As some of you know, I'm a fan of the Biggest Loser. It is one of the only reality TV shows I watch, and I generally watch it while I'm doing admin work on my laptop. The crying and fighting bores me to tears, but I am a sucker for any fitness-related show.
Flipping through a fitness magazine earlier this week, I came across an ad for So Delicious (Dairy Free) Coconut Milk, with Jillian Michaels plastered all over the page, enjoying some delicious dairy alternative. Michaels is, by the way, a pescatarian - she eats a vegetarian diet with only sustainable fish. She has apparently converted from milk, soymilk and other substitutes to coconut milk, in her coffee, cereal and for sipping.
Then, in a slap-me-upside-the-head-I-need-to-write-a-blog-about-this moment (bloggers, you know what I mean...), I was helping a friend, Sandra, shoot a pilates video and she was enjoying a bottle of coconut water. She is a pilates guru (follow her @Wallabina and check out her Toronto studio at www.changestudio.ca) and has recently added 2 boot camp classes to her weekly exercise routine - the hundreds of reps and fast pace were causing some major post-workout soreness until she started chugging coconut water as her post-workout beverage. Then, she swears, the soreness was no more!
What's coconut milk? What's coconut water? Are they just a flash in the pan in the health food industry or are they here to stay? And should you bother?
Real coconut milk is made from mashing coconut meat and extracting the liquid - this is the yummy stuff you'll find canned in the "ethnic foods" aisle of your grocery store and gives curries and stir fries a tasty coconut flavour, to the tune of 552 calories and 50 grams of fat per cup! Yikes! Use sparingly and DON'T DRINK unless you are trying to gain a great deal of weight or give yourself a heart attack.
So Delicious Coconut Milk, according to its nutrition labeling, is made of this: Coconut Cream (Water, Coconut, Guar Gum), Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Calcium Phosphate, Magnesium Phosphate, Carrageenan, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D-2, L-Selenomethionine (Selenium), Zinc Oxide, Folic Acid, Vitamin B-12. Their "original" flavour contains just 80 calories per cup and 5 grams of saturated fat. DEFINITELY DRINKABLE but contains sugar unless you choose the "unsweetened" variety.
Coconut water is the clear fluid from young coconuts - this is what you get with a little umbrella and a straw when you're on vacation... At 46 calories and virtually no saturated fat per cup, this makes barely a dent in your daily budget for calories and fat. The main reason it's so revered is its heavy potassium content - potassium is key to regulating blood pressure and affects muscle function, but is readily available in other fruits and vegetables as well. Coconut water does contain about 250 mg of sodium per cup, but it will actually help replenish sodium levels if used before, during or after a strenuous workout. If sodium is a concern for you personally, a banana or glass of milk might be a better workout snack. Otherwise, GO AHEAD AND DRINK.
As with all products, it's important to read labels and do a bit of research on your own before converting to a new way of life, a la Jillian Michaels and So Delicious.
If you like the taste of coconut water, go ahead and enjoy. If you like the taste of So Delicious, go ahead and add it to your coffee or sub it in for your usual soymilk for a change.
Are they sports drinks? No.
Sports drinks like Gatorade are actually researched and formulated with an exact composition to replace electrolytes (like potassium, sodium, magnesium) and sugar in the bloodstream and muscles. Coconut water is natural and contains some of these same electrolytes and sugar but in less specific quantities. Doesn't mean it doesn't help, but a sports drink it is not. People (like my friend Sandra) swear by it. Give it a try and decide for yourself.
As far as sports drinks and coconut water go, the average person requires neither. Unless you are training for an endurance event (such as a half-marathon, marathon, bodybuilding competition, mountain climb, etc.) regular food is just fine for you. Water and carbohydrates are the best bet after a workout. Coconut water may help, but it's not well-researched and stinks a little bit of hype, as far as I'm concerned.
Want some potassium? Save yourself a couple of bucks and eat a banana.
Have you had it? Do you swear by it? Think it tastes like dirty socks? Tell me!