Aggressive marketing and buff stars like Madonna have made coconut popular recent years; hooking a health-conscious crowd with claims of being nature’s sports drink. But according to the Los Angeles Times, coconut water isn’t all it’s cracked up to be — it doesn’t provide post-workout protein, it doesn’t contain enough carbs for athletes involved in “intensive training,” and while it contains tons of potassium, it doesn’t contain much salt. Oh, and according to the director of sports nutrition at UC Davis, “there’s nothing magical about coconut water.” We can’t say whether coconut water is really worth your money, but we think the Times could stand to ease up on the drink: For the average person, we still think it’s a better post-workout choice than sports drinks and energy bars.
Becci Twombley, director of sports nutrition at UCLA, told the Times that after a hard workout, adults should get 15 to 17 grams of protein (coconut water only contains two grams per eight-ounce serving). Liz Applegate, the director of sports nutrition at UC Davis, told them that, because it’s lower in sodium and carbohydrates than commercial sports drinks, it’s not for athletes engaged in intensive training. But even she admitted that it’s fine for the “the typical working-out person.”
Despite our loftiest dreams, we are, indeed, the “typical working-out person.” We’ll keep their advice in mind if we ever decide to run a marathon, but we’ll kindly disregard it when it comes to re-hydrating after our “typical” workouts. We like the fact that coconut water delivers nutrients and calories from a natural source, and while it may not contain enough sugars for professional athletes, it contains plenty for those of us with more average ambitions. As for the missing protein, we’re not really clear on why this is bad: Last time we checked, Gatorade wasn’t pumped with anything but carbs, either.
If you’re training hard, like the athletes at UCLA or UC Davis, then there’s nothing wrong with chugging Gatorade or refueling with a Power Bar, but for most of us, sports-specific drinks and food are full of unnecessary calories. They’re typically just as processed as candy and soda, which isn’t all bad if you’re recovering from a serious depletion of calories and nutrients after a tough workout, but most of us aren’t, and don’t need the extra serving of processed sugars and chemicals.
Should you definitely buy the drink? Not necessarily; within our office, there’s a sharp divide between those who love and hate the taste of coconut water. And of course, not every brand is equal, either: Some do contain additives, and others are preserved using chemicals that don’t live up to the drink’s all-natural claims. But unless you’re trying out for the football team, there’s nothing wrong with sipping some coconut water after a workout.