Loving the BITE: The Perfect All – Natural Energy Drink

Is Coconut Water truly the perfect, all-natural energy drink?  By some, it’s regarded as the best fluid for hydration and electrolyte replenishment on the bike.  They claim that it’s hydrated athletes naturally, for thousands of years, with 100% all-natural goodness.  Sounds good.  But is it better than modern sports drinks?  Recently, a client asked me what I think about coconut water as a sports drink.  I asked him how much he’s willing to spend each ride.  Joking aside, here’s my answer and a recipe for the perfect sports drink using coconut water as its primary ingredient…

Recipe of the week: Coconut Juice Energy Drink

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. coconut water (from 1 medium fresh coconut or boxed/bottled 100% coconut water)
  • 4 oz. 100% juice (any flavor, I’ve used apple, white grape, and blueberry/pomegranate)
  • 1/12 tsp salt (estimate 33% of a 1/4 tsp)

Instructions:

Mix all ingredients together.  Drink 16-24 oz. per hour on ride.

Nutrition information (per 8 oz.): 56 calories, 13 gm carbs, 168 mg sodium, 306 mg potassium, 11 mg calcium, 15 mg magnesium

Comments: 

If you’ve read my fueling recommendations before, you know that I think there are many ways to fuel and hydrate well.  In fact, many times readers and clients want me to recommend the one best way to fuel a ride, and quite simply, I can’t.  As long as you end up with adequate carbs, calories, electrolytes, and fluid per hour, and avoid any products or ingredients that cause stomach upset for you personally, you should use some personal preferences to make your choice.  I often find athletes trying to make themselves drink or eat something on the bike because their coach or training partner recommended it, only to find that they hate the taste, texture, or stomach feeling they get from it.  They end up dehydrated, nauseous, or bonked because they simply can’t make themselves drink enough consistently.  Don’t fall for this “one best” drink mentality.  Instead, know what you need, and find your preferences for getting it.

In order to determine if coconut water works for a sports drink, let’s start with a cyclist’s fuel goals per hour of riding.

For a cyclist whose goal is to push themselves on a ride, for any intense ride >90 minutes, I recommend: 

16-24 oz. fluid, 200-300 calories, 40-60+ grams carbs, 400-700 mg sodium, 100-300 mg potassium, 80-120 mg calcium, and 40-60 mg magnesium per hour.   Additionally, antioxidants such as vitamin C, and amino acids such as l-glutamine may reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, and promote faster recovery.  For a shorter ride, or one that’s less intense, a cyclist can shoot for half these calories and carbs (but generally, and especially in moderate to high heat or humidity, still needs full amounts of fluids and lytes).  Of course, this doesn’t all need to come from a drink.  Usually, I aim for all the fluid, most of the electrolytes, and about half the calories and carbs from my drink.

So, what’s in Coconut Water or other recommended sports drinks?

Zico Coconut Water (per 8 oz.): 34 calories, 7.4 gm carbs, 91 mg sodium, 325 mg potassium, 15 mg calcium, 20 mg magnesium

1st Endurance (per 1/2 scoop in 8 oz. water): 47 calories, 13 gm carbs, 150 mg sodium, 80 mg potassium, 50 mg calcium, 75 mg magnesium

Skratchlabs (per 1/2 scoop in 8 oz. water): 40 calories, 10 gm carbs, 155 mg sodium, 20 mg potassium, 30 mg calcium, 25.5 mg magnesium

Hammer Heed (per 1/2 scoop in 8 oz. water): 50 calories, 13 gm carbs, 20 mg sodium, 12.5 mg potassium, 25 mg calcium, 13 mg magnesium

Coconut Juice Energy Drink (8 oz.): 56 calories, 13 gm carbs, 168 mg sodium, 306 mg potassium, 11 mg calcium, 15 mg magnesium

Kelli’s Homebrew (fluids + carbs + lytes, 8 oz.): 60 calories, 15 gm carbs, 150 mg sodium, 44 mg potassium   

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