Coconut Water: Nature's Sports Drink

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After decades of sports dominance Gatorade, the neon-tinted, fruit-flavoured replenisher could be facing some serious competition.

For beneath the thick husk and near-impenetrable shell of the young or green coconut, lies a combination of water, sugar and salt that is similar to some sports drinks, is packed with electrolytes and has as much potassium as a banana.

Bryan Smith, Toronto-area manager for the Running Room, said he knows runners who use coconut water in place of electrolyte drinks including Gatorade and e Load.

“Coconut water is a great natural source of sugars, carbohydrates, water, sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium as well as copious amounts of vitamin C, which are all ingredients runners look for in their sports drinks,” Smith said in an email.

“The benefit here, though, is that it is naturally occurring in coconut water and calories are pretty low.”

The sweet, transluscent liquid is getting some celebrity attention.

In January, the New York Post reported that Madonna invested $1.5 million in fast-rising U.S. coconut water company Vita Coco. As well, Madonna’s manager Guy Oseary, actor Demi Moore, Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis, and Matthew McConaughey have also put their money into the product. The estimated total of the pooled cash is about $10 million (U.S.), the Post reported.

And it’s not so much the taste of coconut water but the nutritional content that is attracting attention.

Roughly 100 grams of water from a young coconut carries 250 milligrams of potassium, according to the online science journal Molecules.

A large, 23-centimetre-long banana has about 600 milligrams.

Coconut water is also full of inorganic ions, or electrolytes, that are vital to homeostasis – the body’s ability to regulate and maintain organ function. On top of potassium, a 100-gram serving of coconut water has 25 milligrams of magnesium and 105 milligrams of sodium, about 2.6 grams of sugar and a scant 19 calories, the journal says. Coconut water also has 24 milligrams of calcium and trace elements of several B vitamins.

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