Coconut Water, a miracle drink for athletes?

Food and nutrition

Published on 7 May 2014
by Isabelle Huot

Several virtues are attributed to coconut water: hydrating, refreshing, natural, facilitates weight loss, helps avoid muscular cramps, etc. It won over stars and athletes who use it for its hydrating virtue. Today, we can find up to forty different brands of coconut water available on store shelves.

We find this water in young coconuts, using the water they comprised for nutriments necessary to their growth. It is commercialised as a sports drink because it contains sodium, potassium, magnesium and sugar. However, only potassium is found in sufficient quantities whereas, when we practice sports, it is sodium we most lose through sweat. Coconut water contains around 25 mg of sodium for each 100 ml, but the recommended quantity in a sports drink is 50 to 70 mg per 100 ml. Although potassium is beneficial to prevent muscular cramping, potassium intake is not necessary while practicing sports. Potassium is found in a wide range of foods we eat on a daily basis, and they also contains array of other nutrients essential to our health. In average, coconut water contains 400 mg of potassium per serving, equal to what we find in a banana or a tomato. Furthermore, other foods, such as sweet potatoes, dates, white beans and orange juice are richer in potassium than coconut water.  

While some coconut water might be 100% natural, some have added flavor and sugar. It is important to read the label, since some brands can contain up to 18 sugar cubes! 

In short, coconut water is not all that it is cracked up to be. When drinking coconut water for the pleasure, keep in mind that the all-natural version of it contains less sugar that most fruit juice and soft drinks, and offer and interesting way to promote tropical countries’ local economy. As a sports drink, a simple bottle of water or sports drink specifically designed to that end, are definitely better choices.

Isabelle Huot
Doctor in nutrition