Is Coconut Water Really Nature’s Sports Drink?

In recent years, coconut water has taken over as the newest health drink. Deemed “Nature’s Gatorade,” this tropical drink is gaining popularity not only with the health conscious but also fitness enthusiasts. 

Several big brands on the market, such as VitaCoco and Zico, offer flavors like original, chocolate, pineapple and tropical fruit. 

Most seasoned athletes and workout enthusiasts have typically reached for water, sports drinks or chocolate milk for recovery and hydration, with coconut water only recently finding its place in the mix. However, this is at an increased cost compared to other sports drinks. Coconut water is created from the water that builds inside the shell of young coconuts, which explains the hefty price tag. So, how does this popular new beverage stack up?

Each serving offers a hefty dose of potassium, approximately 670 mg per 11 ounces, which is more than other sports drinks.

For the average consumer who isn’t exercising regularly, coconut water may hinder weight management efforts. Each serving is approximately 60 calories, which can add up quickly. For regular exercisers, the benefits are a little less clear. Each serving offers a hefty dose of potassium, approximately 670 mg per 11 ounces, which is more than other sports drinks. However, it skimps on sodium, offering only as much as 160mg. For shorter workouts, those lasting less than an hour, coconut water can be a good choice since it is low in calories and sugar compared to other sports drinks, yet still offers hydration and potassium. Personally, I enjoy coconut water after workouts because it is light in flavor and very refreshing, especially on hot summer days. However, for the price, regular filtered water is just as good of an option. Those who exercise longer or those who are in training for endurance events will find that coconut water will not offer near enough sodium to restore electrolyte balance.

When making the choice between coconut water and another sports beverage, consider both cost and length of activity. In shorter workouts, coconut water or regular filtered water are fine. For those exercising longer than an hour or in training for endurance sports, consider a sports drink or coconut water supplemented with a salty snack for optimum recovery.

Melissa Grindle
Melissa Grindle, RD, is the Director of Coaching Operations at Wellness Corporate Solutions, LLC.