I would like my readers to understand the importance of fluid balance after reading this article and the benefits of coconut water. In the past few years, many commercially available vitamin waters, coconut waters, and other available sports drinks exploded worldwide. The importance of when to utilize these commercially available drinks and what to look for in coconut waters nutrition and electrolytes will be explained in this article.
Health benefits of Water and Electrolytes
In addition to fluid loss during exercise, athletes lose electrolytes as they sweat. The electrolyte in the highest concentration in sweat is sodium, but sweat also contains potassium and chloride as well as iron, calcium, and magnesium. Although electrolyte losses are not of concern during short-duration exercise and light sweating, sodium losses can be significant during exercise that lasts 2 hours or more and results in heavy sweating. During exercise lasting less than 2 hours, water is usually sufficient as a fluid replacement. However, as exercise extends over 2 hours, replacing sodium along with fluid becomes a priority.
Sports drinks differ in their composition and concentration and it is important to tailor your specific sports drink to your specific nutritional needs. Examples, such as Gatorade, vitamin water, and coconut water’s nutrition differ in carbohydrates and electrolytes amounts and maybe tolerated by some and some not at all. Lets look at examples of sweat rate protocols and strategies the sports dietitian at H2O Nutrition developed to enhance fluid balance for her athletes. For example, Sodium content of sweat averages 35 mEq/L and ranges from 10 mEq/L to 70 mEq/L (Sawka 2007). Athletes engaged in prolonged moderate-intensity to high-intensity exercise in hot environments may experience sweat rates of 1 L to 2 L or more per hour. In these situations, athletes are advised to replace electrolytes, especially sodium, by consuming sports drinks containing carbohydrate, sodium (0.5 g/L to 0.7 g/L), and potassium (0.8 g/L to 2.0 g/L) during exercise. Athletes who compete in prolonged endurance events, such as marathons or long triathlons, may experience large fluid and sodium losses. Low blood sodium levels put athletes at increased risk for hyponatremia and having the right hydration plan is critical.
Benefits of Coconut Water
With such a variety of coconut waters, sports drinks, and vitamin water choices available, comes challenges to choose the right sports drink- and for many, making the right choice becomes imperative to meeting the right nutritional and hydration needs. Lets look at Coconut water and how it is becoming increasingly available in supermarkets and fitness centers worldwide. Because it contains electrolytes and minerals, coconut water is often marketed as a sports drink. Once again, let me reiterate understanding the differences in your sports drinks and your nutritional needs is essential for you to achieve optimal performance. I needed to emphasize that once again as I continue onto coconut water. One cup of coconut water has 46 calories and is a good source of fiber, potassium, magnesium and vitamin C. It also contains 252 milligrams of sodium and 9 grams of carbohydrate per cup. Compare this to a popular sports drink that provides 110 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrate and 50 calories per cup.
Overall, dietitians and athletes should keep in mind that tolerance and commercially available sports drinks like Gatorade, vitamin waters, coconut waters, is likely to vary considerable among athletes. Differences in compliance of consuming the drink, flavor preferences, sweat rates, sports types, and gastrointestinal (GI) sensitivities all impact the body’s ability to process and thus tolerate the coconut water or Gatorades. There is no perfect product, because what works for one athlete may not work at all for another. Because the sports drinks differ in their composition and concentration, sports dietitians recommend testing products during training to assess tolerance and fluid balance. Hence, athletes need to find their ideal products and train their gut and body through an H2O nutrition practice.