Replenishing Electrolytes with Coconut Water

Replenshing electrolytes is an important part of endurance training recovery. Electrolytes are important to maintain proper cellular function, something I wasn’t entirely clear about when competing in Biathlon.

Headaches and extreme fatigue were often side-effects of intense biathlon or cross-country skiing events. Sleep, Advil and plenty of water were my solutions to combat being “not hydrated enough” burden of pain. Post-competition naps would often last a couple of hours and after waking up I still didn’t feel too well.

Worried about increasing the intensity of training and suffering again I decided that another solution was needed. If I am to train between clients or before a full day of seeing clients I knew I needed another solution than just water. During competition years people and coaches would often tell me I wasn’t hydrated enough, even though I knew I was. My recovery strategy wasn’t working for me.

In the mid-90s we started to experiment with our recovery drink solutions that included various concentrations of sugar, salt, lemon, water and powdered milk for protein. More sugar was added for post-race recovery. Another strategy I used was eating half a bag full of bread after each race. As a senior biathlete I was racing 10km one day and 20km the following day, not an easy task to recover from.

It took until a couple of weeks ago to find a way to avoid the headaches and the extreme fatigue following each training session. A blog post about marathon training lead be back to trying to concoct my own electrolyte drink with something that is more natural such as coconut water along with other ingredients including tart cherry concentrate which is rich in anti-oxidants.

I have tried several other electrolytes mixes such as eLoad and tablets as well as the pre-mixed drinks with minimal success. Coconut water is a natural way to restore potassium, magnesium and sodium after exercise without any preservatives. It has about half the carbohydrates, Powerade or Gatorade. Accelerade was another I tried because it the protien was supposed to help with carbohydrate uptake. Including protien in the 30 minutes post-exercise enhances muscle repair.

While browsing the isles of Whole Foods I discovered Blue Monkey instant coconut water, a powder that you just add 500ml of water too (700 ml for my tastes). The small packets make it easy to carry and mix into water bottles.

During the V(02)max interval sessions and Pace Zone 3 sessions I drink it every 15 minutes without the abdominal gas I get when drinking something like Powerade or even e-Load. Although eLoad Heat is slightly more expensive than Blue Monkey Powder I find it more effective. Certainly cheaper, more natural and more environmentally friend than buying a bottle of Powerade everytime you go out for a run.

Although my headaches are gone post-exercise, cognitive fatigue depressive symptoms and physical fatigue still exists for a few hours if I don’t have adequate carbohydrates in the 30 minutes just after a moderate or intense training session. Drinking one packet around 4:00 PM also helps keep me mentally alert for my last two clients. Proper exercise recovery is a process of experimenting and finding out what restores your energy without making you feel ill or bloated.

To expermiment with different sources first purchase small quantities to see how you feel after ingesting it and how your energy is. Then add this information to a trainng log such as training peaks so that you are able to review it later.
My goal is to find a strategy so that the rest of the day after training is still productive. Nutrition and hydration are part of the plan. How do you recover and stay mentally productive after intense or long duration training?

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Get Unstuck from Daily Coffee Grind Save Money and Gain More Energy

*Disclaimer: these are not nutritional recommendations, just the experiences of how the author stopped drinking coffee and found more energy. Find a holistic nutritionist or consult your physician if you have any concerns about your diet.*

Do you claim that you need your daily coffee before you are awake and the world feels just right? We often think we need coffee to start the day. Changing your daily habit is a matter of making a different choice.

This year I finally got unstuck from using coffee as a short-term energy source. It wasn’t until 2000 that I joined the daily coffee grind. I was working downtown and there was a Tim Horton’s just a block away. My colleagues would go on daily, sometimes multiple times per day Timmy runs. Always asking me if I wanted to join them or what I wanted them to return with for me. One day I said, yes.

It was rare for me to drink a straight black coffee, I always needed to add a little sweetness – so I I usually chose a mocha. Somehow I discovered iced cappuccinos and when Starbucks introduced frapuccinos I was hooked on cold creamy coffees; most of the time I would ask to for it without whipping cream.

Wherever I lived there was always a Tim Horton’s or Starbucks on the way to work – it was either a mocha or an ice cappuccino/frapuccino. These took a hit on my wallet and health at $2.49 to $4.98 a piece, nearly 370 kcals, approximately 95mg caffeine and 15g of fat each. Each day I would go like a zombie, without really putting much thought into it because it was easy. With the bagel, the total bill was over $4.25 and nearly 600kcals, yet by 10:30 AM my energy waned.

Because I have a mostly active job and I am physically active in addition to my workday, my weight has stayed fairly consistent. Though, you can see for someone who is sedentary, the pounds could quickly add up.

During university I did eat a proper breakfast – so when I did I stop? Not really sure, I don’t recall. What were my reasons for not wanting to change? Part of it was figuring out how to sustain energy from 6 AM to 12 pm with clients from 8 am – 12 pm and the commute from 7 am – 8 am, a schedule I have had for nearly 6 years.

What are the reasons to change? Plenty, my stomach did not appreciate the jolt of cream, caffeine and sugar in the am, but I couldn’t/wouldn’t change. I am a health professional and this is my confession; this habit was not setting a good example, nor was it healthy for me – time to get unstuck.

Whole foods are nutrient dense and give you more sustained energy. There has been a lot controversy about what to eat for breakfast – is it whole grain cereals, eggs, toast and almond butter? What combination of foods – protein, fats and carbohydrates is going to give ME what I need for to start my day and save me money? When fueling for the day think of quality, quantity and timing. Choosing higher quality, nutrient dense foods means we usually need less quantity.

I had heard about coconut oil which has medium chained triclycerides (MCTs) from successful bodybuilder, colleague and Personal Trainer Martin Bolduc of Express Weight Loss.com. MCTs are actually good, healthy fats that when consumed are quickly converted to energy. Fats give you about 9 calories of energy per gramwhere protein and carbohydrates are 4 calories. A combination of these give you sustained energy.

Growing up I was never a big fan of coconuts, but after reading another article on higher fat diets for endurance athletes that mentioned coconuts, I decided to take the plunge. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature and melts at 24C/75F. You can easily incorporate it into your cooking, but for now I take a tablespoon and just gulp it down ($0.69 CDN/14g, 126 kcal), 14 grams of healthy fat without the sugar and caffeine rush. By combining it with a flax seed bagel (360 kcal, 56 g CHO, 8g F, 13 g P) in the am, bought in bulk I now have a breakfast that leaves me with energy when I hit lunch-time while leaving $800 per year in the bank. By cutting the take away coffees I am reducing waste and I now have calmer nerves which helps me sleep better.

MCTs are a short term solution while I explore their benefits and uses further, kick the coffee habit and find alternative breakfast solutions. I am not stuck on coconut oil.

With a little planning, you can get unstuck from the daily coffee grind. How much coffee do you drink? How are you going to REPLACE coffee with nutrient dense foods? Remember to find foods that work for you, consult a nutritionist for specific advice and learn to eat using your intuition, paying attention to what and how much your body really needs.

Resources

Nutrition Content of Starbucks Drinks

Nutrition Content of Tim Horton’s Drinks

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

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