Coconut water: Fitness drink miracle or libation for the gullible?


English: Ivory Coastian coconut. Suomi: Norsun...

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I’ve just heard about the latest health and fitness  craze, and I have to say, I’m mystified. It’s coconut water. Yes, the milky white stuff that sloshes around inside a coconut, which some people think is the latest must-have “exercise water.”

But first, let me get upon my soapbox and announce, that almost no one ever needs special drinks before, during  or after exercise. Well, sure, I’ll admit that there are a select few:  Olympians and other élite athletes who train at an extreme level; exerciser who work out in extremely hot, dry climates – I’m thinking Death Valley here; and long distance runners perhaps. But let’s face it – the average exerciser who works out in a gym or in normal temperatures for an hour or so, need not replenish their fluid stores with anything but plain old water. No need for Gatorade or other so-called “sports drinks.” For the average person, special exercise drinks are just a waste of money, and may undo some of the beneficial effects of exercise, by needlessly adding calories that one does not need, and may in fact have been exercising in order to work off.

So when I heard about coconut water being the latest fitness drink, I thought “Really?” No matter how much one likes coconuts, is the milky liquid sloshing around inside so refreshing, so tasty, so healthy, so beneficial that someone would actually pay money to purchase and consume said water? And who thought of bottling coconut water anyway? Picture some coconut processing plant in a tropical locale. Local harvesters bring in truck loads of this hard, football-shaped fruit, where it is hacked open either by strong workers with machetes, or by mechanized methods. The disgusting white innards are scooped out, dried or toasted and sent for processing into coconut products – flaky white shredded coconut,  coconut oil, or toasted coconut. One day, the workers in the coconut plant noticed the milky white liquid running all over the floor, from the hacked-open coconuts and said “Hey, I bet if we bottle this stuff, call it ‘natural’ and ‘organic’, Americans would buy it and drink it.” And voila’ coconut water was born.

Sure it’s “natural,” but so is arsenic. “Natural” does not necessarily equal “good for you.” There is nothing especially magical or beneficial about the liquid from the inside of a coconut. Yet, Americans, and in particular, health-conscious, tree-hugging, Yoga-loving Americans are buying it in droves, tucking it into gym bags and rolled-up Yoga mats.

So now, I just need someone to explain to me why.

© Huffygirl 2012

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30 thoughts on “Coconut water: Fitness drink miracle or libation for the gullible?

    • I’m not a fan of the taste or smell of coconut, so I’m guessing I wouldnt like it, though I certainly like the idea of being somewhere warm enough to grow coconuts;-)

  1. Hate to admit it, but we love the stuff, esp after a bike ride. Will check out the links- but we find it refreshing. We each carry a box in our jersey pocket. Better than gatorade for sure.

    • Interesting. I guess if you told me it would make me a faster and better biker, maybe I would try it. But I detest coconut, so it’s unlikely that I would ever give it a try.

    • Perhaps someone who actually drinks this could shed more light on it, but my understanding is that coconut water is the liquid sloshing around freely inside the fresh coconut, while cococut milk is made by pressing the coconut innards (the white stuff) and squeezing out the liquid. So coconut milk would include coconut oil, and therefore have calories from fat.

  2. You guys should go to the blog of a friend of mine, Kristin Konvolinka. She is a microbiologist by profession and an extremely knowledge person about nutrition and stuff, calls herself a food warrior.

    I didn’t know anything about coconut water and exercise, but I do know that a growing number of nutritionists, including Kristin and another gal named Isabel de los Rios of the Beyond Diet blog fame, are concerned about the overtreatment of drinks, including milk. I hear that coconut stuff (not sure if it’s milk or water) is more healthy for drinking, while coconut oil is very beneficial for cooking, and is one of the cooking oils of choice along with virgin olive oil.

    I’m not up on all the terms, so maybe you should check Kristin out at http://www.konvowellness.com/. She has another site too, but I can’t seem to find it right now. If I do, I’ll post it.

    • Thanks Sandra. It is interesting to hear you say that coconut oil is on par with olive oil, since olive oil is monosaturated and coconut oil is saturated. But since reading your comment I’ve dug around the internet a little bit, and see other advocates of coconut oil. I think I’ll stick to my olive oil, but from a nutritional standpoint, perhaps the jury is still out on the benefits of coconut products. However, from a humor standpoint, I felt that coconut water just begged to be mocked, er satirized.

