For centuries people in tropical climates have been harnessing the refreshing delights of coconut water. It should therefore be no great surprise that it has finally been produced for the mass market. Due to its natural formulation of carbohydrate, electrolytes and water, coconut water has been touted as the ‘healthy sports drink’. But is it really all it’s cracked up to be? Coconut water contains no fat and is very low in calories. In addition to water and sugar, it also contains some minerals such as potassium and magnesium but its sodium content is almost half of that found in commercially available sports drinks. Sodium plays an important role in rehydration and muscle function and is a very important electrolyte if you are looking to replace sweat losses during exercise.
So, how does coconut water compare to a sports drink?
|Per serving (250ml)||
Sports drink (E.g. Gatorade)
Coconut water (E.g. VitaCoco)
Additives & flavourings
Natural alternatives to sports drinks have become a growing area of interest given the artificial sweeteners and flavourings found in these products. Historically, coconut water has been used with patients in tropical regions to replace fluid loss from diarrhoea. A study published in the Journal of the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition investigating the effect of coconut water as a rehydration beverage during exercise has shown it to provide similar benefits to a sports drink. The only drawback is that coconut water has a very distinctive taste!
What are the benefits?
Coconut water is naturally low in carbohydrates, which may make it appealing to gym users or people exercising for less than 60 – 90 minutes. Due to the natural potassium and sodium content of coconut water, it is a similar concentration to blood, which means it’s great for rehydrating. It also contains many naturally occurring enzymes that aid digestion and metabolism along with minerals like calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and zinc.
If you’re exercising at a light to moderate intensity for up to 90 minutes, and you like the taste, coconut water is a good natural alternative to a sports drink. Coconut water if free from refined sugars, artificial flavourings and colourings. If you’re exercising hard or for a prolonged period of time, a sports drink would be a better option to provide energy at optimal rates lost in sweat.