Some friends and I went on a weekend fishing trip recently that was not going to be incredibly taxing physically, but was going to be filled with long days on our feet, in the sun, at altitude. Shopping for groceries on the way one of my close friends stocked the cart with plenty of coconut water, informing me that it is “super” hydrating. With human physiology and hydration being technical sciences “super” hydrating struck me as an odd term. Needless to say I decided to look into the hydrating capabilities of this “super” trendy product.
Below are the links to two items. One is a clinical research study by Kalman et al. that compared the hydrating effects of pure coconut water, coconut water from concentrate, traditional electrolyte drink (Gatorade or powerade as an example) and straight water. In the study, the drinks were given to subjects who exercised for 60 minutes. The second link is to a New York Times blog post that looked into the same topic should you prefer to read an article instead of clinical research.
Kalman et al. (2012) found that all the beverages used in their study were equally effective at hydrating the subjects post-exercise. There are a few key points to take from this study relative to hydration:
1. Relative to coconut water, its effects may be overhyped and overblown.
2. With all the products used yielding equal hydrating effects, your best bet and best friend is still good old fashioned water before, during and after exercise.
3. Unless you are involved in very long duration activities or are in extreme conditions that require ingestion of eletrolytes and calories during the activity, most of us do not need to consider anything beyond water.
4. For those of us who are perpetually trying to get a little leaner, lose a couple pounds and generally improve our body composition, ingesting unnecessary calories is not beneficial to that goal. One of the most simple calorie control strategies trainers have espoused for decades is to avoid ingesting liquid calories.
5. And one final note… if something in a scientific arena is described as “super…”, start asking questions and looking for research immediately!