Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mother Nature's Sports Drink—100% Coconut Water

If you live in North Carolina, you've already experienced several hot and humid runs. My running buddies this morning looked like they had been hosed down. All this heat and humidity reminded me that it's time for my annual pitch for my favorite sports drink—100% coconut water.

Around this time last year, I discovered the benefits of 100% coconut water and I also discovered how it helped me on my runs. I tend not to do too well with sports drinks that have a lot of added sugars. I never know when it's going to throw my tummy for a loop. Also, due to my profuse sweating, I tend to get dehydrated easily which on a long run can result in my calves cramping. Then I discovered the best sports drink and the funny thing is it's produced by Mother Nature. Nothing's added, it's just Mother Nature's contribution to the sports world.

Last year when I discovered coconut water, the brand I found available was ZICO. Now there are several other brands available and they all work equally well—O.N.E. , Naked, Vita Coco. Because they are all made of 100%pure coconut water, they contain none of the added sugars and calories commonly associated with traditional sports drinks, plus it has low acidity. They also contain the five essential electrolytes that help to keep nerves firing, muscles moving and to help manage stress. Like I mentioned earlier, I'm a profuse sweater when I run. Because of this, hydration is a big problem. I often experience cramping in my calves from the depletion of my electrolytes. I was surprised to discover that Coconut water has a huge amount of potassium (a key electrolyte) even more potassium than a banana and 15 times more than most sports drinks. Potassium helps prevent cramping and promote muscle recovery. Potassium also regulates blood pressure, cardiovascular health and helps you recover more quickly from exercise and stress. In addition to the potassium, coconut water naturally provides sodium, calcium, magnesium, and even a little protein.

Worried the flavor might be too thick or fruity? Don't be. Basically it has the consistency of water with a very slight hint of a coconut flavor. It's not a strong flavor at all. It's also not a sweet flavor.

Be careful when you're shopping for coconut water. Don't confuse coconut water with coconut milk. Coconut water doesn’t contain the fat of coconut milk. The coconut water comes from young green coconuts before they develop the white meat that contains the fat and cholesterol that's found in mature coconuts. 100% coconut water contains no cholesterol.

Several of the brands mentioned above also have versions with other fruit juices such as mango, peach, cranberry. While these may taste good, they're going to have a higher sugar content and probably a lower level of potassium, so be sure to read the nutrition label before buying a mixed variety of coconut water. My experience has only been with 100% coconut water and I'd highly recommend sticking with the 100% coconut water variety as a sports drink.

Coconut water is a little more expensive than your typical man-made sports drink, but if you're like me, paying a little extra to avoid those dreaded leg cramps is worth it. I also discovered that my local Earthfare will order it by the case for me and I'll actually save a little bit by doing that. I've also found several websites such as Vitacost.com that sell the various brands of coconut water at a discount. I've not ordered through a site like this, so I'm not sure what the shipping charges would be, but it might be worth checking out.

So, looking for a natural alternative to sports drinks that don't contain a lot of added sugars and can help keep cramps at bay? Give 100% coconut water a try....doesn't matter what brand.

26 comments:

Cynthia O'H said...

I stay away from sports drinks in general but I may pick this up if I see it. Honestly, I wouldn't go looking for it because water does the trick for me. But if I come across it somewhere, yup, I'd probably try it.

Anonymous said...

Thad - thanks for the coconut water review... I'm going to get some to try!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Cynthia! Yep, water is great. Actually water is best especially if you're running 60mins or less. After 60 mins it's good to drink a sports drink or take a sports gel, because after that amount of time (especially if you sweat a lot) you have to begin replacing the lost electroytes.

Caratunk Girl said...

Hmmm coconut water - I will have to give it a try - I am an EFS girl right now, but I like to try different stuff. Thanks for the info!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Caratunk Girl!I've not tried the EFS yet. Wanna swap? LOL!

Joe said...

Man that's good to know. I have ice bags on my calves as I type. I sweat so bad my kid asked me if she could go swimming too this morning.
Can't wait to try this stuff.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Joe! Works really well for me. Hope you have the same experience! Let me know how it goes!!

Chris said...

