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Test: Grape and Coconut Sports Drinks

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Maybe I am easily pleased, but for me a great moment of anticipation during my time spent training is when I embark on a long ride with a new type of sports drink. My latest training ride proved to be a triple-whammy, as I’d been shipped samples of two new Nuun flavors and one experimental batch of CocoHydro with maltodextrin added in. To put them to a real test, I planned a 50-mile singletrack ride near my home in Bend, Ore., with lots of climbing, dust, heat, and no place to refill water. I’d be stuck drinking whatever was in my bottle and bladder. The ride was challenging, and it took us nearly six hours to finish. I needed every ounce of my multi-flavored liquids to make it. Here are some notes from the hydration test.

Nuun Grape. I love Nuun and have used it for years. Simply drop a Nuun tablet in water and it dissolves to add electrolytes. For its new grape flavor, the company touts “a blend of white table grape varietals creates a crisp mouth feel and a sweet finish.” Sounds like wine, I know. But to me the taste was akin to a grape popsicle, and it was super yummy when cold. As the ride wore on, however, and the water warmed some, the flavor was a little much. Overall, grape-flavored Nuun was good at first and when fresh and cold, but it was harder to swallow after a few hours on the ride.

Nuun Grape flavor in tubes

Nuun Lemon Tea. Home Run. My riding partner mixed this flavor at full strength in her hydration reservoir, and we switched halfway through the bike ride (traded grape for lemon). The flavor of the Lemon Tea is not overly sweet. It was refreshing when cold, and as the temperatures of the liquid climbed, it smoothly transitioned from iced tea to “sun tea.” Now, at home I’ve found myself even dropping a Lemon Tea tablet into my water at meals just because I like the taste!

Nuun Lemon Tea

CocoHydro Maltodextrin Mix. A simple innovation, Big Tree Farms of Ashland, Ore., has found a way to crystallize coconut palm nectar. The result is a powdery drink mix that, when added to water, creates CocoHydro, a coconut water beverage with the taste and health advantages of regular coconut water. I’ve been using CocoHydro since we first sampled it at last winter’s Outdoor Retailer trade show (and subsequently gave it an award). I simply love the stuff, especially post-yoga or when recovering from a race — it feels almost as good as getting an I.V. to replenish my body’s balance.

The company recently sent me a package of an experimental mix with high levels of maltodextrin, writing that “we are in the early phases of testing, and it takes a long time to dissolve” this mix. To test it, I mixed a couple heaping scoops into a 20oz. bottle. At first, I couldn’t get it to dissolve at all, shaking the bottle until I was red in the face. So I placed the drink in my bottle cage in hopes that time and trail bumps would help.

The original CocoHydro is powdered “crystallize coconut palm nectar”

I almost forgot about the un-mixed coco drink until fours hours into our ride. I was close to bonking. I’d been out of food for an hour. I grabbed for the bottle and was relieved to see the powder had finally and completely dissolved.

Despite being warm, the subtle sweet coconut water was easily palatable, and it felt a bit thicker than the company’s normal blend. The effects were almost immediate. CocoHydro Maltodextrin Mix performed similarly to Hammer Perpetuem, a high-calorie sports drink, and with that single bottle supplying energy I was able to push it on the final two hours of my ride. I was shocked at how quickly it helped me bounce back from the edge of fatigue. If the company can figure out how to make this experimental drink dissolve quicker, I see it becoming a big success.

—Jason Magness is a founder of the YogaSlackers and a member of Team GearJunkie/YogaSlackers.

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