Recovery Nutrition 101

If you’ve been working out for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly heard about recovery drinks and snacks. But why do we need them? And who needs them? And most importantly, what are they?

For most athletes, it’s not hard to see why we need recovery nutrition. After all, if you’ve ever hobbled around the day after a hard workout because your muscles and joints were stiff and sore, you know that you depleted your body of something. And that depletion can really wreck your plans for a PR if you don’t do something about it.

First, replace the fluids you lost during your workout with water. The harder and longer you worked out, the more water you lost in sweat. Drink plenty of water or diluted sports drink after a hard workout, especially if you plan to work out again the next day (or later that same day).

Second, replace the carbs you lost during your workout. During long workouts or high intensity workouts, you can use up almost all of our glycogen stores. These are easy to replace but many athletes don’t do a great job of it, especially if they believe that carbs are bad for them. Drink and/or eat a high carb meal or snack within 30 minutes of completing a hard workout (not necessary after a shorter, low-intensity workouts) and then again in two hours. Try to make most of your post-workout meals high in carbs to refuel your glycogen stores. Your muscles might still be sore, but at least you’ll have energy to burn.

Third, add a little protein to that recovery meal or drink. Research shows that a small amount of protein right after a hard workout helps to repair the inevitable muscle damage that occurs during exercise. The key is to not overdo it; protein will not replace glycogen stores, only carbohydrate can do that. In fact, most sports scientists recommend a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein as the best strategy for maximizing muscle recovery and glycogen replacement.

The good news is that you don’t have to buy expensive bars, shakes, or pre-formulated products to get what you need. Regular food can do the trick. For example:

  • 8-10 oz milk with graham crackers
  • 8 – 10 oz chocolate milk with a few cookies or crackers and fresh fruit
  • Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and cookies
  • Fresh fruit, cheese, crackers and milk (soymilk is fine)
  • 1 cup of cereal with milk and fresh fruit
  • Bagel sandwich with peanut butter and honey
  • Sub sandwich with turkey, ham, or roast beef (and all the veggie fixins)
  • Pankcakes with skim/1% milk, fresh fruit
  • Powerbar with chocolate milk, fresh fruit
  • Pizza and non-alcoholic beer (more on that one later!)

There are lots of real-food options for recovery meals and snacks but the most important thing is to make them higher in carbohydrate, moderate in protein and to have them soon after a hard workout, along with a full glass of water.

Lastly, who needs recovery nutrition?  Anyone who plans to workout hard several days in a row, or anyone who plans on more than one workout per day, e.g., brick workouts for triathletes.  Glycogen stores can be depleted in one hard and/or intense workout so if you expect your body to go hard again later in the day or the next day, you have to replace the glycogen before that second bout of exercise.

Recovery nutrition isn’t rocket science but you have to make time for it and plan ahead. Keep high carb/protein snacks and drinks on hand and ready to go during your training season. Pop a sports bar in your gym bag or purse for those times when you don’t have access to real food. Just remember, a well-nourished athlete is a smart athlete!

Integrating Your Abs With Movement

Last week, we talked about working all of your ab muscles – upper, lower, side, and deep internal. We also want to practice working those muscles effectively during resisted movements; this is part of “functional” strength training.

Here’s a great core strength or warm-up exercise that helps teach you to “fire” (or activate) your lower abs and pelvic muscles, while moving your arms and legs. (Sound a lot like running or riding?)

First, get familiar with how it feels to activate the lower and internal abs (TA).

The Pelvic Tuck:

  1. Stand with hands on hips. Arch your lower back and stick out your bootie.  This position might be good for dancing to funky beats, but it’s not great for triathlon.
  2. Now tighten your glutes and lower abs, and tuck your pelvis under. Keep breathing. Feel your lower back straighten out. Take another breath, but keep those abs tight.
    If your lower back is very curved (like mine – this is called lordosis of the spine), this might feel unnatural  at first – but strengthening your lower abs like this is especially important for you!Halfway between these two positions is “neutral.” This is similar to how it should feel to exhale while running.

The main exercise – The Dead Bug (or as a client more aptly called it, the Flailing Bug):

  1. Lie on your back with arms overhead, and feet hip-width apart. FLEX your feet. “Pack” your shoulders down into their sockets – don’t over-extend the arms.
  2. Tuck your pelvis about halfway, so your lower back is close to the floor. Keep breathing.
  3. SLOWLY raise 1 arm + the opposite leg toward each other, keeping the foot flexed. Keep the lower back close to the floor. Slowness is key – that’s what makes this one challenging, and trains the right muscles!

