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?