Water vs. Coconut Water vs. Sports activities Drinks for Athletes

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Coconut water is examined head-to-head in opposition to plain water and sports activities drinks in athletes.

As chances are you’ll know, I’ve beforehand reviewed the proof on coconut oil and coconut milk that implies neither is sweet for you, however what about coconut water? After I first discovered about athletes using coconut water as a sort of pure Gatorade, I did a medical literature seek for athletes and coconut however solely got here up with a research of “canine athletes.” It seems that feeding coconut oil to drug- or bomb-sniffing canines can typically wipe out their means to scent in any respect (!), however what about coconut water and human athletes? That’s the subject of my video Coconut Water for Athletic Performance vs. Sports Drinks.

Research on coconut water as an electrolyte alternative beverage date again many years, when coconut water was compared to different drinks and located to be “extra appropriate for use as an oral rehydration.” Nonetheless, the drinks it was in comparison with had been Pepsi, Coke, Sprite, and 7UP. You don’t actually understand how rehydrating coconut water is…till you place it to the take a look at. Coconut water was found to assist in circumstances of gentle dehydration because of childhood diarrhea, “regardless of not having a balanced electrolyte composition,” which means its sodium-to-potassium ratio was off. 

Coconut water comprises a lot potassium that folks with kidney illness who drink two quarts of it however don’t have regular kidney perform that will in any other case flush away the surplus can run into “life-threatening hyperkalemia,” an excessive amount of potassium within the blood. Individuals might not notice how a lot potassium coconut water has, so even when your physician suggested you to avoid excessive potassium meals, chances are you’ll drink coconut water, not realizing its excessive potassium content material, and run into issues. Even one quart of coconut water a day could also be an excessive amount of for somebody whose kidneys have been compromised by diabetes, for instance. It’s the identical with cream of tartar: Individuals don’t realize it’s roughly 20 % pure potassium. So, in the event that they hearken to web sites claiming it’s a “‘pure’ treatment for a wide range of circumstances,” even younger individuals with wholesome kidneys can run into issues in the event that they take spoonful of it. Cream of tartar overdose deaths date again to the 1800s.

What about rehydration after train with contemporary younger coconut water? Sure, it could actually assist change fluid loss from diarrhea, however what about fluid loss from strenuous train? Topics exercised for 90 minutes in 90-degree Fahrenheit temperatures till they misplaced as much as 3 % of their physique weight. The researchers then had them drink coconut water, a sports activities beverage, or plain water and located no important distinction in rehydration for any of them, as you’ll be able to see at 2:35 in my video. Subsequent research findings had been extra blended. One showed a sports activities drink beat out water for hydration, however coconut water didn’t, whereas one other research found that each the sports activities drink and coconut water beat out water, however not one another.

Athletes care about rehydration as a result of they care about efficiency, however what had been lacking was a research not simply on measures of hydration, however on bodily efficiency, too. Researchers lastly did simply that, comparing water, coconut water, coconut water from focus, and an ordinary sports activities drink. They put individuals on a treadmill and timed how lengthy they may go earlier than they collapsed, and found no important distinction between any of the drinks. Plain water did simply in addition to coconut water. In reality, plain water did even higher as a result of these consuming the coconut water “reported feeling extra bloated and skilled higher abdomen upset.” This was all accomplished at room temperature, at about 70 levels. What occurs about when it’s even hotter, greater than 90 levels Fahrenheit? In that situation, the coconut water did appear to beat out plain water, “consequence[ing] in an extended time to exhaustion.” However, time to exhaustion isn’t the identical as efficiency. Though “treadmill time to exhaustion is routinely used in laboratory research, using a time trial take a look at because the measure of train efficiency could also be extra applicable.” There had by no means been a head-to-head water versus coconut water time trial…till now.

Cyclists completed a 10-kilometer trip in 971 seconds after consuming coconut water. On plain water, nevertheless, they had been about 5 seconds quicker. In different phrases, there was no important distinction between the 2 drinks. This was the primary research to look at using coconut water throughout train and confirmed that coconut water “might seemingly be no extra helpful than plain water.” How would the coconut water business spin this? It was the one funding the very research that discovered no distinction between plain water, coconut water, and sports activities drinks. So, did the authors conclude VitaCoco isn’t any higher than water? No. As a substitute, they mentioned coconut water is simply nearly as good as “a typical sports activities drink”! “For many athletes and coaches, this discovering is probably going of most significance.” In fact, the authors failed to notice that plain water didn’t solely do in addition to coconut water, but it surely really did higher as a result of there was twice as a lot abdomen upset within the coconut water teams. 

If all of the drinks did equally effectively, this isn’t solely a refutation of any particular properties of coconut water, however sports activities drinks, too. In the event that they do no higher than water, are sports activities drinks only a waste of cash? I focus on that in Are Sports Drinks Safe and Effective?.


  • Coconut water was discovered to be a extra appropriate rehydration beverage than Pepsi, Coke, Sprite, and 7UP, and, regardless of its unbalanced sodium-to-potassium ratio, useful in circumstances of gentle dehydration attributable to childhood diarrhea.
  • Individuals suggested to keep away from excessive potassium food and drinks, reminiscent of these with diseased or compromised kidneys, ought to keep away from coconut water (and cream of tartar).
  • When coconut water, a sports activities drink, and plain water had been examined in topics who exercised for an hour and a half at a temperature of 90 levels Fahrenheit till they misplaced as much as 3 % of their body weight, the researchers discovered no important distinction rehydration.
  • Subsequent research had blended outcomes.
  • Evaluating water, coconut water, coconut water from focus, and an ordinary sports activities drink, at room temperature (70 levels Fahrenheit), plain water did higher than coconut water, which brought about emotions of bloat and higher abdomen upset, however coconut water beat out plain water at temperatures exceeding 90 levels Fahrenheit, leading to longer time to exhaustion.
  • A time trial take a look at pitting coconut water in opposition to plain water resulted in no important distinction between the 2 drinks, displaying that coconut water “might seemingly be no extra helpful than plain water.”

I alluded to those movies about coconut oil: Coconut Oil and the Boost in HDL “Good” Cholesterol and What About Coconuts, Coconut Milk, and Coconut Oil MCTs?.

My different movies on coconut oil embody:

What for those who simply put it in your pores and skin? See Eczema Treatment with Coconut Oil, Mineral Oil, vs. Vaseline.

Flashback Friday: How Much Should You Exercise? Nice query! Watch the video and discover out.

How Many Glasses of Water Should We Drink a Day? Received a video on that, too.

In well being,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: For those who haven’t but, you’ll be able to subscribe to my free movies here and watch my reside displays:

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