Coconut water: is it nature’s perfect sports drink?

A 2007 study by Ismail, Singh and Sirisinghe out of the University of Malaysia, showed that coconut water enhanced with sodium performed as well as a commercial sports drink in a postexercise rehydration test, but with better fluid tolerance and less stomach fullness or upset.

Sports drink vs coconut water (8. oz. serving)

Sports drink vs Coconut water

Whether your patient is a casual gymgoer or an elite athlete, he or she is likely bombarded with the selection of sports drinks available today and may be wondering which option is right for them. More recently, coconut water is being viewed as an all natural, healthy replacement for traditional sports drinks. But is it really?While coconut water certainly seems to be a cleaner sports drink and a much greater source of potassium, there are still a few shortcomings. When compared to commercial sports drinks, coconut water is lower in two of the main ingredients that an athlete’s exhausted system would need after a tough workout: sodium, the main electrolyte lost through sweat, and carbohydrates, which help replenish the body’s spent energy stores. So how can athletes get the benefits of a more natural sports drink that will still give their bodies what they need to recover after intense exercise?

Beefing up a worthy opponent to commercial sports drinks

An easy way to overcome what is lacking in coconut water alone is to create a customized sports drink around a base of coconut water. This way you can have full control over your patient’s intake of electrolytes, without worrying about artificial colours or other nasty additives. This also gives you room to experiment with what works best for each patient.

What about plain old water?

Depending on the intensity of the workout and the rate your patient’s nutrients are depleted, water may not be enough to replace lost electrolytes, sodium, potassium and carbohydrates. For instance, after running a marathon or participating in any vigorous endurance activity lasting longer than 60 minutes, an enhanced coconut water is the best option to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes. If your patient experiences white streaks or a gritty feeling on their face, this is an indication of sodium loss, which can be restored with an enhanced coconut water as well. If, however, your patient perspires heavily enough to soak through a t-shirt, a sports drink will not be enough to replace what’s been lost. The individual would need to consume a quick source of energy like a banana, dried fruit, pretzels or rice chips.

Enhanced coconut water mocktail

  • 2 cups (480ml) coconut water

  • ½ tsp sea salt

  • 4 tsps honey, maple syrup or natural sweetener of your choice

  • 1 large lemon or lime slice

Mix all the ingredients together well, pour into water bottles and keep chilled until you are ready to use. You can also add 1 tablespoon fresh mint,½ cup fresh berries, half of an orange, or create your own custom flavour!

*The salt to sugar ratio is based on WHO’s recommendation of 3.5g of sodium per 100ml of water.