The Perfect Post-Workout Drink, According to Nutritionists

It seems like coconut water is everywhere. So you might be wondering: Is coconut water good for you? Yes, it is! The benefits of coconut water are many: It’s a rich source of potassium and electrolytes, plus an excellent hydrator.

What you might not know is that coconut water is unlike regular water in that it contains calories and sugar. “Coconut water can be part of a healthy diet, but it’s important to note that it’s not a completely calorie-free beverage, like water or seltzer,” says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D., founder of Greenletes. “A 260-ml serving of coconut water contains about 50 calories and 11 grams of natural sugar.” 

Obviously, this means that a few cups are fine as part of a balanced diet, but it shouldn’t replace regular old water as your primary source of hydration—regular water will always reign supreme. “If you’re drinking coconut water daily, you need to factor those calories into your daily consumption,” says Rizzo. “If you drink multiple servings per day, you may notice that you’re taking in more calories than you need, which may lead to weight gain.” 

We asked nutritionists, “Is coconut water good for you?” and had them break down everything you need to know about coconut water nutrition.

What is coconut water?

So what exactly is this beverage that seems to be in the fridge of every trendy fitness studio? Coconut water tastes nutty and refreshing (though some might find it a little too sweet). Unlike coconut milk, which is made up of the water and the flesh of a mature coconut, coconut water is the clear liquid inside green, or young, coconuts. More than 95% of coconut water is just water.

Coconut water nutrition

According to the USDA, half a can of coconut water (260ml) contains 49.4 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, and 11 grams of sugar.

Benefits of coconut water

Hydration is one of coconut water’s most well-researched health advantages, thanks to its richness in electrolytes including magnesium, sodium, and potassium. Which is the reason coconut water is considered to be an athlete’s best friend. “Someone who is training for an event or sweating profusely because they workout in hot climates may drink coconut water because it contains some natural sugars and electrolytes,” says Rizzo. “Coconut water provides some sugar to help sustain energy levels longer than an hour.”

1. A source of potassium

Coconut water contains some potassium, which is supportive of skeletal and muscular function and heart health. A half can of coconut water offers you 16% of your daily value of potassium.

Studies have also found that potassium can help to lower blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium. However, dietitians recommend consuming more potassium-rich foods as part of a balanced diet rather than relying on coconut water alone. These include leafy greens, bananas, apricots, and oranges.

2. May lower blood sugar levels

Research has found that coconut water is linked to lowering blood sugar levels. One study found that coconut water had multiple beneficial effects in diabetic rats for preventing hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) and oxidative stress.

3. An excellent hydrator

Does coconut water hydrate you? Aside from regular water, coconut water is the ultimate hydrator. The drink is ideal for replenishing fluids and electrolytes (minerals that help to regulate muscle and nerve function and maintain water balance) lost during a workout.

Whether you guzzle a carton of coconut water will depend on your level of work out. “Coconut water can help with hydration, depending on how long you workout,” says Rizzo. “If your workout is shorter than 60 minutes, water is probably enough to keep you hydrated. For workouts lasting longer than 60 minutes, you may need to replace the electrolytes lost in sweat, and coconut water can help with this.” 

Research has found that coconut water is the ideal beverage for whole-body rehydration after exercise, in that it triggers less nausea, fullness, and stomach upset than carbohydrate-electrolyte beverages and plain water. It was even found to be easier to consume in larger portions than these other drinks.

4. Packed with electrolytes

Coconut water is an excellent source of electrolytes, particularly for active people. So if you’re looking for a healthier sports drink containing electrolytes, opt for coconut water. It’s even dietitian-approved. “I use coconut water as the base for my homemade sports drink because it’s full of potassium, an electrolyte lost in sweat,” says Rizzo. “If you want to give it a try, add a pinch of salt to the coconut water to replace sodium losses.” If you’re looking to buy coconut water on the go, opt for natural coconut water without any added sugar or artificial flavors.

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