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Myth: Coconut water is a must have for rehydrating

TRUTH:  Whether you’re talking about rehydrating from a hangover or rehydrating after a workout, coconut water’s popularity has gone from zero to 60 in only 5 years.  And by zero to sixty, I mean a $0 industry to $35 billion.  No joke.  When you push all the clever marking ploys aside, coconut water is…well, water with potassium that tastes a little sweet. 

Let’s examine.  Coconut water, dubbed “Nature’s Sports Drink,” is naturally found in coconuts and often sold without added sugar (though some brands add flavorings).  The claims made about coconut water include that it’s cholesterol-free, fat free, low calorie, uber-hydrating and high in electrolytes.

Coconut water’s claim to fame is the high potassium content – but it’s only slight more than a medium banana and less than half the energy.  Plus, coconut water is low in sodium so I’m honestly not even sure why this is supposed to be so amazing.

  •  For an athlete after exercise – you still need sodium and energy so switching a sports drink for coconut water is not an ample substitution.  So, in addition to the coconut water, you still need a salty snack with a combination of carbohydrate and protein.  Sports drinks are called sports drinks for a reason; they have the ideal breakdown of carbohydrate, sodium, and potassium for recovery from strenuous exercise.
  •  For a hangover – among the other causes of a hangover, you’re dehydrated.  Having sodium is a good thing because it will help you retain water and your headache will disappear more quickly.  And honestly, my guess is that you can’t stomach too much so I’d sip on regular water and have a snack that contains both potassium and sodium.

Lastly, I want to address the health claims associated with high potassium foods.  Having one cup of coconut water per day is not going to lower your blood pressure or cure diabetes.  Those people who don’t get enough potassium are probably not eating their fruits and vegetables – so rather than drinking sugar water with potassium, have some fruit or vegetables that also contain fiber, more vitamins and more minerals.   

BOTTOM LINE:  A cup of coconut water is not a cure all for any disease, it’s not a good substitute for a sports drink and it won’t help you get over a hangover any faster than foods with sodium.  It’s basically flavored water, which is fine if you want something tasty – just remember that you’re going to be drinking your calories.


  1. LA Times
  2. Food Network Blog


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2 Comments to "Myth: Coconut water is a must have for rehydrating"

  1. ian says:

    I am not buying your argument. I don’t have to be a rocket scientist to tell you that coconut water works. why? how do i know? well, when i am hungover or dehydrated, i drink it. lots of it. bottom line, once i drink it, i feel better. so i drink more. do all the science you wish, this is why i think it works. i am sure if i did the same thing with gatorade (which i used to). you can’t deny that drinking something that comes out of a coconut versus something that is made of high fructose corn syrup is a better choice.

    • Kate Gardner says:

      Thanks for your comment, Ian. That’s great that coconut water works for you – and if you like it, stick with it!

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