Often referred to as nature's sports drink, coconut water is becoming a popular choice among athletes. But does it live up to the hype? And what are its benefits?
As we all know, hydration is critical for everyone, but especially for active individuals with a high sweat rate. Water is still the primary recommendation for fluid intake; however, athletes working at extremely high intensity levels can benefit from additional hydration sources, including coconut water. (See Elements of Proper Hydration.)
Whenever you try something new, you should start out in a safe environment, such as a practice setting as opposed to a game day. Just like with physical training, you have to see what fueling choices work best for your body. Make sure you like the taste of the foods and drinks you choose and that you are able to digest them easily.
Top Benefits of Coconut Water for Athletes
- High Intensity Workouts Require More. Sweat rids the body of certain electrolytes, which are needed to maintain proper hydration status and nerve, heart and muscle function. Coconut water and other sports drinks deliver a higher concentration of these electrolytes. For example, coconut water provides the same amount of potassium as one banana. However, coconut water, like some sports drinks, may not contain enough sodium to replenish the amount lost through sweat. If you have a high sweat rate, you may need to pair it with some pretzels.
- Go Natural. Coconut water includes less than one percent natural sugar, instead of the refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup commonly found in energy or sports drinks. Natural sugar is as important as carbohydrates for athletic endeavors—without overdoing it, of course. It's low in calories, and it might help prevent you from feeling too full, so you can also have a post-workout snack.
- Vitamins for Recovery. Coconut water is great post-workout, because it delivers vitamins that aid in recovery, including C and B vitamins. Vitamin C boosts your immune system; folate (B9) helps your body create new cells; and vitamin B6 helps build muscle by producing amino acids.
- Coconut Water Is for Everyone. Since it is pasteurized, vegan and gluten-free, coconut water has universal appeal as a hydration solution. It is available in many flavors, so you should be able to find one that suits your taste.
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