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Setting the Record Straight on Using Coconut Water for Sport Performance

Don Gauvreau, MSc, CSCS aka, “The Supplement Godfather”

Coconut water is great for hydration and can serve as an effective intra-workout/sports drink, but some of the claims about it are a bit overhyped. Let’s look at two studies that assess its effectiveness. One study, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, compared coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men. Subjects participated in dehydrating exercise and lost approximately 1.7 kilograms of body mass. Subjects regained this amount of mass in a relatively similar manner following consumption of both the coconut water and the sports drink. In fact, no differences were seen in fluid retention between the coconut water and sports drink. In regard to exercise performance, there were no differences seen between subject groups. However, the subjects that consumed the coconut water did experience greater bloating and stomach upset.

In another study, published in the Southeast Asia Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health, researchers assessed the effectiveness of plain water, sports drink, fresh young coconut water, and sodium-enriched fresh young coconut water on whole body rehydration and plasma volume restoration after exercise-induced dehydration. Plasma volume was restored to normal hydration levels after two hours of rehydration with the sports drink, coconut water and sodium-enriched coconut water—but not with plain water. The plasma glucose concentration was also significantly higher when sports drink, coconut water, and sodium-enriched coconut water were ingested. Contrary to the first study I cited above, in this study, coconut water didn’t cause as much stomach discomfort as the sports drink and plain water did. The researchers concluded that ingesting sodium-enriched coconut water was as good as ingesting a commercial sports drink for whole-body rehydration after exercise-induced dehydration but with better fluid tolerance.

So is coconut water the best drink for hydration and performance? I wouldn’t say it’s the best option, but it’s definitely a great option. The research shows that it’s an effective hydration solution, but its benefits might be similar to regular plain water and commercial sports drinks.


Follow Don Gauvreau @SupplementGodfather


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