Coconut water is a natural option for post-workout rehydration.
Coconut water is commonly consumed as a beverage. Its high electrolyte content has made coconut water a popular post-workout drink, because it helps with:
- Rehydration. Coconut water may help rehydrate the body after exercise-induced fluid loss.
Not to be confused with coconut milk or coconut oil, coconut water is a clear, sweet liquid that is naturally found inside immature coconuts. Coconut water is popular as a chilled drink, particularly in tropical countries.
A 100 mL serving of coconut water is made up of roughly 95% water, 4% carbohydrates, and <1% fat, and carries approximately 19 calories. The main reason coconut water is marketed as a sports drink is because of its electrolyte content. In addition, it has also been utilized to restore body fluids following dehydration and diarrhea.1
How Coconut Water Might Help Post-Workout Formulas
Rehydrating the body
As is the case with most sports drinks, coconut water supplies electrolytes lost during exercise, including:
- Sodium (Na+) at concentrations of 0.7-9.7 mEq/L
- Potassium (K+) – 35-82 mEq/L
- Chloride – 21-63 mEq/L
- Calcium (Ca2+) – 5-17 mEq/L
- Magnesium (Mg2+) – 5-25 mEq/L
Collectively, electrolytes help retain fluids and maintain proper fluid balance. Sodium and potassium in particular are critical not just for effective hydration, but also stabilizing membrane potential, maintaining blood pressure and volume, and preventing cramps. 3 4 5 In addition, the low sugar content of coconut water, especially when compared to artificially sweetened sports drinks, makes it a favorable choice for athletes.
Coconut Water Post-Workout Benefits & Uses
Besides drinking coconut water for its taste, people have been consuming it for a number of health-related purposes tied to rehydration. Most notably, coconut water is growing in popularity as a post-workout drink, particularly because it provides some protein and carbs in addition to electrolytes.
In addition, Jamaican folk medicine routinely uses coconut water for diarrhea, while history is full of examples of its use for dehydration when saline solution was in short supply.
Clinical research points to the viability of coconut water as a post-workout recovery drink. It may rehydrate the body as well as, if not better than standard sports drinks.
In this randomized, crossover study, 8 healthy males were rehydrated for a 2-hour period with either coconut water (CW), a carbohydrate electrolyte beverage (CEB), or plain water (PW) after exercising until they lost 2.78 +/- 0.06% (1.6 +/- 0.1 kg) of their body weight (BW). The rehydration index was comparable in the three beverages at 1.56 ± 0.14 for CW, 1.36 ± 0.13 for CEB, and 1.71 ± 0.21 for PW. Blood volume restoration was best in CW, although not to a significant degree.
- The study concluded that “ingestion of fresh young coconut water, a natural refreshing beverage, could be used for whole body rehydration after exercise.”6
In this randomized crossover study, 10 healthy males ran for 90 minutes until they lost 3% of their body weight (BW). After the workout, they were given either plain water (PW), a sports drink (SD), fresh young coconut water (CW), or sodium-enriched fresh young coconut water (SCW) for 2 hours. Indexes of percent rehydration were 58 +/- 2 with PW, 68 +/- 2 with SD, 65+/- 2 with CW, and 69 +/- 1% with SCW.
- The study concluded that “ingesting SCW was as good as ingesting a commercial sports drink for whole body rehydration after exercise-induced dehydration but with better fluid tolerance.”7
In this single-blind, randomized, crossover study, 12 exercise-trained men were given bottled water (BW), pure coconut water (VitaCoco® CW), coconut water from concentrate (CWC), or a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink (SD) on 4 separate occasions after exercising on a treadmill for 1 hour. All of the beverages appeared to be capable of promoting rehydration and exercise performance with no significant differences observed. Based on a 5-point visual analog scale, subjects reported feeling more bloated with CW and CWC.
- The study concluded that “both coconut water (natural, concentrated and not from concentrate) and bottled water provide similar rehydrating effects as compared to a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink. Moreover, none of the beverages impacted treadmill exercise performance differently during the rehydration period.”8
Dosage for Post-Workout
- There’s no standard dosage of coconut water as a post-workout
Supplements in Review Says
- Coconut water 1000 – 2000 ml post-workout.
Coconut water may help rehydrate the body after a workout. We recommend coconut water as a post-workout drink, especially in cases of exercise that leads to excessive sweating.
Dosing will depend on body fluid loss. Drinking 1000 – 2000 mL within a two-hour time period after a sweat-heavy workout is a good starting point.
- Kuberski T, Roberts A, et al. Coconut water as a rehydration fluid. N Z Med J. 1979 Aug 8;90(641):98-100. ↩
- Campbell-Falck D, Thomas T, et al. The intravenous use of coconut water. Am J Emerg Med. 2000 Jan;18(1):108-11. ↩
- Simchowitz L, Spilberg I, et al. Sodium and potassium fluxes and membrane potential of human neutrophils: evidence for an electrogenic sodium pump. The Journal of General Physiology. 1982 March 1. (79)3:453-479. ↩
- Mora-Rodriguez R and Hamouti N. Salt and fluid loading: effects on blood volume and exercise performance. Med Sport Sci. 2012;59:113-9 ↩
- Maughan RJ, Leiper JB, et al. Factors influencing the restoration of fluid and electrolyte balance after exercise in the heat. Br J Sports Med. 1997 Sep;31(3):175-82. ↩
- Saat M, Singh R, et al. Rehydration after exercise with fresh young coconut water, carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage and plain water. J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci. 2002;21:93-104. ↩
- Ismail I, Singh R, et al. Rehydration with sodium-enriched coconut water after exercise-induced dehydration. Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health 2007;38:769-85. ↩
- Kalman DS, Feldman S, et al. Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Jan 18;9(1):1. ↩
- lleyne T, Roache S, et al. The control of hypertension by use of coconut water and mauby: two tropical food drinks. West Indian Med J 2005;54:3-8. ↩