September 15, 2012

The Mysteries of Coconut Water. ~ Gerry Avery

There is much hype and craziness surrounding the latest coconut water consumption.

With the high price tag per bottle or carton, and the apparent lack of utilizing recycled containers among most labels, I decided to research this beverage to see why so many athletes and weekend-warriors gravitate towards coconut water—versus say, regular water, or even Gatorade—after a strenuous event or workout.

Coconut water is the liquid found inside young coconuts before they mature.

Packaged as a health beverage, it is simple, tastes rather nutty and light, and gives you that feeling of solid nourishment and refreshment.

This liquid is touted as containing more potassium than a banana. It is very low in sodium and contains trace amounts of magnesium, calcium, and phosphorous. Because most people don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, what attracts consumers is the high potassium content. If one were to drink 12 ounces of coconut water per day, at 60-90 calories per serving, it would be the potassium equivalent of eating a medium banana.  Potassium is what aids in alleviating post-workout muscle cramping on those sweaty days.

However, the caveat to this coconut water allure is sodium replenishment.

When you sweat, you are losing more sodium than potassium. The “sodium-potassium pump” in your body, which regulates blood pressure and muscle fatigue, is out of balance. The natural remedy is to take in an electrolyte-sodium replacement drink, like Gatorade, or one of the other items in the seemingly endless array of post workout beverages.

Most people do not exercise heavily enough to demand this type of beverage. Drinking it simply tacks on unnecessary sugar and calories. In these instances, the best recommendation for the regular workout folks is clean, purified spring water. The very dedicated athletes and paid professional sports heroes can reward themselves with an electrolyte replacement drink (think simple Vitamin water), or even a post-workout blended concoction made with fancy potions and powders containing all the vitamins and minerals of a healthy meal. These drinks are specifically designed with the athlete in mind, so the proper combination of electrolytes, potassium and sodium is in each beverage.

With all that said, what is the mystery surrounding coconut water, and why do we flock to the natural food stores, and even regular grocery establishments, in search of this delicious drink?

One answer: fad and hype.

This is not to deprive coconut water of the justice it is due. If you like the taste and are doing a short workout, this beverage is suitable and extremely refreshing. Drinking coconut water, with its high potassium content, can definitely aid in regulating blood pressure, but it’s not everything. 

Broad lifestyle changes and eating whole foods fare much better in the long run for the prevention of hypertension and blood pressure control. Yet, many of us continue to purchase the mild and tasty drink, with the idea that it is doing remarkable things for our post-workout nirvana.

In addition, the colorful packaging of coconut water (and juice) has been under some intense scrutiny lately because consumers have become aware that the containers aren’t always earth friendly. Because most people who buy this beverage are health-conscious to begin with, even the slightest contradiction in packaging should give them reason to avoid it altogether. If the hype lives up to their expectations, then finding fault with the lack of sustainable materials won’t make or break their purchase of coconut water.

In conclusion, the main thing we should focus on when choosing this post-workout beverage is sodium replenishment.

Simply sipping on coconut water after a good sweat needs the accompaniment of a salty food “fix.” This is the sodium-potassium pump alerting your body to imbalances and the necessity to replace those electrolytes. The combination of coconut water and a few corn chips suffice after a solid, sweaty workout in the sun. Even noshing on a few ripe, delectable tomatoes can serve the salty purpose.

It might be easier (and less expensive) to drink cool purified water (albeit not as satisfying). Coconut water will be in the mainstream for many years to come. At least until the hype and continued studies evolve past the current stages of simply just being a fad.



Editor: Alexandra Grace


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