Lately I haven’t been able to talk to anyone about anything other than how great coconut water is. People tell me that it’s perfect for hydration, rehydration and recovery from sports, but is it? Is this just another case of really convincing advertising and people wanting to catch on to one of the newest celebrity trends? Obviously to answer this question I did a bit of research, but first let’s explore what Coconut water is being used for, its composition and finally whether or not it works.
So what is Coconut water used for? Just with any beverage targeted towards the athletic community, Coconut water is being praised for its ability to hydrate, prevent dehydration, ensure optimal performance, delay fatigue, increase performance, recovery and the list goes on. One thing I’ve repeatedly heard is the low calorie content of Coconut water; this is obviously being compared to other beverages targeted towards the athletic community, ironically not the 0 calorie sports drinks. Additionally the mentality that “natural is always better” brings a big gold seal to Coconut water.
Coconut water is sounding pretty good right now, that is until we start exploring its composition. Firstly dehydration is an important factor towards elite-level athletes. A 2% loss of body weight is enough to cause dehydration, increase in body temperature and decreased athletic performance, but this is of course in Elite-level athletes not the hobbyist at your weekend Hockey tournament. Coconut water, which is the juice of young coconuts, may have fewer calories than ‘normal’ sports drinks. Coconut water contains 45-60 calories/ 250ml but the top two advertised Sports Beverages contain 55-56 calories/ 250ml. So really can people honestly say that it’s lower calorie? The answer here is obviously ‘no.’ Additionally the sugar composition of Coconut water is approximately 50% glucose, 35% sucrose and 15% fructose. Unfortunately the exact composition of the most advertising Sports Beverage is kept under company secrecy, but the nutrition label lists Sugar and Dextrose. Without going into the Science, Dextrose is more easily absorbed into the body during physical activity to assist with athletic performance, whereas sucrose and fructose have to undergo some chemical reactions before it can be used for energy by the body. This will ultimately slow down recovery and will not be as optimal for athletic performance. Aside from the types of sugars in Coconut water Vs Sports Beverages, coconut water contains sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium, similar to Sports Beverages. The biggest issue is that Coconut water contains five times more Potassium than Sodium 1500mg/L and 400mg/L respectively, whereas sports drinks contain 300mg/L of potassium and 600mg/L of Sodium. During physical activity the athlete will lose more Sodium then Potassium and therefore Coconut water falls short again on being sufficient for rehydration. The American Chemical Society even concludes that Coconut water alone cannot replace the sodium lost through extreme exercise, which is critical for elite level athletes.
We’ve talked a lot about Coconut water’s composition so far, but at the end of the day the most important question is whether it works or not. In a 2012 study by Kalman et al. comparing coconut water to sports drinks in male athletes 12 men did 60 minutes of running on a treadmill and received water, coconut water or a sports drink. Hydration status was measured during the recovery period where the subjects lost approximately 2% of body mass and regained it after drinking the fluids. The researchers found no significant different in performance with any of the fluids consumed. Additionally, athletes reported bloating and stomach upsetness after drinking coconut water. In a 2002 study by Saat et al. compared 8 male subjects after they ran on a treadmill for 60 minutes to test the effects of coconut water on recovery. The researchers found that blood sugar levels were higher when subjects drank sports drinks and coconut water when compared to plain water, which is extremely obvious to anyone who just read that sentence. But the researchers found the Sports Drink to be superior in terms of rehydration. Researchers concluded that if Sodium was added to coconut water then it could be sufficient as a Sports Beverage to assist in rehydration of the athlete. To add to this, in 2007 Ismail conducted a study comparing plain water, sports drinks, regular coconut water and sodium-enriched coconut water for their effects on rehydration. Ismail had participants run on a treadmill for 90 minutes to lose 3% of their body weight and were instructed to drink one of the beverages equivalent to 120% of their body weight. The result was that the sodium-enriched coconut water was comparable to the Sports Beverage for rehydration after anthropometric and blood testing, but not regular coconut water.
So let’s go over the perceived superiority of Coconut water over Sports Beverages and water. People tell me that Coconut water is perfect for hydration, rehydration and recovery from sports, but it simply isn’t. Coconut water has approximately the same amount of calories when compared to the most advertised Sports Beverages, and there isn’t a no-calorie option for Coconut water, in which case it can be argued that Coconut water has more calories than the most advertised Sports Beverages. Coconut water also contains five times more Potassium then Sodium, which is not the primary electrolyte that should be replenished during extreme physical activity, in fact only sodium enhanced coconut water is good enough for post workout hydration recovery. The studies examined even reported bloating and stomach upsetness with regular coconut water. Additionally, no studies found coconut water to be effective for rehydration or recovery unless sodium was added to the coconut water.
