6 Things You Should Not Drink When Walking

Water and Electrolytes Are Best

Are you confused about what you should and shouldn't drink for your walking workouts? The guidelines for staying hydrated for your walking workouts and long walks say to "drink when thirsty." For most walking workouts, water is the best drink. If you are walking for more than an hour or losing lots of sweat, you should consider drinking an electrolyte (salt) replacement sports drink. You shouldn't force fluids, but you might aim to have a cup of water every mile or every 30 minutes.

While you don't have to stick with plain water, there are some drinks you should probably avoid before, during, and immediately after walking for exercise. These can cause discomfort in a variety of ways.

1
Untreated Water From a Lake, Stream, or Spring

Camino - Stream at Lavacolla
Wendy Bumgardner ©

Don't be led astray by the appearance of sparkling water in a pure mountain stream. In many places, nasty parasites such as Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium are found in these "unspoiled" water sources. These parasites infest the local squirrels and other animals, who then contaminate the water. The water isn't safe just because you think you are far from human habitation. You do not want to deal with being infected by these parasites. If you are going for a hike, carry a water filter or purification tablets and do not drink untreated water from any natural source.

2
Alcoholic Beverages

Alcohol Bottles
Alcohol Bottles. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine will make you more dehydrated, as well as impair your athletic ability and judgment. They will also make you more prone to heat sickness and other problems. Before major walks, it is a good practice to abstain from alcohol the evening before as well as on the day of your event. Drinking during a walk may be a European tradition, but it isn't recommended. Save the celebratory drink for after your walk and after you have fully rehydrated.

3
Caffeine

Walk to Work or Take a Walking Break
Paul Bradbury/OJO Images/Getty

Caffeine was long accused of dehydrating you by making you have to urinate more, and it can also act as a laxative. However, that is no longer believed to be universally true, at least for those who commonly drink caffeinated drinks. 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 decaf or drink as little of the caffeinated stuff as possible before your walk. Coffee drinkers can get a nasty headache if they go cold turkey, so experiment with how little you really need.

Drinking highly-caffeinated energy drinks such as Red Bull is not recommended, as they provide too little fluid for the amount of caffeine. If you like a jolt of caffeine, save it for after your workout and times when you have access to plenty of water to stay hydrated.

4
Milk and Cream

Chocolate Milk
Chocolate Milk. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Some people tolerate milk very well. But many people are lactose intolerant and can have stomach cramps, gas, nausea, and diarrhea from milk and milk products. Some people only experience these symptoms during exercise. If you have any such symptoms, avoid milk products for 12 hours before your walk. If you have no problem with milk, you can indulge in chocolate milk as a recovery drink. It provides sugar and protein that may help.

5
Carbonated Beverages

Energy Drinks
Energy Drinks. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Many walkers report gas, belching, and stomach cramps from drinking carbonated beverages while walking. If you experience any of these symptoms, save the sparkling drinks for after the walk. Another good reason to avoid them is that you wouldn't want to carry one along in your water carrier pack, or you would have a nice fizzy shower when you popped the top.

6
Too Much Water and No Salt Replacement

Gatorade G2 in Sport Bottles
Drink This - Salt-replacement Sports Drinks. © Ethan Miller / Getty Images Sport

American College of Sports Medicine guidelines are to "drink when thirsty" rather than drinking constantly and pushing too much water. Studies of slower marathon runners and run/walkers showed that some of them were verging on hyponatremia—dangerously low sodium levels—whether they were drinking plain water or water and sports drink. Don't overdo the water. 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.

Sources:

Hew-Butler T, Rosner MH, Fowkes-Godek S, et al. Statement of the Third International Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia Consensus Development Conference, Carlsbad, California, 2015Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. 2015;25(4):303-320. doi:10.1097/jsm.0000000000000221.

Maharam LG, Hew T, Siegel A, Adner M, Adams B, Pujol P. "IMMDA’s Revised Fluid Recommendations for Runners and Walkers." IMMDA. 6 May 2006. (current as of 2018).

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