Feel the abs and hip flexors working together. If this feels very hard, raise just your (bent) knee instead of your whole leg.

Switch sides. Do 6-8 reps on each side.

It’s Just A Little Ding On The Head

Concussion.  In our sport?  It’s just a little ding on the head.   That little ‘ding’ might be a whole lot more.  We normally associate concussions with sports that have a little more violence like hockey or football.  But research demonstrates that there doesn’t necessarily need to be a severe crashing of the head, to be concussed.

‘A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works. Concussions can also occur from a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth.’  as defined by the CDC, or Centers for Disease Control.  

The best way to think of this, is your brain is housed in your skull, surrounded by fluid.  The fluid is supports and reduces the movement of the brain, so the brain doesn’t bang into the skull.  And yet, if the motion or trauma to the head is severe enough, to impede normal function, a concussion has occurred.  The bump could be as simple as misjudging the distance to the wall while swimming backstroke, or as complicated as banging your head after falling from your bike, or tripping during a run.

So, how do you determine if you or your athletes, or your training partners have a concussions?  Did she bang her head?  Did she incur a jarring of her head, like a whip-lash effect?

  • Ascertain what happened.
  • Is it safe to move the participant?
  •  Determine ABCs– airway, breathing and circulation.
  • What is the cervical spine status?
  • Do you need emergency transport?
  •  If the person is concious, look for signs of brain injury.
  • Ask the participant questions about orientation, like the time, the date, where she is, what she is doing.
  • Ask for symptoms:  how severe is your headache on a scale of one to ten.  (An athlete will deny a headache or other pain).  The severity of the symptoms will correlate to the recovery.

Signs of a concussion include:

  • Possible loss of consiousness
  • Loss of Balance
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • One or both eyes dilated
  • Inappropriate answers to question:  for example: what day is it?   Answer:  february.

Symptoms include:

  • Headache  — ask how bad is your headache?
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Amnesia
  • Nausea
  • Intolerance to bright light and/or loud noises
  • Ringing in ears
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Poor attention

An athlete that has suffered from a concussion needs time for the brain to heal.  Normal activities may seem labored.  Cognitive exercises may be challenging, or require a great deal of focus that the injured does not have.  Part of the healing process may require removal not only from athletic practice, but also academic or other work.  This can be a time period of seven days to three or more months, depending on the severity.  This should be determined with the direction of a physician.

Helmets have shown to be beneficial in minimizing some concussions.  The helmet absorbs and disperses the shock wave to the head.  The result may influence the force that impacts the brain.  In cycling, we must ALWAYS wear a helmet.  This is not only to prevent a concussion but to also protect our skull in a fall.

All injuries may not be preventable, but hopefully by increasing our awareness of the dangers associated with our sport(s), we can minimize these injuries.  A bump to the head cannot always be prevented.  I trust this will help us recognize some of the signs and symptoms that might have been previously dismissed.

As always, be careful out there.

A Beer A Day Keeps The Doctor Away?

Quite possibly so!  Lest you think you are dreaming (go ahead, pinch yourself), there really are significant health bennies to having a cold one after a hard workout.

According to new research, both regular and non-alcoholic beer (NA) have natural chemicals in them called “polyphenols”: substances that help reduce inflammation and the risk for an upper respiratory tract illness (URTI).

In fact, some 2000 organic compounds have been identified in beer, including 50 polyphenolic compounds from barley and hops. A liter of beer contains between 366 and 875 mg of polyphenols, making it a significant contributor to the average American’s phenolic intake. To top it off, polyphenols from beer are rapidly absorbed and have been shown to increase plasma antioxidant capacity in humans.

Surprisingly, NA beer is just as good for you. A recent study showed that NA beer consumed for 3 weeks prior to and 2 weeks after a marathon significantly reduced post-race inflammation and URTI incidence.

Reducing inflammation is nothing to sneeze at. Coronary artery disease, sudden cardiac death, cancer, and diabetes are all inflammation-associated diseases so anything that helps to reduce inflammation is a good thing.

Should you throw away your protein drinks and start guzzling beer after every hard workout?  Of course not. Aside from the polyphenols, beer has very little nutritional value and a lot of calories. You can easily gain excess body fat by over-indulging in beer every day, not to mention the “cognitive impairment” it may cause.