Hi RunnerDude,

So do you normally drink coconut water as a post-workout recovery drink, or do you use it as a supplement to energy gels once you've passed the 60 minute barrier? I ran Boston this year, and found myself chugging the Gatorade every other mile during the second half of the race. I'm excited if this can be used as a less syrupy alternative!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Chris! I drink it during the run after the 60-minute mark, sometimes before. I fill the bottles in my hydration belt with the coconut water. Usually I'll drink water to wash down the gels, but then it's right back to the coconut water. Keep me posted if you give it a try!!

Sunflower Kisses said...

I love coconut water!

Joan said...

I've been drinking coconut water for several weeks after running. I'm going to suggest it to my son as he starts summer high school football practice. I've only bought it at Earthfare. I have ordered other products from VitACost.com. They have a flat $4.99 shipping fee per order but again I haven't ordered cases of anything.

Lauren said...

Very interesting article. Too bad I detest the taste of coconut. Still, I'm tempted. I've had a terrible time conquering cramps. I am now on pedialyte for those long hot runs and that does the trick (almost). I really think my problem is salt and not potassium, because I am crusted in salt after tough runs. Still, I think I'm going to give coconut water a try on a training run. I will drink cocunut if it means no cramps! You're blogs are so full of useful advice.

RunnerDude said...

That's great, SunFlowerKisses!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Joan! That's great! Thanks for the VitaCoast shipping info! Let me know how it goes with the football player!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Lauren! Yeah, give it a try, the coconut taste really is veru subtle, it's not a strong or sweet flavor at all. Let me know how it goes if you try it.

Kathy said...

I remember your previous article and have used coco water very successively. We have lots of electrolyte drinks here as all water is completely dead so drinking water really doesn't help us. I get Electrolit for after runs and also have one of the boys open a coconut and we'll drink the water from a couple.

Since you're not getting the coco water fresh (i.e. from teh nut) it might not make any difference, but I find that refrigerating the coco water makes it really taste good.

RunnerDude said...

I Kathy! That's so awesome...you have the ultimate "earthfare" for yor coconut water!!

Kay said...

Hey Thad, I've been drinking coconut water off and on since I read about it on your blog......love it, love, love it....Lauren, I also hate coconut however you barely taste it and for the results its so worth it. Also, Thad, last time I went to Earthfare to get it they said they have quit carrying Zico. Other than Fresh Market do you know where in GSO you can get the Zico brand. I tend to like it the best bc it has the least coconut flavor

RunnerDude said...

Hi Kay! Harris Teeter used carry it but the don't any more either. The vitamin Shoppe may have it. I've been using the Naked and O.N.E. from Earthfare and they aren't too bad. I think you can order it from the Zico website, but I'm not sure how much the shipping is. I'll keep looking and let you know if I find any Zico.

Caratunk Girl said...

Hey next time I order EFS I will keep you in mind - they usually send a free sample - if they do I will send it to you...Ordering at the end of the month, will let you know! :)

RunnerDude said...

Hi Caratunk Girl! Awesome! I'll reply back wiht some coconut water!

Rachel said...

thanks for the info, i'll have to give this a try!

Anonymous said...

OMG I love coconut water and Vita Coco, thanks for the great post!

Kenley said...

Thanks Runnerdude. This, known in the Philippines is known as Buko Juice. Buko meaning coconut. They drink a lot there and can get it very cheap. I actually tried the Naked Coconut water and it is awesome. Thanks for sharing and good luck with your cramping.

stephanie said...

What about drinking coconut before a longer endurance event in hot weather. Would that be beneficial as well?

RunnerDude said...

Hi Stephanie!
Yep, I think it would help especially during hot/humid weather and particularly if you sweat a lot like me. I wouldn't drink a ton of the coconut water before the race. Basically, I'd do most of my prerace (the day before) hydration with water. But 2hr prior to the race, it may be good to drink about 16oz of coconut water. That will give it enought time to get through your system and be voided before the race.

Last year, Endurance runner Pam Reed captured 2nd place in the women’s division and 7th overall at Adventurecorps ™ Badwater Ultramarathon. She drank coconut water throughout the race