Drinking Coconut Water During or After Running

Creativ Studio Heinemann/Getty

Coconut water has gained in popularity among runners and other athletes in recent years. Low in calories, naturally fat-free and cholesterol-free, coconut water is different from high-fat coconut milk or coconut oil. It's a clear liquid that comes from the center of young, green coconuts. 

Coconut Water vs. Sports Drinks

A natural alternative to commercial sports drinks, coconut water contains easily-digested carbohydrates in the form of sugar, as well as electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium.

Most Americans don’t get enough potassium in their diets, so drinking coconut water is a good way to fill in the nutritional gaps. However, coconut water does not contain the levels of electrolytes, especially sodium, that are found in sports drinks and necessary to replace electrolytes lost through sweat. So, commercial sports drinks, such as Gatorade, offer more complete hydration and electrolyte replacement option for runners who are running more than 60 minutes and need to make sure they replace electrolytes.

Use During Long Runs

Of course, some runners still opt for coconut water during long runs because their sensitive stomachs can't tolerate the sugar and artificial sweeteners in many conventional sports drinks.

One study did find that coconut water, compared to sports drinks, caused less nausea, fullness, and stomach upset and was easier to consume in large amounts during rehydration.

If you prefer coconut water to hydrate during long runs, add a few sprinkles of salt to it or do a salt shot halfway through your long run to make sure you're replacing sodium.

Use During Short Runs

Don't forget that if you're running less than an hour, you don't need to worry about electrolyte replacement, so plain water should suffice.

However, if you like the taste of coconut water, it's certainly a good option for those shorter runs. 

Keep in mind, of course, that unlike plain water, coconut does contain calories. Although it's lower in calories than sports drinks, soda, or fruit juice, an 11-ounce container contains 60 calories so that can add up if you drink it throughout the day. Be sure that you look for unsweetened varieties, as some coconut drinks contain added sugars (and therefore more calories).

Use as a Recovery Drink

Coconut water is also used by runners as a recovery drink and a natural way to replenish electrolytes after a hard run or workout. Some runners like to mix it with a protein powder to make sure that they're getting the ideal 3:1 protein to carbs ratio for optimal recovery.

Source:  "The Truth About Coconut Water", WebMD.com