  3. I recently purchased Coconut milk which is like skim milk. I bought it because I cannot drink regular milk…it does stuff to my stomach. But I wanted to be able to eat some Kashi cereal and I sure don’t want to have it with water. It has a mild taste of coconut…which I like by the way.
    Anyway, that was used up and I wanted to get some more, but it was not at the 2 nearby grocery stores so I got some Almond Milk to try. Just tried it today. It is good, but a much thicker consistency than the coconut milk.
    Neither gave me any tummy troubles.

  4. I never buy them, but Coconut water and sports drinks sound like a waste of money. Why consume calories that you don’t need when you’re exercising to lose weight?
    I’m curious though. Is it still advisable to give children with the flu Gatorade (or other sports drinks), if they can keep it down? It’s been years since my youngest daughter had the flu, but my grandson is two years old now and more susceptible to getting the flu via contact with other children.
    You know, sometimes there is just too much conflicting information on the Web. It’s too easy to search and get an incorrect answer, or a Website that’s a storefront for a questionable product.

    • I think in general, Gatorade and other sports drinks are good for people who have been ill with vomiting, or just ill and not eating/drinking. I don’t know if this applies to young children though. I remember giving my kids Pedialyte when they were ill, but that was before Gatorade was widely available. I also vaguely remember the pediatrician talking about diluting Gatorade…I’ll leave that advice to the pediatricians to give. But in general, plain water is enough fluid replacement for ordinary exercise. There is a lot of conflicting information on the web, I agree. For true medical advice on the web, I think it’s best to go with reliable sites like Mayo Clinic, NIH and CDC.

      • Thank you for replying. The pediatrician told me that it was ok to give our daughter Gatorade when she had the flu. But, that was 18 years ago. (Gatorade was less expesive and more readily available than Pedialyte.) I’ll check with the reliable Websites that you mentioned. Thank you again.

  5. Aunt Huffy, as someone with a milk allergy, you might actually want to jump on board the coconut wagon! (The ridiculousness of coconut water nothwithstanding…) Our milk-allergic godson eats coconut milk yogurt; and coconut milk ice “cream.” I’m an ice cream snob, and having tasted soy, rice, and the coconut ice “cream,” I’d take the coconut stuff any day as a better substitute. Very creamy, and esp in the chocolate flavor, not too coconutty.

    • Very tempting Judy. However, I have quite a coconut aversion. If there is even a hint of coconut scent, I can’t bring myself to eat it. I would have to see what the coconut ice cream smells and tastes like.

  6. Coconut water/coconut milk, however you term them are popular in India. Especially during the summer, where they are sold by the bunches. I’ve never taken to them, but I hear they are good for the body since they have a cooling effect. So, in tropical countries, I can certainly see why it is desired. I’m sure it also has minerals and other stuff. However, as you said, I don’t see the point of bottling it up and carrying it in temperate climates, and I am a yoga teacher myself. 🙂

    • It is nice to hear the perspective from India. I’ve never been to a tropical climate, so I might have a different impression of it if I did. Thanks for offering some perspective.

  7. I like coconut, but I don’t remember if I ever tried the water. It doen’t look yummy. You’re right, things aren’t better just because they’re natural. I don’t know why people think that.

  8. Good luck getting your answer Huffygirl. I am still waiting for someone to explain to me how bottled water became a billion dollar market. I generally boil my drinking water to remove all of the chemical additives and then pour it into a container(s) as needed. I suspect plain, boiled water is healthier than the bottled waters with their fancy labels and absurd prices. Then there are the countless plastic bottles left behind as tribute to a society that is too lazy to boil water. People amaze me sometimes. A little ‘brainwashing’ advertizement goes a long way in this society we live in today. I’m sure coconut water will take off like a rocket.

  9. Coconut water is a good energy drink that include vitamins, minerals, nutrients and calcium that are really good for health. Many people dink coconut water because it improve mood, boost energy, make strong bones and muscles, improve heart functions and mental health, control blood pressure, improve fitness and prevents from many diseases.

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