Dehydration can be a major problem for athletes, even recreational athletes. When you sweat, you lose water and electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and chloride. Fluid and electrolyte loss can affect performance and cause fatigue, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, especially if you exercise in a hot environment. Drinking cold water helps lower your core body temperature and prevent overheating.
Inadequate hydration can also affect exercise performance. When you’re dehydrated, a workout feels more challenging. The movements you make feel harder, and you may have to slow down. So, hydration matters. For hydrating, you have lots of choices. Some people drink plain water (for short periods of exercise) or a commercial sports drink (for long exercise sessions). But there’s another option – coconut water.
Coconut water is a natural isotonic beverage that contains high levels of potassium and sodium, making it an alternative way to rehydrate after intense physical activity.
Let’s look at some advantages of hydrating with coconut water
Coconut water is a natural way to hydrate
Coconut water is the liquid contained in a coconut. It’s not to be confused with coconut milk, which is made by grinding up the flesh of the coconut and then squeezing out its “milk.” Coconut water is a natural product. Ideally, you would get coconut water directly from the coconut with no additional processing but that’s not always possible. Some brands may contain additives, flavorings, or sugar. Therefore, read the label carefully to ensure you’re getting the least processed form of coconut water. As a rule, coconut water is more natural than highly processed sports drinks. You also won’t find artificial sweeteners in most brands of coconut water.
It’s not as high in sugar as fruit juices or soda.
Coconut water is an alternative to commercial sports drinks and fruit juices, which contains high amounts of sugar. Coconut water contains some natural sugar from the coconut itself but it’s less than what is in commercial sports drinks and fruit juice. Avoid buying brands that contain added sugar. The amount of natural sugar in coconut water is beneficial during intense exercise since your body needs carbohydrates and can handle a little natural sugar.
Coconut water’s high potassium content also makes it an excellent choice for athletes or anyone who exercises regularly, because this mineral helps reduce muscle cramping and fatigue during exercise. The potassium in coconut water also helps maintain normal blood pressure levels. Potassium plays an important role in blood vessel function and heart health.
Coconut water contains electrolytes
What are electrolytes and why are they so important? The word “electrolyte” refers to any chemical that produces ions (negative or positive charges) when it dissolves in water. Sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride are all examples of electrolytes. These elements play an important role in maintaining fluid balance in the human body and contribute to muscle contraction, nerve transmission, heart rhythm, and blood pressure regulation.
How many electrolytes are in coconut water? One serving of this tropical beverage (about a cup) contains about 600 milligrams of potassium, about 25% more than a medium banana, along with lesser amounts of sodium, around 120 milligrams. You lose sodium, potassium, and chloride in significant quantities during intense exercise, and the potassium you get from coconut water helps replenish electrolyte levels.
The concentration of electrolytes in coconut water is similar to blood plasma, so your body can easily absorb them. Studies show that coconut water can be an intravenous fluid replacement during surgery because it has similar electrolyte content to human blood plasma. Research shows that consuming coconut water before or during exercise maintains hydration status better than plain water. It also helps restore fluid balance during recovery from a workout.
Coconut water falls a little short in its sodium content. If you’re doing an intense or long workout, add a pinch of salt for added sodium. Drinking pure water during long-duration exercise can lead to low sodium in your bloodstream, called hyponatremia, which can be dangerous. Staying hydrated and replacing lost electrolytes may also lower the risk of muscle cramps during exercise. Ouch! You don’t want a painful muscle cramp.
Coconut water contains nutrients and antioxidants
Coconut water isn’t devoid of nutrients. Although it’s not a replacement for eating fruits and veggies, it supplies B-vitamins and small quantities of vitamin C. As mentioned, it also contains potassium and modest amounts of magnesium, calcium, and iron. It’s also a source of amino acids like glycine, alanine, glutamine, and arginine, which are important for tissue repair following strenuous exercise.
Coconut water also contains antioxidants, although they’re not as plentiful as in fruits, like blueberries or raspberries, vegetables, legumes, or spices. Still, sipping coconut water provides an additional source of cell-protective antioxidants. Exercise creates a lot of oxidative stress, another reason to sip on coconut water.
Coconut water could improve exercise performance
A study also found that drinking coconut water before working out enhanced the ability to work out in a hot environment. You can drink coconut water before, during, or after a workout to aid in exercise recovery. Plus, coconut has a slightly nutty taste that may motivate you to drink more of it. You can also find flavored coconut water, which is more processed but still a better alternative to most sports drinks.
Hydration is important for health and coconut water is a natural way to avoid dehydration during exercise. It’s less expensive than sports drinks, more nutritious, and not as high in sugar. When you drink coconut water, it replenishes essential electrolytes you lose during a workout, so you can exercise safer and more comfortably.
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