When it comes to the human body, what you get out of it comes from what you put in. For athletes, nutrition is a key component of reaching workout goals. Researching what foods and drinks are good for you, however, or which suit your dietary needs can be a daunting task. Today we will look at the basic components and health benefits of coconut water, as well as compare it to some commercial sports drinks.
What is Coconut Water?
The Hawaiians call coconut water “noelani” which means “dew from the heavens.” The reason it was given this name is due to the vast amount of nutrients that a coconut contains. Coconut water is rich in B vitamins, minerals and elements such as zinc, selenium, iodine, sulfur and manganese. It’s also full of amino acids, organic acids and antioxidants. For those who are focusing on weight loss, coconut water is low-calorie and has very little fat and sugar. You may have seen various coconut products at the grocery store, such as coconut milk, but coconut water is the purest form of coconut fluid and is made by various companies such as Zico, Vita Coco and ONE Coconut Water. Athletes and nutritionists first started experimenting with coconut water as a natural way to replenish electrolytes. After researching the hydration properties and nutritional makeup of coconut water, scientists discovered a variety of health benefits from this natural source.
Health Benefits for Athletes
First off, coconut water is free of artificial sweeteners and dyes that can come with various sports drinks on the market. One bottle of Zico coconut water (about 11.2 ounces) contains 60 calories, 15g of carbohydrates, 90mg of sodium and 660mg of potassium (2). Coconut water doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners, is low in fat, and has no dyes, but it also contains key ingredients that other commercial sports drinks are lack. Chhandashir Bhattacharya, Ph.D, presented a report on coconut water to the American Chemical Society, recently stating that coconut water has “five times more potassium than Gatorade or Powerade. Whenever you get cramps in your muscles, potassium will help you to get rid of the cramps. It’s a healthy drink that replenishes the nutrients that your body has lost during a moderate workout.” (3) She continued her support of coconut water as she stated that the amount of potassium exceeds that of a banana and should be incorporated into the American diet, regardless of whether you are an athlete. Because of the mineral ions, such as the high level of potassium, coconut water has been found to lower the risk of heart attacks, and reduce blood pressure (4). The fluid from coconuts actually shares a similar composition to human blood plasma. This has allowed some physicians to successfully use coconut water as a supplement to certain IV fluids. While this may not be important to most athletes, it proves how natural and beneficial coconut water can be to the body.
Comparison to Other Sports Drinks
As you can see from the table above, Zico coconut water far exceeds Gatorade and Powerade when it comes to potassium and fewer calories and sugar. However, two important post workout ingredients are far lower in coconut water, which are sodium and carbohydrates. Both are important in replenishing electrolytes and energy you’ve lost from a difficult training session. In summary, if you are looking for an all-natural and lower calorie post workout fluid, then start using coconut water. In order to supplement the lost sodium and carbohydrate levels, athletes can snack on some pretzels or raisins along with their coconut water. On the market you can also find sodium-enriched coconut water which will make up for the lower levels compared to other commercial sports drinks. If you can’t find the sodium-enriched coconut water, you can add some natural salt to your coconut water and provide on all the nutrients and electrolytes necessary for replenishing your body.
Check out the recipe tab under the Island Boost Library for a delicious way to enjoy coconut water this summer!