The ads suggest coconut water is the perfect sports drink. What do ya' think?
Coconut water is marketed as being “100% pure” and “all natural.” Almost true. It has only two ingredients: coconut water (the watery liquid inside a green coconut) -- but also quite a bit of vitamin C that has been added to the drink. Not "all natural."
Coconut water is naturally rich in potassium (good) but has a high price tag (about $3 for a 17-ounce carton; bad).
Here’s how it compares (in portions commonly consumed by thirsty athletes) to Gatorade and orange juice:
Because serious athletes have a higher need for sodium than potassium during sweaty exercise (and you will simply flush the excess vitamin C down the toilet), I’d suggest you choose a higher-sodium sports drink during endurance workouts and spend your money on orange juice and other natural foods afterwards. That is, unless you happen to prefer the taste and digestibility of coconut water, which research suggests is not always the case (1)
1) Kalman, D, S Feldman, DKrieger, R Bloomer. Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolytesport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance inexercise-trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2012; 9:1
Q. Should I avoid orange juice because it has too much sugar?
A. All the calories in orange juice come from sugar, but along with that (natural) sugar, you get abundant vitamin C (to boost your immune system), potassium (to protect against high blood pressure), folate (to protect against birth defects) and numerous other health-protective nutrients. The sugar in orange juice (and any type of sugar, for that matter) fuels your muscles. The vitamins and minerals that accompany the natural sugar in orange jucie are like spark plugs and help your body’s engine run stronger.
Nothing is wrong with sugar. The problem is too many calories of refined sugar (from soft drinks) that are void of nutritional assets. While drinking quarts of OJ a day could add excessive calories to your sports diet (but also tons of vitamin C), a glass or two adds a nutrient-dense beverage that is far better than anything your might get at the calorie-café (a.k.a coffee shop).
I’m far less concerned about the sugar in orange juice than I am about athletes avoiding OJ. Orange juice is a quick and easy form of fruit. If you aren't going to make time to peel an orange, grabbing a glass of OJ for a morning eye-opener is a handy alternative—and is far preferable to grabbing just a coffee-to-go. While eating the whole orange is nutritionally preferable to drinking just the juice, any form of fruit is better than none. So don’t stop drinking orange juice because it has “too much sugar.” Too many important nutrients come along with that natural sugar … nutrients that can enhance your performance.
For more information that can help you resolve your confusion regarding sugar and carbs, see Chapter 6 in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook.