Is consuming an energy drink before a run a good or bad idea? Many runners ask this question daily, and I’ll answer that question and much more.
There’s nothing quite as miserable as running out of energy during a run. Hitting that wall can make every step feel like your shoes are filled with cement, making every mile feel like 20, which is why so many people reach for energy drinks before their runs. But are these drinks safe, and do they work? The answer is it depends.
Drinks loaded with sugar can make your heart race and possibly lead to an energy crash during your run. However, the right kinds of energy drinks can significantly boost your performance.
Energy Drinks To Avoid Before A Run
While chocolate milk is a favorite among athletes as a fantastic recovery drink, it’s not such a great idea before a run. Milk contains a lot of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, which makes it much more time-consuming to digest. This is bad news for your digestive system, which is working hard while bouncing around, leading to the worst cramps, bloating, and gas issues.
High-fructose fruit energy drinks are right up there with dairy-based energy drinks in terms of being among the worst things you can drink before a race. HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup) has been linked to liver issues, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.
They can give you a horrible sugar crash during your run. Instead, try filling your water bottle with fresh berries, fruits, basil, or mint. Just be careful with citrus fruits, as their acidic nature can cause stomach issues during a run.
Sugar can be a double-edged sword. While sugar can cause energy crashes, it can also be a source of energy along with calories. Many runners recommend only consuming half a can of these types of energy drinks 30 minutes to an hour before running if that’s all you have available.
Alcoholic Energy Drink
It should go without saying that any drink with alcohol is a bad idea before a race. Alcohol dehydrates your body, causing inflammation, and can have a detrimental impact on decision-making.
Carbonated Energy Drinks
Most energy drinks sold in stores are carbonated. While these tiny bubbles feel good going down, they don’t feel so good while running, as they can cause abdominal pain, bloating, and gas.
With that said, lots of runners consume these drinks before a run and experience no issues. Sometimes the carbonated liquid doesn’t upset their stomachs if they drink it 30 minutes to an hour before a race, or they may allow the drink to go flat before drinking it. If you normally feel a little queasy after these drinks, you definitely don’t want to have them before running.
While coconut milk is dairy-free, it still contains high fat and low carbohydrates. The fat takes your body longer to digest, leaving you feeling tired even if you wait 30 minutes before running.
Energy Drinks That Are Good Before A Run
Black Dark-Roast Coffee
Unlike medium-roast or light-roast coffee, dark-roast coffee has a little less caffeine and lower acidity, which means less chance of acid reflux during your run. When it comes to caffeine, while too much can cause jitters and increase your heart rate, a moderate amount can help improve performance during runs. Caffeine increases focus and reduces physical discomfort.
When it comes to athletes like marathoners, triathletes, and cyclists, many of them abstain from caffeinated beverages for days before a race and then consume six mg of caffeine per kilogram of their body weight an hour before their race.
While coconut milk isn’t a great idea before a run, coconut water is a different story. It contains micronutrients such as magnesium and potassium, plus it provides electrolytes and carbohydrates for the fuel you’ll need. It can also prevent cramping during runs, which is a huge bonus. It’s also a great recovery drink.
Green tea offers the caffeine benefits of coffee, plus it increases the efficiency of your body using fat as fuel. This means your body doesn’t have to rely as much on carbohydrates saving them for later in the run. It’s a favorite among long-distance runners.
Drinking beet juice before a run can increase your body’s nitric oxide production while improving blood flow to allow your muscles to warm up faster and perform better. You might also be interested in our explainer on should you take a cold shower after a run.