Coconut water sales skyrocketed just five years from the start of its production in 2004. Known as a good source of electrolytes, coconut water’s taste and rehydration capabilities quickly allowed it to gain popularity among endurance athletes. From the perspective of sports nutrition professionals, coconut water is useful for rehydrating, it doesn’t, however, contain essential nutrients needed for full exercise recovery.
Nutrients in Coconut Water
Brands may vary but, an 8-ounce glass of coconut water typically contains 45 calories, 0 grams of fat, 30 mg of cholesterol, 11 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein. It also intrinsically contains electrolytes, potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium and phosphate. Electrolytes are essential minerals that affect the blood acidity, and are necessary for proper muscle function. Electrolytes are lost through excessive sweating and are then replenished by the consumption of certain foods or fluids. Coconut water also contains antioxidant compounds such as vitamin C and selenium, along with a modest amount of B vitamins, copper, zinc and iron. Coconut water is vitamin and mineral rich.
Good for Rehydration, not for Recovery
While coconut water has shown to be effective in rehydrating athletes, it does not help with muscle recovery. According to the American Dietetic Association, a combination of carbohydrate and protein (specifically a ratio of 4:1) is required post-exercise for optimal muscle recovery, with at least 20 grams of protein. Coconut water provides little to no protein and therefore, does not contribute to muscle recovery post-exercise.
Want to boost your recovery and have your coconut water too? Try using it to make an energy-rich beverage by combining it with some protein powder and frozen berries. This way you can rehydrate with the electrolyte-laden coconut water while initiating muscle recovery with the protein and extra carbohydrate from the fruit. Post-workout is also a good opportunity to wash down a carbohydrate and protein-rich snack with coconut water.
Other Health Claims
Claims that coconut water can boost immunity, fight cancer, and stop the aging process, are based on preliminary studies. These studies have not been conducted with humans, and so these health benefits are unconfirmed. While coconut water contains cancer preventing antioxidants vitamin C and selenium, no major studies have linked the consumption of coconut water to cancer prevention.
Rehydrate with Coconut Water
Due to its minimal protein content, coconut water does not aid in muscle recovery. It is, however, a low calorie beverage that contains essential electrolytes needed by the body to rehydrate after an intense workout. For less than 50 calories, an 8-oz glass of coconut water can be worked into a healthy diet.