothie might be your best pre-exercise choice, says St. Pierre. He recommends a smoothie that includes a serving of protein such as a scoop of whey or soy protein powder, some vegetables like spinach, an easily digested carbohydrate source like fruit, healthy fats such as nuts or flaxseeds, and water, regular milk or unsweetened plant milk. Another option could be nonfat plain Greek yogurt blended with fresh or frozen fruit and granola.
When Weight Loss Is the Goal
A study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism in 2014 demonstrated that athletes who drank caffeine before exercising burned an average of 15 percent more calories for the three hours after the workout was over than athletes who hadn't consumed caffeine. The study used a dose of 4.5 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. For a woman weighing 150 pounds, that would be approximately the amount of caffeine in 12 ounces of coffee, or 300 milligrams. Drinking coffee before your workout may also blunt the amount of muscle pain you feel, reported a study published in 2009 in the same journal, possibly allowing you to work out longer and burn more fat.
When It's Hot Out
When the temperature is high or you're planning on an intense workout, you'll lose electrolytes through sweat, including sodium, chloride, magnesium, potassium and calcium. Losing too much can cause you to feel weak, nauseous and dizzy or develop muscle spasms or cramps. To fill up on these nutrients before working out, drink some unsweetened fruit or vegetable juices. Try a low-sodium tomato juice or commercial vegetable juice blend, both of which contain more sodium and potassium than most sports drinks. Unsweetened coconut water is another option. It's naturally low in sugar and rich in magnesium, sodium and potassium.
When You're on the Run
Don't overlook water as a pre-workout drink, especially when there's no time to blend a smoothie, brew coffee or pick up juice at the store. According to Columbia Health, it may be more important for you to include water in your pre- and post-workout routine than any other fluid. Aim to consume 20 ounces of water two to three hours before your workout begins and another 8 ounces while you're stretching or warming up. Opt for cool, not warm water. Warm water isn't absorbed as easily as cool water and may cause cramping.