Good news lovely people! My uni semester is over, so I am free to post more stuff, more often – yay! I’m pretty excited because I am one semester away from finishing uni FOREVER! And that is kinda cool, don’t you think? So I thought I would celebrate by sharing with you the findings of a literature review I was required to conduct throughout the semester on the topic of my choice. I found the results quite interesting and got great feedback from not only my lecturer (who I’m told, shares the results with other classes) but with the other students in my class, who are oh-so clever and intimidatingly awesome.
Coconut Water and Hydration
We all know hydration is important. Getting enough water is key because it makes up 45-70% of your total body weight and has functions in cell messaging, the flow of oxygen and nutrients via the blood to the tissues, lubrication of tissues to protect them from friction and keeps skin looking supple, among many, many other functions. Dehydration is a normal part of exercise due to excess heat in the body and normal mechanisms of sweat and exhaled water vapour during exercise means a high loss of water and electrolytes. If these are not replenished, dehydration can lead to nausea, dizziness, loss of cognitive function and fatigue.
Sodium, potassium and chloride are collectively known as electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals the body requires to regulate cell messaging and transport of fluids, nutrients and wastes in and out of your cell membranes, so they are crucial to normal body functioning.
Common ways we replenish hydration status is through sports drinks (carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage) and those sports gels, as well as Hydralyte and Gastrolyte (pharmaceutically prepared rehydration solutions). You may have also heard of young coconut water being a natural replacement for sports drinks as they are a naturally occurring source of electrolytes in solution, without the artificial colours, flavours and sweeteners.
This literature review aimed to examine whether coconut water is an adequate replacement for sports drinks for the rehydration of male athletes aged 18-30 who participate in endurance events. I analysed the only available research (6 clinical trials) that were conducted in very small groups of participants, but these are the results I found:
- Coconut water has 17 times the potassium of sports drinks (eg. 52.66mmol/L compared to 3.75mmol/L)
- Sports drinks have 4 times the sodium of coconut water (eg.19.01mmol/L compared to 5.09mmol/L)
- Coconut water is not an adequate hydration beverage for use after a gut infection (like gastro)
- In all trials, none of the beverage were able to completely hydrate the participants, even though they consumed 120% of the body weight they lost during the dehydrating exercise (we’re talking at least 2 litres!!)
- Of all of the beverages tested, sodium-enriched coconut water (read: coconut water with salt added to it) was the MOST rehydrating of all of the beverages
- Coconut water was also the best at maintaining electrolyte concentrations in blood volume throughout the rehydration testing period.
So what does all this scientific mumbo-jumbo mean exactly? Well, basically, if you want an alternative to the artificial colours, flavours and sweeteners that you get in sports drinks and sports gels but still want to ensure you’re adequately rehydrating yourself, then grab yourself some young coconut water and add some salt to it! Not only will you be avoid the nasties, you’ll get other nutrients, like magnesium, calcium and vitamin C.
I’ll share with you the way I like to drink it because I’m not the biggest fan of the taste myself, but I will admit it’s growing on me!
Grab yourself a glass and chuck in some ice and squeeze over some wedges of lime or lemon (or both!). Add a pinch of salt (Murray River Pink Salt, Sea Salt, Himalayan Rock Salt) and pour over the coconut water. Enjoy it before, during and after exercise for the best results.
Don’t forget, especially now that it’s summer to aim for 2-3 litres of water each day, more if you exercise. And snack on fruit to give your body more of the electrolytes it needs.