Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Better Than Gatorade

Recently I wrote a post about adjusting to running in higher heat and humidity and ways to protect your body from heat-related illnesses.  As a follow-up, I wanted to write a brief post about my favorite drink to rehydrate after a particularly grueling run or workout – coconut water.  Not coconut milk, which is the thick, fatty cream that comes from the meat of the coconut.  Coconut water is the clear liquid inside a young coconut.  More like coconut juice, I suppose.

I didn’t discover coconut water until it was in the goodie bag after the Detroit Free Press ½ marathon 2 years ago.  Honestly, when I first tasted it I thought it was disgusting.  I finished it because I was thirsty but it was not something I ever planned on drinking again.  The following summer I read something about the benefits of coconut water so I decided to try it again.  That time I actually liked it.  I think it helped that it was chilled this time.  Chilled coconut water after a long race or a tough outdoor summer boot camp really hits the spot.  Unfortunately, it’s not exactly cheap so although I could drink it on a regular basis, I reserve it for days when I sweat more than usual or feel dehydrated; days when water just doesn’t quite cut it.

Why is coconut water so good for you?  Well, it’s like a natural sports drink because it is full of electrolytes – mainly potassium.  One serving contains more than 2 bananas worth of potassium.  It is also low in calories.  It does contain sugar – 15 grams  - but it is all natural.  Another bonus is that you’ll be able to pronounce and will have heard of all the ingredients listed on the package.  Vita Coco contains coconut water and vitamin C.  Other brands contain only coconut water.

Coconut water, however, is lower in sodium and carbs than Gatorade.  While some people try to watch their intake of both, you do lose sodium through sweat and carbs are essential to help restore your body after a workout.  I just make sure I replenish those with food or a smoothie after my coconut water. 

There are several brands of coconut water out there – Vita Coco, O.N.E., and Zico and a few that I've heard of.  Of these I’ve tried Vita Coco and O.N.E. and both are good.  Some have added juices like pineapple or mango.  These I have not tried.  Since the nutrition panels for the three brands are pretty comparable, for me it comes down to price and availability.  I try to stock up when it’s on sale. Last week Vita Coco was 10/$10 at Kroger instead of $1.79 each.  (Like I said, it's not a cheap route to take.)

If you like sports drinks but would like something more natural, I highly recommend giving coconut water a try.

Do you drink sports drinks or coconut water to replenish electrolytes after a workout?


  1. The pineapple is good....not so crazy about the mango. Au natural is consistently refreshing....

  2. I will have to try this. Thanks!

  3. I'm going to share this with Chris, he's a post-run Gatorade drinker and I've always felt like that stuff is just pop w/o the fizz. Thanks for your post!

  4. I'm sure Gatorade has its place but I agree - I don't get a very healthy vibe from it. If Chris doesn't like it the first time, he should try it again. It's a bit of an acquired taste.