Is that right? Coconut water is "nature's sports drink"?
Is coconut water really such a great "sports drink"?
I've been doing some Bikram yoga lately -- the "hot" yoga that's practiced for 90 minutes in a room heated to 105 degrees. One thing you want to be sure of when you do Bikram is to be well hydrated before you start, and replenish what you've sweated out when you're finished.
My first time in the studio, the instructor showed me after class the cooler full of beverages I could purchase to augment the water I'd brought. (Which, after 90 minutes in the studio, was ickily warm.) She made a point to mention the coconut water there. The container of the brand I bought, Zico, billed the product as "Nature's Sports Drink."
Bikram yoga's creator Bikram Choudhury has embraced coconut water in a big way, so it's no surprise that the stuff is sold in Bikram studios. The beverage is the clear liquid from the inside of a green, or unripe, coconut. It has very few calories (about 60 per 11-ounce serving), no fat and lots of the electrolyte potassium, which heavy sweating such as one does in a Bikram studio depletes.
But is coconut water really the best beverage for the job?
I asked Andrea Giancoli, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and one of my sources for this week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column about another well-hyped class of beverages, energy drinks.
She noted that coconut water is fine, "if you like the taste." (Which, I have to say, I don't.) As for "the hype that it will cure everything from cancer to hypertension," Giancoli says, "There is no miracle food. Every time we 'miracle-ize' a food, we lose sight of its real benefits."
And those benefits are? "Coconut water is lower in calories than a Gatorade or juice," Giancoli says. Better yet, it's a "really good" source of potassium, delivering nearly 700 milligrams per serving, which is "more than a banana," she adds. We need potassium in our diets to, among other things, regulate our blood pressure.
But do we really need coconut water -- or any other "sports drink" -- after we exercise? Giancoli says "Most people don't exercise heavily enough to need a sports recovery drink. Water is just fine for most people."
As a guideline, Giancoli says if you're "sweating heavily for more than an hour, you need to replenish some of the glucose you've lost." And what about the sodium you sweat away? "Gatorade and coconut water don't have a lot of sodium," she says. (The sodium in Gatorade is mostly there to make it more palatable, "so you drink more," Giancoli says.) If you're low on sodium after vigorous exercise, she suggests eating salty pretzels.
Which I think would be very hard to swallow after hot yoga. But at least I like the way pretzels taste.
Jennifer LaRue Huget
May 7, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Is That Right? , Nutrition and Fitness , Yoga
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