There are other ways to get polyphenols in your diet. For example, fruits and vegetables are “polyphenol powerhouses” that have strong anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-pathogenic properties. You also get ample amounts of fiber, vitamins, and minerals from fruits and veggies – none of which are found in beer.

Bottom line?  Eat plenty of fruits and veggies on a regular basis to keep your immune system strong and healthy. However, enjoying a brewski now and then might just keep that doctor away for even longer!

How to Make the Time for Exercise When You’re Too Busy

People who claim to not have time for exercise are either not serious about their physical fitness or they simply don’t have the commitment to get in shape. To begin with, you don’t need a humongous amount of time to exercise. Twenty minutes daily is sufficient to get your heart rate up by engaging in high-intensity interval training and there are several of such exercises that you can do right from the comfort of your home.

If you can’t get just twenty minutes every day to work on your physical health, then you should think about the detrimental consequences of having a sedentary life, including not just being inconvenienced in a number of ways, but also predisposing yourself to a myriad of lifestyle diseases, which will cost a lot of time and money to maintain.

If you are wondering how you can find time in to include exercise in your daily schedule, then here are some very vital tips for you-:

  • You Must Do Away with the Excuses

The first step towards finding time to exercise is to do away with the excuse that you don’t have time to exercise. Getting physically active is dynamic in all aspects and you don’t need to have all the day to yourself or attend a well-equipped gym to be physically fit. There are a lot of exercises you can follow to have very effective home workouts, but you must start by discarding the notion that you are too busy and you don’t have time to exercise.

  • Wake Up Early

Sleep is important, but so is exercising and staying physically fit. The best time to work out is always in the morning and by just adjusting your wake up time to thirty minutes or one hour before your usual wake up time, you will have ample time to get your heart rate up in the morning and have blood flowing to all parts of your body. Whether you decide to hit the gym that morning or you decide to work out at home, getting up a little bit earlier will ensure you have some time to get physically active.

  • Cut Down on the Media

Millions of people around the world waste a lot of time on social media, jumping from one platform to another, only to complain later on that they don’t have time to exercise. If you could compute the amount of time wasted on the media, so many people would find more than enough time to exercise and also to engage in other activities.

Instead of wasting all that time in media, restrict your social media time to a certain time of the day, after which you will not check your accounts again until after you have exercised. This will be an effective way to create more time which you can then expend to exercising and other things.

  • Have a Plan

Finding time to exercise means creating time to exercise and this calls for an elaborate plan on how you will fit the workout into your daily schedule. Begin by evaluating your overall daily schedule and identify the potential time wasters or those periods during the day when you are not very busy.

Find out how much time you can spare and what times of the day so that you can make the necessary adjustments to include exercises in your daily routine. If you do this diligently, you will be surprised at just how much time you have been wasting, and which you could turn into active exercise sessions.

  • Perform Workout at Home

Most people claim that they don’t have time to exercise simply because they can’t get the time or the money to acquire a gym membership. But it should be abundantly clear to you that you don’t need a fully equipped gym to be exercising on a daily basis. The most important is to increase your activity rate, and luckily enough, there are a thousands of home workouts and home gym equipment available that you can use to get you to the fitness level you desire.

For increasing physical activity rate and overall body workout, nothing can be better than a treadmill and it will cost you even cheaper as compared to most yearly gym memberships. You can choose any among the best buy treadmills to perform cardio workouts at home. After purchasing the treadmill, all you need to do is to change your clothes, play your favorite workout music and jump on it to get started. Believe me, it’s better than sitting on the couch.

If you don’t have the required money or due to some other reasons can’t opt for a treadmill, don’t worry as there are many workouts available online that don’t require any equipment other than you will to work out and your body weight and some require very small spaces, hence, you also don’t need a large room to work out. All you need to do is learn about these home workouts.

  • Increase Your Level of Activity

Sometimes you don’t have to change into your sweatpants and hit the road running for you to feel that you are doing some meaningful exercise. You can still tap into the full benefits of exercises by increasing your level of activity through the normal things you do on a daily basis. Some of the ways you could do this include-:

  • Taking your dog for a walk every day for at least one hour.
  • Walking or jogging to work if it is a manageable distance, instead of using a car or the metro every day.
  • Using the staircases instead of the elevators or lift when going to upper floors.
  • Doing small space workouts in the office during breaks such as lunch break or tea break.
  • Going to the mall and wandering through the shops until you have covered almost all of them.

