Are You Coconuts?

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We had one of the “Nudie” reps come to my work when I was managing a big commercial gym a few years ago. Nudie is the company that makes different flavoured juices and smoothies. While the rep was there, I hid away in the back office, so I didn’t have to punish my ears with the marketing garbage they spin. Nothing against Nudie, personally I think their drinks taste fabulous. Would I drink them all the time? Probably not I am not crazy for coconuts mainly because of the sugar content, its better to drink water. However if you put one in front of me, I wouldn’t say no.

The girls at reception, gently fended off the Nudie man as per instructions. After he left, they came bursting into the office speaking brain washed messages “Do you know the coconut water rehydrates the body better 10 times faster than normal water?”.

Coconut water and its superior rehydrating properties is one of those annoying half truth nutrition messages, that technically is correct but ridiculous at the same time.

It’s ridiculous because when was the last time you saw anyone in need of rehydration in an air conditioned gym? It certainly didn’t seem like my staff were all dying of heat stroke in an air conditioned office.  Even the most  experienced weight lifter or aerobics bunny in the gym, completing a 60min workout, is not going to require superior hydration. Plain water will suffice in all of these examples.

Sports drinks like Powderade, are used for rehydration and as a quick recovery serves a specific purpose when it comes to sport. Unless someone is a big sweater and completing prolonged and continuous strenuous exercise they probably don’t need to use them. I am not talking about 60min body attack class as prolonged and strenuous. I’m talking about, more than 20km run lasting close to 2 hours. Besides sports drinks and coconut water aren’t exactly calorie free.

I should explain the reason why I bring sports drinks into the picture, is because sports drinks do claim to provide better hydration than water. This is true.

Sports drinks contain simple sugars, potassium and salts which mimic the fluid concentration of your body. This helps you rehydrate better, your body retains the fluid. Whereas if you only drank water it would pass straight though. This is where coconut water comes into the picture.

Naturally produced coconut water is also high in potassium and simple sugars, so yes it will hydrate you better than water. But do you really require that hydration in the first place? Recently there has also been unsubstantiated claims that it; speeds up your metabolism, smooths your skin, prevents cancer, fights viruses and helps to control diabetes. All of which has not been proven and are highly unlikely.

How much potassium does it have? Apple juice has 2.1mg per 1kcal, coconut water has 7mg per 1kcal. In comparison to an apple it’s great, however you get more potassium from eating salmon and bananas. It is better to drink unsweetened coconut water. However, these days commercially purchased coconut water is a lot of the time is sugar loaded. Be careful about which brands you choose to buy. Added sugar in coconut juice isn’t the best thing you should be drinking, especially if you’re trying to keep your weight down. It’s even worse if you have diabetes because it will send your blood sugar levels through the roof!

The speed of hydration “10 times faster” is debatable. You can’t measure that, rates of absorption vary from person to person. Isn’t it convenient that it’s rounded to a perfect 10, why didn’t they say 3 times faster? This stuff is infuriating!

Let’s compare Powerade with coconut water for arguments sake:

250ml Powerade;
 80kcal, 20g carb, 15g sugar, 0 fat
250ml Unsweetened coconut water;  
46kcal, 8.9g carb, 6.3g sugar, 0.5g fat

In the weight loss arena the coconut water wins, it’s lower in calories, lower in sugar. However if you’re trying to lose weight calorie loaded liquids would be the first thing I would remove…so coconut water is also out!

If you’re looking for recovery and rehydration for sports, then Powerade should be your drink of choice. It has more carbohydrates per mL,  to help you get simple sugars back into muscles for glycogen storage and yes the hydration factor is also good.

Drink coconut water because you like the taste, not because of the perceived benefits. The benefits are minimal and debatable, it’s not a miracle cure or super food.

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