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I have heard that coconut water is the best thing to drink after a workout and that it is better than sports drinks, orange juice or water. I saw some in the health food store by my house and it is very expensive! Is it worth the price? Are the claims about it true?

Coconut water is the liquid juice stored inside young coconuts – sometimes called coconut milk. It has long been a staple liquid of Southeast Asian nations, where the fruit is harvested for its flesh, oil and milk.  Coconut water is a fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-calorie, super-hydrating drink naturally rich in electrolytes, all of which are touted as benefits of this latest health drink. Dubbed "nature's sports drink" and "life-enhancer" by marketers, it’s no wonder celebrities have replaced their acai berry drinks with it. Coconut water hit the health food stores five years ago with Vita Coco and Zico being the big distributors. The health claims are that it will cure diabetes, cancer and hypertension.  Unfortunately, that tends to become the selling point of the product so the real health benefits get lost in the hype.

At $2-3 for 11 oz. is it worth the price you ask?  After a hard workout, the body needs to hydrate and replace the electrolytes we lose, especially potassium and sodium.  A serving of coconut water offers 569 mg of potassium but only 160 mg of sodium. A typical commercial sports drink offers 53 mg of potassium and 192 mg of sodium.  After a hard workout, the body needs sodium more than potassium because when we sweat we lose more sodium than potassium. Keep in mind that we are talking about a HARD workout! Drinking coconut water is definitely much better than “energy drinks,” cola or processed juice especially because most of us don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, so we typically don’t get enough potassium. 

As far as being worth the cost keep this in mind:

  • most people don’t exercise hard enough or often enough to need a sports drink or coconut water as a recovery drink
  • the body doesn’t distinguish between potassium and sodium sources be they coconut water or a less expensive sports drink

For most of us, water is just fine and much less expensive.