If you live in North Carolina, you've already experienced several hot and humid runs. My running buddies this morning looked like they had been hosed down. All this heat and humidity reminded me that it's time for my annual pitch for my favorite sports drink—100% coconut water.
Around this time last year, I discovered the benefits of 100% coconut water and I also discovered how it helped me on my runs. I tend not to do too well with sports drinks that have a lot of added sugars. I never know when it's going to throw my tummy for a loop. Also, due to my profuse sweating, I tend to get dehydrated easily which on a long run can result in my calves cramping. Then I discovered the best sports drink and the funny thing is it's produced by Mother Nature. Nothing's added, it's just Mother Nature's contribution to the sports world.
Last year when I discovered coconut water, the brand I found available was ZICO . Now there are several other brands available and they all work equally well— O.N.E. , Naked , Vita Coco . Because they are all made of 100%pure coconut water, they contain none of the added sugars and calories commonly associated with traditional sports drinks, plus it has low acidity. They also contain the five essential electrolytes that help to keep nerves firing, muscles moving and to help manage stress. Like I mentioned earlier, I'm a profuse sweater when I run. Because of this, hydration is a big problem. I often experience cramping in my calves from the depletion of my electrolytes. I was surprised to discover that Coconut water has a huge amount of potassium (a key electrolyte) even more potassium than a banana and 15 times more than most sports drinks. Potassium helps prevent cramping and promote muscle recovery. Potassium also regulates blood pressure, cardiovascular health and helps you recover more quickly from exercise and stress. In addition to the potassium, coconut water naturally provides sodium, calcium, magnesium, and even a little protein.
Worried the flavor might be too thick or fruity? Don't be. Basically it has the consistency of water with a very slight hint of a coconut flavor. It's not a strong flavor at all. It's also not a sweet flavor.
Be careful when you're shopping for coconut water. Don't confuse coconut water with coconut milk. Coconut water doesn’t contain the fat of coconut milk. The coconut water comes from young green coconuts before they develop the white meat that contains the fat and cholesterol that's found in mature coconuts. 100% coconut water contains no cholesterol.
Several of the brands mentioned above also have versions with other fruit juices such as mango, peach, cranberry. While these may taste good, they're going to have a higher sugar content and probably a lower level of potassium, so be sure to read the nutrition label before buying a mixed variety of coconut water. My experience has only been with 100% coconut water and I'd highly recommend sticking with the 100% coconut water variety as a sports drink.
Coconut water is a little more expensive than your typical man-made sports drink, but if you're like me, paying a little extra to avoid those dreaded leg cramps is worth it. I also discovered that my local Earthfare will order it by the case for me and I'll actually save a little bit by doing that. I've also found several websites such as Vitacost.com that sell the various brands of coconut water at a discount. I've not ordered through a site like this, so I'm not sure what the shipping charges would be, but it might be worth checking out.
So, looking for a natural alternative to sports drinks that don't contain a lot of added sugars and can help keep cramps at bay? Give 100% coconut water a try....doesn't matter what brand.