Coconut water may not sound like the manliest type of fitness beverage, but it is producing very “manly” results. It’s hard to ignore the newfound prevalence of coconut water in the fitness industry. Even the most casual observer can see that it’s cropping up everywhere from Green Food Co-Ops to your gas station reach-in fridge.
Many people have a bad taste in their mouths (literally and figuratively) about the current state of “sports” drinks like Gatorade and Powerade. They have been found time and again to just be glorified sugar water and can potentially set back your fitness goals, rather than help you achieve them. Coconut water is a solid replacement for sugary sports drinks that will help you keep going on the field and help you keep your waistline in check.
What is good about coconut water?
- It has less sugar than typical sports drinks
- It has fewer calories per serving
- Fewer carbs
- More electrolytes per serving
- Comes from a natural source, rather than created in a lab somewhere
- Has more to it than just electrolytes and carbs, it has other natural benefits
- High levels of antioxidants, compared to zero antioxidants in other sports drinks
- Coconut water has about five times the potassium per serving
Coconut water does have less sodium per serving, however, that can easily be remedied by either adding a little salt, or making sure that your next meal contains enough salt to replenish the salt that you’ve excreted during your activities. As Americans, we really have no problem getting more than enough sodium in our diets, so the relative lack of sodium in coconut water is a non-issue. Potassium helps us to prevent muscle cramps after a strenuous workout, and coconut water is pretty much custom made to provide us with the potassium we need in order to recover from even the toughest workout.
According to the nutrition facts published on their own websites, Gatorade and Powerade contain approximately 35 grams of sugar per 20oz serving, which is the equivalent to three and a half glazed doughnuts from Krispy Kreme. On the other hand, coconut water averages about 20 grams of naturally occurring sugars, instead of highly processed refined sugars. Per 20oz serving, coconut water clocks in at only 100 calories, as opposed to 134 and 200 calories for Gatorade and Powerade respectively.
Coconut water contains 43% less sugar and 50% fewer calories with five times the electrolytes and lots of antioxidants, it is the clear winner between the three. If you don’t have any coconut water after your workout, you can just drink a glass of water and eat a glazed doughnut and still consume less sugar than a sports drink. Barring that, coconut water is the perfect addition to your workouts. It can keep you in the game better than any sports drink, and will help hydrate you naturally. For those of you who are watching your blood glucose levels, coconut water is also good for you, since it has fewer sugar-based carbs and won’t spike your blood sugar levels like sports drinks.
It’s easy to sing the praises of coconut water’s nutritional value, but its major downside is that it’s relatively expensive when compared to Gatorade and Powerade. Yes, since it is sourced from actual coconut water, it’s not readily available in the United States and it is more expensive to produce a batch than it would be to create a sports drink from scratch. Coconut water can cost three to five times as much as your average sports drink, which can really add up, especially if you’re working out a lot. It’s worth the extra money to have the added benefits of coconut water, but it may not fit into all budgets.
There is a solution, though. Buying coconut water in larger, half gallon or quart-sized containers will save you money up front. Then, you can just distribute the coconut water into your water bottles as needed. Also, you can certainly stretch your coconut water supply a bit further by either adding small amounts of other fruit juices, or by adding plain old tap water. Doing a 30%/70% mixture of water and coconut water will help you get the most mileage out of your coconut water and your budget. Next time you’re at the gym, make sure to reach for the coconut water instead of the sugary sports drinks, you’ll be glad you did.
Wesley Reacher has a B.S. in Kinesiology with a Minor in Sports Medicine. When he's not gunning his lats at the gym or sinking birdies on the frisbee golf course, he's blogging for Weightnot.com, a great resource for healthy weight loss.