 

  • Have the Commitment

If you think that it is easier and more fun to exercise now compared to when things get out of hand and you are either overweight, obese or struggling with certain lifestyle conditions you could have easily avoided by exercising for just a few minutes every day, then you will get the motivation you need to get physically active.

You must make a conscious decision to commit to your fitness, since without the commitment, even if you were to get the best plan by the most reputable fitness guru in the globe, it will be of no use to you. Be sure to start slowly, then ramp up as you start to see the gains and the benefits of exercising. You can start by working out two or three days a week, but you have to maintain the consistency.

In conclusion, the lack of time should never be a reason for anyone not to exercise. It is a lame excuse given by those who are not committed to their physical fitness. But the good news is that if you know what to do, then you will always create time for exercise in your life. Again, if you get the full realization of the effects of not exercising, you will find the motivation you need to fit exercise into your daily life. The tips given above should get you going and you should never again claim that you have no time for exercise. Work out now and avoid the detrimental effects of sedentary lifestyles that might catch up with you later in life.

Weighty Tips During The Off-Season

Want to gain 10 lbs of extra body fat over the next few months?  Of course you don’t, but most people do anyway. From November to January, many people gain 10 lbs or more and triathletes are not immune to this lovely phenomenon.

Why? It’s simple. During the racing season, multi-sport athletes (or some single-sport athletes) can burn upwards of 3000 – 4000 calories per day, depending on age, gender, intensity of training, etc.  For most of us, that season is usually from January through October (give or take a few months).

Then boom, we stop training. We don’t become total sloths but we’re in “recovery mode” and we don’t want to do brick workouts or run 10 miles a day, thank you very much.

To top it off, we are told over and over again (by those pesky sports dietitians!) to eat more carbs during the racing/training season, which equals more calories, which equals more energy. What happens to those carbs if we aren’t training and racing?  You know the answer to that question, perhaps all too well.

Add to the situation two major holidays that basically center around food (really good food): Thanksgiving and Hanukah or Christmas. Not to mention the New Year’s Eve parties with even more really-good-food and calorie-filled beverages.

The bottom-line: weight gain is easy during the off-season but it doesn’t have to be inevitable. Here are six tips to keep you from going up a size or two during the off-season: 

1. Practice mindful-eating. This means paying attention to hunger and satiety cues and heeding them as much as possible. Its ok to indulge in cookies and egg nog a few times but listen to your body and stop when you feel comfortably full (not stuffed). Also, do not eat in front of the TV or computer; its hard to pay attention to fullness cues when you’re glued to a screen.

2. Never go to a holiday party hungry. That’s a recipe for disaster. The food is too tempting and it’s hard to stop eating good food that’s right in front of you when you’re ravenous. Have a small satisfying meal before going to a party to take the edge of your hunger.

3. Put the sport drinks, bars, gels, and gu’s away. Chances are you’re tired of them anyway. But right now you don’t need them and they’re just unnecessary calories (unless you are doing some long runs in which case a few gels are a good idea).

4. Do not skip meals.This only leads to overeating later on (or the next day) and most of the food that is around you during this time is usually high-fat, high-sugar food.

5. Allow yourself your favorite foods but balance them with less calorie-dense foods and physical activity. There’s no way I’m going to pass up mashed potatoes and gravy and pecan pie on Thanksgiving. They’re just too yummy and they’re part of the celebration. But I balance this high-calorie meal by having a smaller meal later on and going for a walk with my family in the evening.

6. Don’t try to lose weight during this time, just focus on staying at the same weight or clothing size.  Now is notthe time to try that new diet you’ve been hearing about (diets don’t work anyway but that’s another story). Rather, enjoy this time of rest and renewal; it’s a great time to slow down and reflect on the year behind you. The entire month of December can be a time to rest and rejuvenate. Eat good food but don’t over-indulge. Move your body in comfortable, relaxing ways. Come January, you’ll be ready to rock-n-roll!

Bike Prep For Race Day

This past weekend I rode the San Diego International Triathlon course to better prepare myself for race day. I have done this race many times before, but I always ride the course before each race. Here is one good reason why. I was descending on the downhill portion of the course when I encountered a new and very significant pothole that nearly took me out. It was less visible because the shadows on the road. Note: I was on the course at the same time of day I will be during the race. The race officials may mark this particular pothole and the three others I came upon, but we should never depend on it.

