By Molly Morgan, RD Men's Fitness
Coconut water is no longer an elusive elixir that you have to trek to a health food store to find. The blue cartons have cropped up everywhere from vending machines to convenience store shelves. But should the ridiculously popular all-natural beverage make its way into your gym bag, or are you better off sticking to a traditional sports drink? Here’s a quick comparison to help you sip smarter post-workout.
What Coconut Water Has That Sports Drinks Do Not
The edge that coconut water has over traditional sports drinks is that it packs fifteen times more potassium—it contains about 470 milligrams per 8 ounces—than Gatorade or Powerade. To put things into perspective, a medium banana has 422 milligrams of potassium.
Potassium is a key player in rehydration because, along with sodium, magnesium and calcium, the electrolyte helps maintain fluid balance in the body. Potassium is also crucial to smooth and skeletal muscle contraction, and can help prevent muscle cramps.
What Coconut Water Doesn't Have
Coconut water falls short when it comes to sodium content. It has only a third of the sodium—30 mg per 8 ounces—that traditional sports drinks contain. This isn’t a deal breaker if you’re drinking coconut water during a light workout or a workout lasting less than an hour. But if you’ve got a vigorous gym session on the books, keep in mind that with intensity comes sweat. And with sweat, your body loses sodium. In fact, just one liter of sweat can flush out 1,300 milligrams of sodium, making the mineral an important ingredient to include in your post-workout beverage—and a traditional sports drink a smarter choice.
The Bottom Line
If your taste buds just can’t take another sip of tap water, choose coconut water. If you’re heading to the gym for a light training session or going for a leisurely bike ride, grab coconut water. If you’ve just wrapped up an intense workout or logged more than an hour of exercise, a traditional sports drink will help replace the sodium you lose through sweat.