In my past two entries, I explored the health of water and how it compares to sports drinks during exercise. As I was writing part 2, it made me think of this girl from track club I used to practice with never had sports drinks before or after practice, whatsoever. As I later learned she was a vegan, she’d substitute it for coconut water instead. Is it simply because it’s considered a natural alternative to manufactured sports drinks? Why didn’t she just stick to regular water? Why does this murky water from a coconut compare to sports drink and water to rehydrate your body?
As I’ve once stated, athletes always need to know how to best fuel their bodies. Especially since, in general hydration is vital for keeping everything working and moving properly. Plain water can’t ever be beat in that category. On the other hand, when it comes to intense exercising, coconut water was given this circumstance and studied by four authors from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Following their comparison of coconut water, “sports drinks, and plain water on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men noted little difference between any of them”. So in fact they’re all capable of promoting the same rehydration. Which means similar benefits, but what are the odds? With a test only on men, specific brands of fluids chosen, I’m glad to at least remark that it was a cross-over study done in a random single-blinded manner. But is that enough for their claim?
That being said, my concern to any of these fluids are people’s tolerance if consumed in such high volumes. As I see athletes chug down their gatorade or ice cold water after a vigorous race or match, would that feeling compare with coconut water? This isn’t made clear. Even it was, “coconut water is supposed to have less sodium and significantly more potassium”. So that’s a good thing, right?
Just when I thought that question was the end of it, I stumbled across an additional cross-over study by the Journal of Physiological Anthropology and Applied Human Science assessing the same three fluids on eight healthy male volunteers hydration. Now I know right at the glance of “volunteers” this will be an unreliable study, but their results were still interesting. In the end, “the coconut water caused less nausea, fullness, no stomach upset, and easier to consume in large amounts”. So sure, this may give a little insight that “guzzling it down won’t mean it’s not functioning properly”. You’ll be full of “natural-electrolytes”, unlike “manufactured electrolytes”.
The verdict is, again, these fluids compare to not be any better than the other. Each with their own benefits and anyone’s common sense in moderation. I will agree that there’s no such thing as a “miracle product”. Even multiple studies could claim the same. Although, any of these would surely help your body rehydrate during long workouts. As the hype about coconut water grows each day, it could very well be studied more accurately to ensure reliable studies similar to those measuring sports drinks and water. It’s definitely not the “end-all-be-all to attaining hydration”, but another option is always nice.