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Coconut Water or Sports Drinks?

This question comes up a ton — what’s best, coconut water or sports drinks.  In fact, just the other day, when I was in Cincinnati working with the Bengals, the question came up again.  An offensive lineman was concerned he was taking in too many calories through sports drinks and wanted to know if coconut water was a better option. 

Coconut water has certainly grown in popularity. 

I have two different answers to the question — sports drinks or coconut water: one answer for many of the people we work with, including those in Mohr Results Boot Camp, and one for the 290 lb lineman, who is practicing  for hours in the heat, and will soon be at Training Camp at the end of July, when it’s likely going to be even hotter.

Coconut water is a great alternative to traditionally high calorie, high sugar options for some people.  It is lower in calories than sports drinks.  It’s high in potassium, one of the important electrolytes that is lost in sweat.  The average gym-goer who’s hitting the weights a few times a week, maybe adding in some cardio or intervals, doesn’t really need the extra calories or sodium in sports drinks.

We both actually love it pre workout with a scoop of whey protein.  If it were a more intense, longer workout, though and we didn’t have the time to sit down and have a more substantial meal, we’d likely use a sports drink with that same scoop of whey protein.

As for the Bengals lineman, while coconut water could be part of his fluid regimen, I told him it should not replace sports drinks. While high in potassium, coconut water is naturally low in sodium, which is the primary electrolyte lost in sweat.  It also doesn’t provide the necessary calories to replenish what’s lost during heavy training.

And I encourage people training over 60 minutes, particularly in a hot, humid environment where they’re sweating a good deal, to also use a sports drink during training.

The question then is which brand is best? We personally use, like and trust Vita Coco because it’s 100% pure coconut water that’s not from concentrate.  Many brands out there are from concentrate and offer less than 10% coconut water and are instead loaded with added sugar.  Make sure you read the label and if you’re going to try it, use the purest brand.  Here’s another hint — make sure it’s cold.  It tastes better and is more refreshing.

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3 Responses to Coconut Water or Sports Drinks?

  1. Carole C. July 11, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    What about the lower-calorie sports drinks? Is there any reason they aren’t as good as the higher-calorie ones for electrolyte replacement?

    • Chris and Kara Mohr August 6, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      If you’re exercising for more than 60 minutes, you may need the additional calories if you’re not eating them elsewhere (gels, bars, sandwich, etc)

  2. Nucca Chiropractor August 3, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    This is quite a find, as just recently I was asking a friend of mine about the benefits of coconut water and we wanted to seek scientific findings. What do you recommend as the best pick for a sports drink?

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