Is Coconut Water More Hydrating?

Elle Penner, MPH, RD
by Elle Penner, MPH, RD
Share it:
Is Coconut Water More Hydrating?

Back when coconut water became a thing, marketers positioned it as a hydration powerhouse, claiming its natural sugar and electrolytes will hydrate better than water. While the nutrient composition of coconut water does resemble a lighter, more natural version of a sports drink, it may not deserve all of the hydration hype after all.

How Coconut Water Compares

Coconut water is simply the naturally occurring liquid from the inside of a coconut. Nutrition-wise, pure coconut water contains about 45 calories, 11 grams of carbohydrates (9 grams from natural sugars), 70 milligrams of sodium and almost 500 milligrams of potassium per cup.

Comparatively, plain ol’ bottled water has no calories, carbohydrates, sodium or potassium. The nutrient profile of sports drinks varies greatly among brands but, on average, one cup will provide 55 calories, 14 grams of carbohydrates (all in the form of added sugar), 105 milligrams of sodium and just 30 milligrams of potassium.

What the Science Says

Only a few studies have looked at the impact of coconut water on rehydration after exercise, the majority of which report little to no difference between coconut water, traditional sports drinks and water.

A 2012 study compared the effects of coconut water, coconut water from concentrate, bottled water and sports drinks on rehydration and found that the water provided similar rehydrating effects as both coconut waters (fresh and from concentrate) and the sports drink.

Another study also compared the effects of fresh coconut water, plain water and sports drinks on rehydration after exercise but found no significant differences between the three. However, the coconut water did seem to cause less nausea, fullness and no stomach upset, and it was easier to consume in larger amounts compared to both plain water and the sports drink.

A third study even looked at sodium-enriched coconut water—that is, coconut water with added sodium. Both the sports drink and sodium-enriched coconut water were found to rehydrate better than plain water and fresh coconut water, but the sodium-enriched coconut water worked just as well as the sports drink.

It’s worth mentioning here that all of these were small studies with 12 or fewer participants. Take these results with a grain of salt, so to speak, at least until larger, more reliable studies are done.

Hydration Takeaway

As far as hydration goes, the evidence suggests that, when consumed in adequate quantities, plain water, coconut water and sports drinks are all comparable. This makes sense, as there is little physiological basis that sodium-containing drinks enhance water absorption as long as your diet contains an adequate amount of salt. For the majority of us who are trying to lose or maintain our weight and work out for 60 minutes or less under normal conditions (i.e., not in extreme heat and humidity), water remains the smartest, and most affordable, hydration choice.
For those exercising vigorously for more than one hour or in extremely hot conditions, sipping on coconut water or a sports drink can enhance performance and promote fluid retention during exercise. Just keep in mind that natural coconut water contains less sugar (muscle fuel) and sodium (an important hydration electrolyte) than the average sports drink, which is engineered to improve and optimize athlete performance.

About the Author

Elle Penner, MPH, RD
Elle Penner, MPH, RD

Elle is a nutrition and wellness writer, recipe developer, blogger and nutrition consultant whose favorite things include her camera, carbs and quality time with her toddler. For more from this busy mama, check out Elle’s lifestyle blog or connect with her on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.


9 responses to “Is Coconut Water More Hydrating?”

  1. Avatar MionTheLion says:

    I was very ill recently, almost hospitalised. Maybe an hour from being taken in an ambulance as I had vomited so much over the previous 20 hours, I had literally nothing else to vomit up but was having stomach spasms and retching became extremely taxing on my body. I had an immense headache and no amount of panadol, neurofen etc could touch it. I knew that was from severe dehydration and water just came straight back up. In one clear moment I told my partner to go and buy some coconut water as I remembered reading what an excellent electrolyte it was and that would surely help. He returned with a 1.5 litre bottle shortly afterwards and I sipped it over the course of about 20 minutes. Within about 5 minutes, my headache had gone and I was able to hold the coconut water down without feeling even slightly nauseous after that. I came right over the next week and a half, regained the kilo’s I had lost suddenly and was able to hold food down again later that day. Coconut water is now a staple in our pantry and there’s always a spare can or bottle kept for emergencies. Any science that says it is no better than water or other sports drinks is not a science based on real, hard core testing imo.

  2. Avatar Doh! says:

    Since so many Americans already take in more sodium than they should, isn’t plain water the best choice for most?

  3. Avatar gbowler300 says:

    This article mentions electrolytes, but the studies appear to have only compared the three options based on hydration. Are there any studies that have compared water, coconut water, and sports drinks with respect to electrolyte absorption?

  4. Avatar William Gary Robinson says:

    I prefer milk to water for rehydration. I saw a recent study on a BBC programme that milk will replenish your body up to 1/4 times more than water. I will still have some water too, but after the milk. I’m only just trying out coconut water in my exercise regime, I will see if it has any noticeable improvements.

    • Avatar Frank says:

      Noooo!! Milk has to be one of the worst thing you can ingest don’t do it. I would advise Drinking water and eating fruits and whole grains. Newsflash all fruits and veggies contain protein.. flee the animal protein and see your running improve dramatically. Try it! 🙂 Happy Running!

  5. Avatar blake says:

    Just want to point out that this was the most well written article and conducted experiment that I’ve read about in quite some time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Never Miss a Post!

Turn on MyFitnessPal desktop notifications and stay up to date on the latest health and fitness advice.


Click the 'Allow' Button Above


You're all set.