Coconut water is definitely an acquired taste. Although many people love it, you're not alone if you wonder why some people like it! For those of you who are unfamiliar with coconut water, it is the liquid portion of immature coconuts. This is different than coconut milk which is extracted from the "meat" portion of the coconut.
You have likely seen coconut water sold in fitness centers and yoga studios where it is heavily advertised as a natural rehydration beverage. This is because the companies that produce commercially available coconut water claim it contains significantly more electrolytes than sports drinks.
However, you might be unaware that many of the companies that produce coconut water have exaggerated the health benefits and electrolyte content of their products. In reality, there is limited evidence proving that coconut water is as effective as sports drinks for rehydration after exercise.
It is recommended that sports drinks contain approximately 460 to 690 milligrams per litre of sodium and 78 to 195 milligrams per litre of potassium. Although coconut water does contain a significant amount of potassium, it contains a lower amount of sodium than what is recommended for sports drinks. Some varieties of coconut water have been enriched with sodium, and these have been shown to be as effective as sports drinks in rehydrating the body post workout.
In addition to losing essential minerals, the body uses up a significant amount of its glycogen (sugar) stores to provide the body with fuel during exercise. Carbohydrates are therefore needed post workout to replenish these glycogen stores.
When you are choosing your post workout beverage make sure it has approximately 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per liter. Many brands of coconut water may contain "added sugar," which should not be confused with the natural sugar found in pure coconut. If you are trying to avoid added sugar, choose brands of coconut water that do not contain ingredients such as: fruit sugar, fruit pulp and natural flavour.Wondering if you could benefit from a sports drink after exercising? It depends on how much you have sweat. The Dietitians of Canada recommend a sports drink if :
- You have exercised for over 1 hour
- The exercise was intense
- The activity lasted longer than 1 hour
- You sweated a lot and notice cakey white salt lines on your clothes
- If you wear a lot of protective equipment like in hockey or football
- The weather was hot and humid
- Your fluid needs to be quickly replaced, like during soccer tournaments or two-a-day training sessions
Sports drinks can be expensive, so if you are looking for ways to cut costs without missing out on any of those essential nutrients, food and water is the cheaper way to go. For example, bananas are an excellent source of carbohydrate and potassium.
Match that with a glass of water containing a pinch of salt, some lemon and honey for taste, and you have all you need to replenish your sodium, potassium and glycogen stores.
This recipe is excellent for exercise during hot weather:
500 mL (2 cups) water
500 mL (2 cups) apple juice or orange juice
2.5 mL (½ tsp) salt
This recipe is ideal for cool weather:
500 mL (2 cups) water
500 mL (2 cups) grape, pineapple or cranberry juice
2.5 mL (½ tsp) salt
Many people wonder if it's safe to drink coconut water when they are not exercising. The answer is yes. Like most things in life, moderation is key which means limiting your coconut water consumption to one can per day. If you suffer from a heart condition, it is recommended that you check with your doctor to make sure coconut water is a safe option for you.
Co-written with Jenna West, dietetic intern
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Sobe Lifewater (per 8 fluid ounces) delivers 35 calories, 45 milligrams sodium, 8 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams sugar, 65 milligrams potassium. You get 2.5 servings in a bottle. The first ingredient is water, the second is sugar and the third is coconut water. Of all the brands we looked at, this is the only one with added sugar and it's the lowest in potassium. Photo from Amazon.com
Vita Coco (per 8 fluid ounces) delivers 45 calories, 30 milligrams sodium, 11 grams carbohydrate, 11 grams sugar, 470 milligrams potassium. For Vita Coco you get two servings per container. Vita Coco used to be made with only two ingredients, fresh coconut water and vitamin C, which explains why the bottle delivers 100 percent of your daily recommended amount of vitamin C. Now it also lists "less than 1 percent natural fruit sugar" as an ingredient. Their reasoning is that it allows them to standardize the sweetness based on the coconut harvest so their product will always have 11 grams of sugar in 8 ounces. Drinking one container also gives you 10 percent of your daily dose of magnesium. Photo from Amazon.com
Zico Natural (per 8 fluid ounces) contains just 34 calories, 91 milligrams sodium, 7 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams sugar, 324 milligrams potassium. Per cup, Zico Natural is the lowest in terms of calories, carbohydrates and sugar. Because the bottle delivers 14 ounces, if you drink the entire thing, you'll need to up the numbers above. One bottle gives you 9 percent of your daily magnesium. Photo from Amazon.com
O.N.E. (per 8 fluid ounces) has 43 calories, 43 milligrams sodium, 11 grams carbohydrate, 10 grams sugar, 0 grams protein, 476 milligrams potassium. The small bottle that you'll find in stores, however, is 11.2 fluid ounces. If you drink the entire thing that'll be 60 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrate. You'll also get a little calcium (4 percent of your daily needs) and magnesium (6 percent). Photo from Amazon.com
Naked (per 8 fluid ounces) delivers 43 calories, 14 milligrams sodium, 10 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams sugar, 462 milligrams potassium. A bottle of Naked coconut water, however, is 11.2 fluid ounces so if you drink the entire container you'll get 60 calories, 20 milligrams sodium and 14 grams of carbohydrate. You'll also get some calcium -- and slightly more than O.N.E. at 6 percent of your daily recommendation. Of the brands we compared, Naked delivers the least amount of sodium. Photo from Amazon.com
Taste Nirvana (per 8 fluid ounces) has 42 calories, 35 milligrams sodium, 8 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams sugar, 504 milligrams potassium (per cup, that's the most potassium of the brands here). Taste Nirvana is another brand where the container you buy is a little larger: 9.5 fluid ounces. Per container, you get about 4 percent of your daily recommended calcium and 9 percent magnesium. Photo from Amazon.com
CocoZona (per 8 fluid ounces) contains 37 calories, 121 milligrams sodium, 10 grams carbohydrate, 9 grams sugar, 408 milligrams potassium. As with some of the other brands, CocoZona comes in a larger container than a cup -- 14.5 fluid ounces; it also contains the most sodium of all the brands compared here. But you also get about 4 percent of your daily recommended calcium and 10 percent magnesium. Photo from Amazon.com
Blue Monkey (per 8 fluid ounces) boasts 76 calories, 42 milligrams sodium, 19 grams carbohydrate, 10 grams sugar, 290 milligrams potassium and 6 percent of your daily recommendation for iron. You get two servings per Blue Monkey container. Photo from Amazon.com
C20 (per 8 fluid ounces) delivers 50 calories, 66 milligrams sodium, 13 grams carbohydrate, 11 grams sugar, 293 milligrams potassium. In each bottle, you get two 8-ounce servings. Photo from Amazon.com
CocoWater (per 8 fluid ounces) packs in 90 calories, 45 milligrams sodium, 13 grams carbohydrate, 13 grams sugar, 475 milligrams potassium. Per container of CocoWater, you get two 8-ounce servings, which makes this coconut water the highest in terms of calories than any other brands compared here. There are two ingredients in CocoWater: the first is coconut water and the second is vitamin C, which explains why the bottle delivers 150 percent of your daily recommendation for C. Photo from Amazon.com
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