Article by: Dr. Axe
Electrolyte Replacement: Coconut Water vs. Gatorade
Because coconut water is high in potassium, and such a great electrolyte replacement, it has even been used for IV hydration in certain emergency situations. (4)
It is also lower in carbohydrates compared to other sports drinks. Coconut water is only about 4.5% carbohydrates whereas other sports drinks can contain 6-8% carbohydrate concentration. This is good for athletes trying to watch their sugar intake and hydrate after an event. For most casual exercisers coconut water is a great low-sugar hydration choice for after a workout.
A 2002 study, compared water, coconut water, and standard sports beverages to determine which beverage was best for post-exercise hydration. The eight subjects exercised in the heat and then were rehydrated with either water, coconut water, or a sports drink.
Researchers found that there was no difference in sodium levels, urine output, or fluid balance between the three beverages, meaning all three beverages were equally hydrating. But, there was significantly less nausea or fullness with the coconut water allowing the participants to drink more of the beverage. (5)
Overall, coconut water can be an alternative to sports drinks, but it may depend on the type of sport and the intensity. Some long-distance endurance athletes may need more specialized products that contain more sodium and carbohydrates. But, for most casual exercisers, coconut water is a great option.
Lower blood pressure
A 2005 study found that when subjects were given coconut water for two weeks, their systolic blood pressure was 71% lower and their diastolic blood pressure was 29% lower than those who drank plain water.
The high potassium content of coconut water has led researchers to investigate the potential benefits for reducing cardiovascular disease risk.
Potassium counteracts the effect of sodium in the body, helping lower blood pressure. (6, 7)
Lower cholesterol and triglycerides
A 2006 study found that rats given coconut water had a decreased chance of having a heart attack. The coconut water helped decrease their total cholesterol triglyceride levels, and LDL cholesterol, specifically the cholesterol found in the heart.
Additionally, the health benefits of coconut water helped the rats recover faster if they did have a heart attack. Researchers believe that the benefit may be related to the potassium, calcium, and magnesium content in the water, all electrolytes that play a role in helping maintain heart health. (8, 9)
Cleansing / Detox
Our bodies have an amazing natural ability to cleanse and detox on their own, if provided the correct nutrients and hydration. Inadequate hydration leads to the build-up of toxins in our bodies because the liver and kidneys, the detoxifying organs, are unable to function properly without adequate water.
Dehydration resulting from water or electrolyte loss leads to fatigue, irritability, confusion, and extreme thirst. These symptoms result from the inability for the kidney to adequately flush toxins out of the system. Adequate fluid intake, ideally 8-10 cups per day, can help prevent dehydration and maintain the body’s natural detoxification ability.Although water is great, during very hot weather or strenuous exercise, more than just plain water may be necessary.
Coconut water contains a similar electrolyte profile to human blood, making it an ideal beverage to replace fluids and help remove toxins from the body. The electrolyte potassium, specifically, can help counteract some of the negative effects of a high sodium processed diet.
Reduce stress and muscle tension
It’s almost as good as a massage! Some of the electrolytes found in coconut water, specifically calcium and magnesium, may help with stress and muscle tension. Many of us are missing these critical minerals in our diets, making stress management even more challenging. Other than maintaining strong teeth and bones, calcium helps with smooth muscle relaxation. Adequate calcium intakes may help keep our all our muscles relaxed, including our heart muscle, lowering the risk of heart attacks. (10)
Magnesium has been nicknamed the “relaxation” mineral. Its primary function is in the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that helps us relax. It also helps with the formation of serotonin, the feel good hormone. (11)
Magnesium and calcium work together to help maintain muscle relaxation. Coconut water contains both of these minerals, so drink up on a stressful day to help you stay calm and stress-free.