The Best Drinks to Fuel Your Workouts

You know staying hydrated is vital to a great workout — but not all drinks provide the same benefits. Here's how to figure out what you should reach for during your next workout.

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March 25, 2021

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Weighing Your Options

Staying hydrated is vital to exercising successfully. But with so many options to choose from, it can be confusing to figure out the best fluid option for your workouts. Here is a breakdown of the options from a sports nutrition perspective.


Water is truly the best choice for most types of day-to-day workouts. It will be absorbed quickly and provide the fluid needed to keep your blood pumping, and it will replace fluid losses from sweat during exercise. Aim for half your body weight in fluid ounces per day as a baseline fluid goal.


Sports drinks like Gatorade are designed for optimal absorption and limit changes of feeling full or uncomfortable during exercise. They are not a replacement for water but can be used as part of your hydration arsenal. They also contain a mix of electrolytes similar to what is lost in sweat. They do contain sugar, but that will provide the carbohydrate calories needed to fuel exercise, especially types that are intense or lasting more than 90 minutes.

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Coconut Water

Unlike high-fat, creamy white coconut milk, coconut water is just the clear liquid found inside a coconut. It is typically lower in calories and sugar than a sports drink, and it offers a hefty dose of potassium. Coconut water is low in sodium, which is the most abundant electrolyte lost in sweat.


This hydration beverage isn’t just for kids. It differs from sports drinks, as it offers a wider range of minerals and in different doses. It is also lower in sugar, which isn’t always what you need if you’re actually looking for more calories coming in during a workout. Check labels and choose what makes the most sense for you.

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Electrolyte Water

There are several brands of electrolyte-enhanced waters. They typically contain very low doses of electrolytes compared to flavored and sweetened options, and they should be used in a similar fashion to water.

Homemade Sports Drink

With a few simple ingredients, you can make your own customized version of a sports drink using fruit juice, water and typically some salt (for the sodium repletion). Try one of these recipes, designed by a registered dietitian.

Flavored Water

When drinking water gets monotonous, many seek out additional flavor from bottled waters enhanced with fruit flavors, such as HINT. For exercise, choose a brand without artificial sweeteners in case they cause stomach upset during your workout.

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Fruit- and Veggie-Infused Water

You can also add your own dose of fruit or vegetable essence with good old fruits and vegetables. Add slices of apple, lemon, cucumber or even melon to your water bottle for a hint of truly natural flavor.

Drink Mixes

Looking for a serious dose of electrolytes for intense and endurance-type exercise? Mix water with a product like Liquid I.V. These products pack much heftier doses of electrolytes than typical sports products, so check labels and use appropriately.

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