Does Coconut Water Really Help Athletes?

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173646039You don’t have to seek out a health food store to get your hands on this sweet H2O. Coconut water is all the rage, and you can now find this popular post-workout drink at local gyms, yoga studies and even on the shelves of regular grocery stores. But is coconut water just the latest energy drink that marketers have decided to run with? Or does it live up to its reputation as nature’s perfectly balanced sports drink?

With celebrities like Rihanna promoting the popular coconut water brand Vita Coco, variations of coconut water have been filling shelves across America. Even in the UK, it’s actually the fastest growing category of non-alcoholic beverages and the popularity of coconut water is rapidly spreading across Europe. With its ever-increasing demand, coconuts are being supplied by the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand.

People are jumping aboard the coconut water band wagon, lured by marketers promising that the refreshing, sweet, and nutty-tasting substance will hydrate their bodies and help fight conditions ranging from hangovers to cancer to kidney stones. For those of you who haven’t tried it, coconut water is not the same as coconut oil or milk; it’s the clear liquid that you get when you tap young, green coconuts.

The Science Behind Coconut Water

Coconut water has been sipped on for ages by locals in countries like Brazil and India, where palm trees are plentiful. But scientists also have something to say when it comes to coconut water and its supposed energy drink properties.

Coconut water has more potassium than 4 bananas and is packed with naturally occurring electrolytes, which is why many experts assert that it does hydrate you better than plain water. Coconut water is also fat- and cholesterol-free. However, scientific reports have not yet supported the hype that coconut water helps protect against certain medical conditions; more research is needed to support or disprove these claims.

Should You Be Using Coconut Water as Your Optimal Post-Workout Drink?

According to many experts, coconut water does indeed hydrate you better than plain water. But most people’s workout sessions aren’t long enough or vigorous enough to make coconut water essential. Nutritionist, Monica Reinagel, says that most energy drink searchers don’t actually require an electrolyte-filled post workout drink. The only post workout drink that they need in order to rehydrate, she asserts, is old fashioned water. She adds that athletes and serious fitness enthusiasts require sodium in the ideal post workout drink, and that coconut water is relatively low in sodium.

According to sports nutritionist, Nancy Clark, “whether you choose a sports drink, coconut water, or plain water, they all work to keep your body hydrated. The challenge is when you exercise strenuously for more than three hours in the heat and lose lots of body fluids; you need easily-absorbed carbs for quick energy and to replace lost electrolytes like sodium and potassium.” In these situations, although lower in sodium, potassium-rich coconut water does make a good choice.

Coconut Water versus Other Energy Drinks

If you’re trying to decide between coconut water and energy drinks or fruit juices, plain coconut water is the best choice. But like everything else, coconut water is best in moderation. According to registered dietician Lillian Cheung, a one ounce container of coconut water has 60 calories; this isn’t a lot, bit if you’re drinking multiple containers, the calories add up. If you’ve decided on coconut water for your post workout drink, choose plain varieties rather than brands with added sugar or juice for flavor. Simply check out the label.

At the end of the day, if you love the taste of coconut water and it won’t break the bank, you don’t have to feel guilty about sipping on coconut water once in a while. It’s a post-workout drink that’s a much better alternative to sweet and sugary energy drinks. But if you are just a regular fitness buff who is looking to make sure that you stay safely hydrated, good ol’ plain water and a healthy diet will give you everything you need.

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