What’s the Best Way To Refresh Post-Workout- Coconut Water vs. Gatorade vs. Powerade?
This is a guest post by Shannon White, the choreographer of the MECKids Dream Team.
The “New” Kid in Town
Before you divorce your favorite sports drink for nature’s alternative, ask yourself if you’ve tried to work it out. Let’s take a moment to make sure this is the right decision. Rehydration after a strenuous activity (like playing with your kids) is essential to ensure that your body replenishes its nutrients. In the last few years, coconut water has splashed on the scene in the U.S., with celebrity endorsements and big names like Pepsi and Coca-Cola getting in on the action too. Coconut water is far from new, however. Americans are “tardy for the party”; tropical countries (Caribbean, parts of Africa, Southeast Asia) where the young, green coconuts are found have been getting the “super water” straight from the source for many years.
MECKids Mission: To find out whether or not coconut water is an adequate, healthy substitute for popular sports drinks of today.
Why all the Fuss?
What is so great about coconut water anyway? If the liquid from this tropical fruit isn’t manipulated too much, coconut water is a natural, low calorie source of electrolytes (potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium) with a slight nutty and refreshing taste. In fact, the Molecules scientific journal boasts that it can also help to prevent heart attacks and treat kidney stones. Its other benefits include:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Fights free radicals to help fight cancer
- Can have anti-aging affects
- Has trans-zeatin that is used to prevent and/or treat Alzheimer’s and dementia
So far so good, right? Let’s continue.
Potassium is the key electrolyte that contributes to coconut water’s star power— if electrolytes were famous, potassium would be an A-list celebrity. It helps not only control the amount of water in your body, but it also helps maintain a healthy pH level in the blood. Because there aren’t as many sources that are rich in potassium as say, sodium, potassium deficiency is very common, especially in African American women. If severe, it can be fatal (eek!).
Raw coconut water has about 20 times the potassium of Gatorade, which equals about four bananas. For all the banana haters out there, talk about a win!
Does it measure up?
Even though potassium is a salt (which we now know is important), it’s not the primary salt we lose while sweating it out. That prize goes to sodium. Here are the cold (and refreshing) facts: Powerade and Gatorade both have more than double the amount of sodium of coconut water per ounce. Normally, less sodium means it’s better for you. But in this case, sodium is the most essential electrolyte to the rehydration process (after a strenuous workout). The Scientific Committee on Food suggests 460-1150 milligrams of sodium per liter in order to rehydrate properly. Sodium helps the small intestine absorb water and carbohydrates, helping to replenish fluids and energy. In other words, coconut water does not have enough sodium content to roll with the rehydration “big dogs” Gatorade and Powerade. Stick with these engineered performance drinks for optimal rehydration after your workout.
Don’t Say it’s Over
Don’t fret though, albeit coconut water isn’t your go-to after a workout, it can still be your go-to for a potassium supplement, along with the other benefits mentioned above. Just make sure you pick the right brand. Because of the mass marketing of coconut water, a lot of companies are cutting corners to get (and keep) their products on the shelves. Coconut water is incredibly perishable once it’s taken from the coconut, meaning that its nutrients are literally a ticking time bomb. Most companies use concentrates or heat to pasteurize the nutrients right out of the water or use a mature (and less nutritious) coconut as a substitute, masking the acidic taste with sweetener and fruit flavors.
Vani Hari of Foodbabe.com suggests keeping it simple. Pay attention to the labels and avoid:
- Heat Pasteurization
- Added “fruit” flavors
- Added sweeteners
Try an organic or raw brand from your local organic store. If there isn’t one nearby, Amazon has a few organic brands that ship within a few days (Harmless Harvest is at the top of our list!) And if you happen to visit any tropical areas this summer, make sure you try the best way— straight from the source!
Do you drink coconut water or sports drinks after you workout and what has been your experience? Please share in the comments below!
So now it is time to decide if Gatorade or Powerade is better for you. Click here to take a look at our article for a comparison of the two.