Exercise guidelines suggest that you should drink when you’re thirsty. While water is often the best choice, there are other options available.
For example, some experts suggest that when you exercise intensely for more than an hour or work out in high heat, you should consider drinking an electrolyte replacement sports drink, which replaces the salt you lost. There are also products on the market that claim to provide additional benefits, like vitamins or minerals.
You shouldn’t force fluids, but you can safely aim to consume a cup of fluid every mile or every 30 minutes. And while you don’t have to stick to water, there are certain beverages that you should avoid before, during, and immediately after walking for exercise.
Water in a lake, stream, or spring may look beautiful, but you shouldn’t drink it. In many places, nasty parasites such as Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium are found in “unspoiled” water sources. These parasites infest the local squirrels and other animals, who then contaminate the water.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cautions campers, hikers, and travelers against drinking water that is not filtered. Infection from parasites can lead to weeks or even months of treatment. If you are going for a hike and can’t carry enough water, carry a water filter or purification tablets and do not drink untreated water from any natural source.
Considering a cold brew to refresh yourself during a walk? You should probably skip it. Rather than replenishing your body, alcoholic beverages will make you more dehydrated. Drinking alcohol can also impair your athletic ability, coordination, balance, and judgment. And if that is not enough, alcohol can also make you more prone to heat sickness and other problems.
To ensure a healthy and safe walk, it is a good practice to abstain from alcohol during and before a big event like a charity walk or other fitness event. Skip the adult beverages the night before and hydrate with water instead. Save the celebratory drink for after your walk and after you have fully rehydrated.
Drinking caffeinated beverages can be a double-edged sword during a walk. Research has shown that caffeine can enhance exercise performance by making workouts feel more tolerable. In fact, as part of its position on caffeine, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has stated that it provides benefits to trained athletes when consumed in amounts ranging from three to six milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight.
Nevertheless, drinking caffeine has substantial drawbacks, as well. For example, you may need to urinate more often and you might experience gastrointestinal distress, headaches, or jitters; though these side effects are more likely to occur if you consume too much caffeine.
If you find yourself making too many restroom stops, you may want to limit your caffeine intake to see if it is causing the problem. Stick to decaffeinated beverages or drink as little of the caffeinated stuff as possible before your walk. Keep in mind, however, that coffee drinkers can get a headache if they quit cold turkey, so experiment with how much you need.
Some people tolerate dairy products well. But others are lactose intolerant and experience stomach cramps, gas, nausea, and diarrhea from milk and milk products. Even if you are not lactose intolerant, consuming dairy before or during a workout has been known to cause stomach problems in certain athletes.
If you’ve ever experienced gastrointestinal distress from dairy, avoid milk products for at least 12 hours before your walk. If you have no problems with milk, consider indulging in chocolate milk after you exercise. Studies have shown that the balance of carbohydrates and proteins in the beverage provides effective nutrition for post-workout recovery.
Many walkers report gas, belching, and stomach cramps from drinking carbonated drinks when walking. If you experience any of these symptoms, save the bubbly beverages for after your walk. But if you enjoy sparkling water and experience no ill effects, there are no medical reasons not to consume it.
There have been a few (but not many) studies comparing the benefits of sparkling beverages to non-carbonated beverages during exercise. Researchers have investigated whether or not adding bubbles to a beverage affects the volume of fluid consumed. The limited studies have found no relationship between carbonation and drink consumption.
Keep in mind, however, that there are practical considerations to take into account. Walking with a carbonated beverage in your bag may lead to a disaster when you pop the top to consume it. Preventing a fizzy shower may be a smart reason to opt for flat water instead.
A Word From Verywell
Keep in mind that while drinking fluids during exercise is important, drinking too much can cause problems as well. Studies of slower marathon runners and run/walkers have shown that some of these athletes experience hyponatremia—or water intoxication. The condition occurs when too much water or fluid is consumed causing sodium levels in the blood to drop.
You can use a water calculator to get an idea of how much water to drink during your exercise. If walking for more than an hour and sweating, you should replace the salt lost in your sweat with an electrolyte-replacement sports drink such as Gatorade or Powerade, or with a snack that contains salt such as mini pretzels or trail mix that includes salted nuts.
Author: Wendy Bumgardner
Source: Very Well Fit: 5 Types of Beverages You Shouldn’t Drink When Walking