Coconut water is the perfect beverage for restoring hydration and replenishing electrolytes lost during exercise.
Coconut water is the clear liquid found inside green, immature coconuts. Young coconuts are favored for their water as it is tastier, plentiful in volume, and easier to access by chopping the top off the softer shell. More mature coconuts have a harder husk and less water inside because it gradually solidifies to form the flesh.
In 100ml of fresh coconut water extracted from the nut you'd expect about 2.7mg of sugar, but be aware that the branded versions on supermarket shelves are likely to be higher in sugar, ranging from 3g to 6g (about 1 tsp) per 100ml. So, in a 330ml serving of branded coconut water, there may be over 15g of sugar. It does have less sugar and fewer calories compared to many juices, soft drinks, and sports drinks but still, the sugars are ‘free’, which means they’re not bound to fiber and will be quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.
Coconut water also contains some potassium, which is essential for heart health and good skeletal and muscular function. Approximately 185-207mg of potassium is contained within a 100ml serving. However, in comparison to an average banana (330mg) or potato (715mg), it is not a large amount. There are plenty of potassium-rich foods that are likely to be cheaper and more locally sourced than coconut water.
It has been suggested that consuming coconut water after exercise improves endurance and athletic performance. This is because it contains carbohydrates in the form of glucose (a simple sugar) and the electrolytes sodium and potassium – the crucial components in commercial sports drinks. One study found that coconut water helped to rehydrate in a similar way to a carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink, but didn’t have any significant impact on exercise performance.
Another small study found no significant difference in athletic performance when drinking coconut water in comparison to plain water. Therefore there is not enough evidence to support the claim that coconut water can improve athletic performance any more than drinking plain water during exercise.