It’s pretty straightforward that Coconut water simply isn’t superior for hydration, rehydration, to enhance athletic performance or to aid in recovery. This is just another case of another health trend ad celebrity craze with no logic or scientific evidence behind it whatsoever. In all honesty, physical activity under 60 minutes doesn’t even require Sports Beverages or Coconut water for optimal rehydration, just plain water will do. Don’t be caught up in the hype, Coconut water simply just doesn’t add up. Choose water instead if your physical activity is under 60 continuous minutes. If your physical activity lasts longer than 6o continuous minutes and is extreme it would be a much better idea to try a Sports Beverage to prevent dehydration, provide the right sugars to fuel and assist in recovery.
American Chemical Society. (2014). Coconut water is an excellent sports drink ― for light exercise. Retrieved August 18, 2014, from American Chemical Society: http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/newsreleases/2012/august/coconut-water-is-an-excellent-sports-drink-for-light-exercise.html
Beck, L. (2012, August). How effective are sports drinks and coconut water? Retrieved August 17, 2012, from The Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/how-effective-are-sports-drinks-and-coconut-water/article4492017/
Ismail, I., & Sirisinge, R. (2007). REHYDRATION WITH SODIUM-ENRICHED COCONUT WATER AFTER EXERCISE-INDUCED DEHYDRATION. Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, 38 (4), 769-785.
Kalman, D. S., Feldman, S., Krieger, D. R., & Bloomer, R. J. (2012). Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9 (1).
Saat, M., Singh, R., Sirisinge, R., & Nawawi, M. (2002, January). Rehydration after Exercise with Fresh Young Coconut Water, Carbohydrate-Electrolyte Beverage and Plain Water. Journal of Physiological Anthropology and Applied Human Science , 93-104.
We know it’s coming and we know it’s going to happen; the holidays have rolled around again. One of the most notorious things that happen during the holiday seasons is over eating, and it’s easy to understand why, the food is so good! Not only is the food amazing but also the holiday seasons tend to bring up a lot of emotions and stress for a lot of people. For some people these can be good emotions and for others bad ones, either way our emotions can make us eat more than usual. Don’t get me wrong, you deserve to enjoy yourself, but if you’re worried about enjoying TOO much then try some of these tricks to prevent yourself from over eating.
Recognize and Respect your emotions
Your emotions are a powerful force; they can easily control the decisions you make. Usually these emotions end up being the reason why most people eat more then they’d like during the holiday season. The best thing to do is mentally preparing yourself for the day ahead and reminding yourself of your nutritional goals. If necessary, make it known to the people you’re around so they don’t try to encourage you to over indulge.
Organize your plate
Try organizing your plate differently this year. The best way to prevent yourself from eating too many high calorie foods is to divide your plate up. Also try finishing your plate before reaching for seconds if necessary. Try following this image as a guideline to set up your plate in a way that won’t overload it with too many high calorie foods
Keep your hands busy
A lot of calories that we eat around the holidays comes not from the big meal itself, but the snacks and hor devours that are set out before you even sit down to the table. One method to prevent yourself from enjoying too many of these snacks and hor devours is to keep your hands busy. Try keeping your hands in your pockets, or holding something so that it’s not as easy to let those idle hands reaching for too much food.
Drink plenty of water
Not only is water free of calories, but also when consumed with food it helps fill you up faster. Try having a sip of water with every 5 bites of food while eating and try drinking a glass of water before sitting down to dinner.
Start low and end high
Organize your plate mentally from foods that are the lowest calories to the highest calories and eat in that progression. This typically looks like eating the vegetables first, then followed by the carbohydrates of the meal and then the meat. This will allow your body’s natural chemical signals to tell itself to stop eating before you get to the most calorie dense foods thereby allowing yourself to eat less total calories.
Watch out for the sauces/ condiments
One of the biggest sources of calories typically comes from the sauces or condiments. There’s seems to be a tendency to take extra gravy or cranberry sauce with your food which will add extra calories. Additionally, people also seem to tend to get extra bread or carbohydrates to ‘soak up’ the extra sauces further adding more calories. Watch out for this and use a modest amount of sauces/ condiments.