Below is a checklist that may better prepare you for the bike portion of your race.

#1) Check your bike at least two days before the race, so if there is any problems, you can take it to your local bike shop. You want to pay special attention to your breaks, break pads and tires. I like to check all the bolts to make sure they are tight and secure. Check the cables and housing and make sure they are running smooth. Check your chain to make sure you don’t have any bad links. If your not comfortable performing a bike check on your own, bring it in to your local bike shop, and have them do a race tune up. If you bought your bike from a bike shop, they may have included a free lifetime tune up.  I always wash my bike and lube my chain before the race.

#2) Read the bike rules to refresh your memory. Check to see if the officials are enforcing certain regulations specific to the race, such as no passing zones.

#3) Ride the course. It is very important to ride the entire course to check for bumps or holes in the road.  It also helps you see the level of difficulty of the course. Take note of the start of the bike course. Do you climb out of transition to start the bike portion, or do you have a sharp turn right off the bat? Take note because you will want to put your bike in the appropriate gear before the race. As you come out of T1, you won’t have to mess with the gears or worse, fall on the hill.  During the training ride, take note of the gear your in at each portion, especially the hills. Time the climbs, or if you have a computer, log the distance and grade of the climb if you have those features. I like to count my revolutions up a hill to get an idea of how long it is, when I can start to push the climb or get out of the saddle. I like to find landmarks along the climb to help determine when I should be at a moderate to hard effort and when I can attack and hit the crest without too much fatigue.  You may find your own system that works best for you. Keep in mind, the better you know the course, the better your performance and the more fun you will have.

#4) Never do anything new on race day. We here that all the time, right? Practicing skills before a race and executing them the best you can on race day is key to a successful and enjoyable day.

Dialing In Your Nutrition

One of my clients is training for Ironman Arizona and recently he said “as soon as I get my nutrition dialed in, I’m ready to go”.

When I asked him what “dialed in” meant to him, he stuttered and said “well, its where you tell me what to eat, isn’t it?”

Well, sort of.

I can tell anyone what to eat – meal by meal – but obviously its better in the long run to acquire the knowledge necessary to make healthy food choices yourself. And essentially, this is what I love to do: help people learn enough about nutrition so that they have the confidence to plan their own meals and snacks for optimal health and performance.

Since March is National Nutrition Month, here are five nutrition tips to jumpstart your training plan.

1Eat regular meals and snacks. Do NOT skip meals or just munch all day long on whatever is handy. Its too easy to over or undereat this way, which is what most female athletes do, and then they wonder why their race times are not improving. Ideally, you should eat 5 – 6 times a day and focus on nutrient-dense foods (more on that below).

2. Eat a light meal or snack before and after working out.  Of course you can workout on an empty stomach – all of us do once in awhile – but chances are your workout will be mediocre in quality. Maximize that precious training time by having plenty of energy on hand to go the distance (for tips on recovery snacks and meals, see http://www.gotribalnow.com/expert/recovery-nutrition-101).

3Focus on high quality carbs and protein.  A Big Mac with fries and a large Pepsi is a high protein/carb meal but no one in their right mind would say this is a high quality meal. That’s because the protein comes from low-grade, high fat ground beef and cheese, and the carbs come from white bread and sugar-filled Pepsi. A plateful of brown rice, veggies, lean beef (or tofu), and a glass of low-fat milk is also high in protein and carbs but contains a lot more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than the Mickey D meal.

Remember that each meal should have 2-4 oz of lean protein, 3 – 4 servings of grains and vegetables. Top it off with cold milk (regular or soy) and you’ve got yourself a turbo-charging good meal.

4. Avoid processed foods – Yes, this is a no-brainer but still worth mentioning. Packaged cookies, crackers, chips, donuts, frozen meals and the like are fine once in awhile but shouldn’t be a staple of your daily eating plan.

5. Every meal or snack should have at least one fruit or veggie.  This is the one thing most Americans (and many athletes) don’t do enough of, which is ironic considering its also the one thing that people mention when asked what makes up a healthy diet. If you want to get serious about health and wellness, then you better get real familiar with the produce department and all it has to offer. Not only will fruits and veggies give you more energy, they’re likely to keep you from getting sick by supplying lots of natural vitamin C, A, potassium, and other good stuff to make you a lean, mean, training machine.

Start dialing in your nutrition now and you’ll be one step ahead to achieving your training and racing goals.

