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Active Expert: Nancy Clark RD CSSD

3 Posts tagged with the potassium tag

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:




Serving size








Vitamin C


Coconut Water

(2 ingredients)


17-oz carton








350% DV




(12 ingredients)


20-ounce bottle










Orange Juice

(1 ingredient)


16 ounces











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)


For more info on what to drink, check out the Fluids chapter in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook.


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

1,913 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: fluids, sodium, nancy_clark, potassium, sports_drink, orange_juice, coconut_water

Generally not. When you exercise, you lose some electrolytes via sweat, but you are unlikely to deplete your body’s stores under ordinary circumstances. For example, you can easily replace the 200-600 milligrams of potassium you might lose in an hour of hard training by eating a medium to large banana (450-600 mg potassium). You can also easily replace the 800-1,400 mg sodium lost in two pounds of sweat by enjoying some spaghetti with tomato sauce or some chocolate milk with a bagel and peanut butter. Athletes who do need to worry about replacing electrolytes include those who will be sweating hard for more than three or four hours.

     Keep in mind, most health organizations recommend we reduce our sodium intake, given the average American diet contains more than enough sodium! A high sodium intake leads to high blood pressure and increased risk of stroke...


Sodium in Popular Recovery Foods

            Food                                                             Sodium (mg)

            Pizza, 1/2 of 12 in., DiGiorno cheese             2,490

            Chicken noodle soup, 1 can Campbell's         2,350

            Ramen noodles, Maruchan, 1 packet             1,580

            Spaghetti sauce, 1 cup Ragu                        1,160

            Salt, 1 small packet                                       590

            Pretzels, 1 oz (30 g) Rold Gold thins               560

            Bagel, 1 Thomas' New York style (3.7 oz)        540

            American cheese, 1 slice Kraft                       250

            Cheerios, 1 cup multigrain                              200

            Fruit yogurt, 6 oz (180 ml)                             60-120

            Bread, 1 slice Pepperidge Farm hearty slice    190

            Saltine crackers, 5 (0.5 oz)                            180

            Potato chips, 20 Lay's                                   180

            Gatorade, 8 oz (240 ml)                                 110

            Endurolytes (electrolytes), 1 capsule              100

            Powerade, 8 oz (240 ml)                                  70

            Beer, 12 oz (355 ml) can                                 15

            Coke, 12 oz (355 ml) can                                10

            Orange juice, 8 oz (240 ml)                               5

            Potential loss in a 2 hr workout                 1,000-2,000



For more information about sodium, potassium and electrolytes, see:

Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook

Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for Everyday Champions

Food Guide for New Runners: Getting It Right From the Start

1,549 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: sweat, sodium, potassium, electrolytes, sweat_losses, endurance_exercise


I am a novice runner and I got woken at 3:00 a.m. with muscle cramps in my calves. How can I avoid these in the future?



While some people think muscle cramps are due to low potassium and recommend eating potassium-rich bananas as the solution, I question if that is the only answer. Certainly, eating bananas is always a good idea. But I doubt if the muscle cramp is due to low potassium. That would require an incredible amount of sweat loss. Novice runners usually cannot exercise long enough to deplete themselves of potassium.


Here's how a few popular sports foods compare in potassium content:

Potential potassium loss in a two hour workout: 300 to 800 mg

Potassium in 8 ounces of Gatorade: 30 mg

Potassium in one medium banana: 450 mg

Potassium in 8 ounces of orange juice: 475 mg.

Potassium in 8 ounces yogurt: 520 mg.


You might want to try:

-- stretching more after you exercise.

-- drinking enough fluids so you are urinating every two to four hours of the daytime (a sign you are well hydrated). \

-- consuming at least two to three cups of milk or yogurt a day. (That's the amount you need to get adequate calcium for your bones, to say nothing of for your muscles.)

Some people anecdotally report calcium helps resolve muscle cramps.


Hope this helps,


Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

Certified Specialist in Sports Dietietics

Author, Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook.

2,032 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: muscle_cramps, potassium, calcium

Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Member since: Jul 8, 2007

Hi! I specialize in nutrition for exercise, and help active people figure out how to manage food, weight, exercise, energy and enjoyment of eating. Let me know if you have any questions!

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