Friday, June 1, 2012

Food Facts Friday: Coconut Water vs Sports Drink

I have been digging the organic coconut water lately. 
Coconut water (CW) comes from young green coconuts. It's hailed for its naturally occurring electrolytes, low caloric content and no fat or cholesterol content. This is why it has quickly become a widely-accepted alternative to the lab engineered, super-sweet, sports drinks (SD).

Out of curiosity, I did a search to see if there's been any research comparing (CW) to any of the leading sports drinks (SD). The most recent articles I've come across reference one particular piece posted in the Journal of International Sports Nutrition back in January of this year (2012). This research compares CW and a SD on hydration and physical performance in exercised-trained men. In this report, the male subjects walked and jogged on a treadmill for 60minutes. The idea was to make all 12 men dehydrated and then see differences when they rehydrated with CW vs SD. The researchers did not find any significant differences regarding performance or rehydration when subjects drank CW vs a SD. They did conclude that both CW and SD fared better than just plain water in terms of rehydrating their subjects.

But no difference between CW and SD?
You can imagine why I was confused then, when I came across the Runner's World article suggesting that endurance runners stick to sports drinks vs coconut water.

Everything I read about coconut water up to that point was extremely positive: 
CW has more protein than SD (CW has 1g and SD has 0g).
CW has fewer calories than SD (CW has 43calories vs SD has 50calories per 8oz).
CW is rich in so many electrolytes. It has 500mg of potassium (that's more than 1 banana!), 72mg Sodium, 46mg Calcium, 18mg Phosphorus, 27mg Magnesium.

While SD only has 110mg Sodium and 30mg Potassium.

Coconut Water
Leading Sports Drink
So, I figured out that the Runner's World article (9/2010) based its recommendation on two things: Sodium and Carbohydrates. It seems that if you are going on a moderate run, 60minutes or less, coconut water is a great hydrating and rehydrating beverage; however, if you are going out for an endurance run and will be running 60minutes or more, sports drinks provide more sodium, a much needed electrolyte for endurance runners. Since SD also has more carbs than the CW (SD has 14g carbs vs 10g carbs in CW), SD can provide more energy needed to fuel those longer endurance runs.

SD are designed to contain a more balanced ratio between sodium and potassium in order to specifically replace sodium lost during long bouts of exercise. 
Of course, plain water is always a great choice 
for rehydrating those short runs or when
 exercising less than 60minutes and not sweating profusely.

I guess it's like everything else, variation is key. Knowing what to vary and when, well that's just training smart!


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