You’ve just finished a tough workout and want a drink other than plain water to hydrate you. What are some options?
Gatorade Orange Ice
Per 250ml: 256kJ, 15g sugars, 123mg sodium, 58mg potassium; $1.06
King Island Coconut Water
Per 250ml: 151kJ, 6g sugars, 120mg sodium, 730mg potassium; $0.75
Sports drinks are not a gimmick. Research shows they can help athletes who do regular, high-intensity training to both rehydrate and refuel. The amount of carbohydrate (sugar) helps with rapid fluid uptake, as well as providing a quick source of energy. The electrolytes (sodium and potassium) help replace those lost through sweating.
Coconut water is sometimes touted as a sports drink, although not among athletes, because with little carbohydrate it doesn’t work the same.
Sports drinks can be helpful for people exercising at high intensity for over an hour or more, particularly when sweating a lot. But, if you’re not doing this, you’re just getting sugar and kilojoules you don’t need. One small study of 12 healthy men compared the effects of water, coconut water and a sports drink after 60 minutes of dehydrating exercise on a treadmill. It found all drinks were equally as effective for rehydration, although some reported feeling bloated after the coconut water.
So, if you’re exercising at high intensity over long periods, a sports drink is your best option. But, if you’re just looking for a flavoured alternative to water, then coconut water is a better option for you. It doesn’t have too much sodium, it has lots of potassium, which is great, and there’s less sugar.
Keep in mind coconut water does add kilojoules, while plain water doesn’t.
Article sources and references
- Australian Institute of Sport. AIS Sports Supplement Framework. Sports drinks (carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks), ausports.gov.au Accessed March 2017https://www.ausport.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/594170/Sports_drinks_carbohydrate-electrolyte_drinks_-_June_2017.pdf
- Kalman DS et al. 2012. Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 9:1https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-9-1