Make Your Own Sport Drink (And Save A Ton Of Money)

Tired of shelling out $1.00+ per bottle of your favorite sport drink?  Although that may not seem like much, it adds up quickly.  You can easily spend $10.00 a week on something you can easily make with household ingredients.

Not that you should never buy a commercial sport drink; there are times when grabbing a bottle of Gatorade at a convenience store is, well, convenient.  And it’s a good idea to practice long runs and rides with whatever your A race will be providing at aid stations.

But if you’re on a limited budget and you’re training for an event that is likely to take you longer than an hour to finish, you might want to consider making your own sport drink.

First, what does a good sport drink have in it?  There are three essential ingredients in a well-made sport drink for consumption during a long run or ride: water, carbohydrate, and sodium. No, you don’t need potassium, magnesium, and a bunch of vitamins and minerals (you can get those after your long run or ride). Just H20, carbs, and salt will do.

The key is to make your drink so that the carbohydrate concentration is between 6% and 8%.  If it’s higher than that, you run the risk of GI distress and frequent trips to the port-a-potty. If it’s lower than that, you might as well drink water.

And why not just drink water, you ask?  Water is the fluid of choice for replacing the fluid you lose in sweat but there are some advantages to having a few carbs and a smidgeon of sodium in each sip you take, especially on a hot day.

The carbs help to delay the depletion of glycogen in your muscles and the salt replaces the sodium you are losing in all that sweat your body is producing. Sodium also makes you thirstier, which makes you drink more, which makes you take in more fluid, which prevents dehydration. Sodium also helps prevent hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels) which can result from drinking too much water.

Knowing this, you can find all these ingredients in your own kitchen. For carbs, you can use plain old sugar or honey (remember, the amount is small and your muscles will take it up quickly so no need to worry about causing your blood sugar to go out of whack).

Here are two recipes that are approximately 6% carbohydrate concentration.  Keep in mind they will taste very “dilute” because they are low in sugar and salt. You can add other flavorings or a few drops of pomegranate juice to add some color.

4 cups water

2 Tb lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon of salt

5 Tb sugar

OR

4 cups of water

2 Tb of lemon juice

1/8 teas of salt

4 Tb honey

Mix together in a BPA-free water bottle and wa-la, you’ve got an inexpensive sport drink!

Is Coconut Water A Good Sports Drink?

One of the best parts of my job as a sports dietitian is sifting through new products for endurance athletes and evaluating their claims as facts or fiction. Since most products fall into the “bogus” category, imagine my delight to see coconut water touted as “an all-natural, super-hydrating, nutrient-packed, potassium-stacked, mega-electrolyte” sports drink.

Why?  Because most of that statement is true. Coconut water, which is the clear liquid that sloshes around inside a coconut, really is high in potassium. One cup provides about 500 mg of potassium along with reasonable amounts of sodium and magnesium, and smaller amounts of phosphorous an vitamin C. Natural sugars give it a mildly sweet taste and there’s no fat or cholesterol.

It’s no wonder that numerous beverage companies now sell coconut water in bottles and cans, touting it as a “natural” sports drink.

But like many other nutrition products, what starts off as a great idea, ends up as another fad that quickly fades into oblivion before you know it.

One of the problems with bottled or canned coconut water is that they don’t always contain what they say they contain. According to a recent product review by ConsumerLab.com, an independent testing company, two out of the three products they tested had significantly less sodium than what their labels claimed they had.

This is important because the primary electrolyte we lose in our sweat is sodium; we lose far more sodium than potassium when we sweat and it needs to be replaced in long endurance events.

One package of O.N.E. Coconut Water  had only 11 mg of sodium, much less than the 60 mg stated on the label and a whole lot less than the recommended 240 mg per serving it would need to be called a good sport drink.

Another problem with coconut water is that it produces a mild laxative effect in some users, most likely due to it’s high magnesium content. Obviously this is not what you want in the middle of a long training bout or race!

Lastly, coconut water is expensive. A 414 mL bottle of Zico Natural Cocounut Water is $2.50, a pricey way to get the same nutrients you’d get in a glass of orange juice.

Bottom line?  Coconut water is a much healthier alternative to soda pop or sweetened fruit drinks but it is not an effective sports drink because of the low sodium and higher magnesium content. In this case, it’s better to make your own sports drink or stick to the preformulated, “tried and true” products, like Gatorade or Powerade (for events longer than 90 mins) and of course, plain old water for shorter events. Drink up!