Coconut water: Is it really "nature's sport drink"?
By Jennifer Koslo, MS, RD, CSSD, CPT

Coconut water is not new. The liquid inside young, green coconuts has long been enjoyed in tropical countries due to its availability, cultural traditions, and beliefs regarding its health benefits. But recently the drink has gone mainstream in the U.S. and can be found in colorful juice-box styles and in a variety of flavors in most supermarkets. Sales of coconut water in the U.S. have jumped in the last 5 years from about $4 million to $40 to $60 million dollars annually. Part of this increase can be attributed to A-list celebrity endorsers who have recently invested in Vita Coco®, and the investment of Pepsi in O.N.E.™1 But is this drink really “nature’s sports drink” and can it “promote smoother, more hydrated skin”? What are the facts behind the hype? As a skeptic of almost every new food or beverage that seems to have the makings of a fad, I thought I would do some research and decide for myself.

 Just the Nutrition Facts

Coconut water is not to be confused with coconut milk which is squeezed from the inside pulp and used as a common ingredient in many Thai recipes. Coconut water is from young, green coconuts and is low in calories and a natural source of electrolytes including sodium and potassium. Eight ounces of coconut water has 46 calories, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 250 mg of sodium, 600 mg of potassium, 60 mg of magnesium, 45 mg of phosphorus, and 2 grams of protein.2 The electrolyte content is more than double that of traditional sports drinks with about half of the carbohydrates. So, if you wash that bagel down with fresh coconut water after your workout then, yes, it can contribute to optimal hydration and recovery. In addition to electrolytes and carbohydrates, coconut water contains other beneficial components including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids.

Not so Fast!

The commercial brands sold in the U.S. (I looked at the nutrient data for 5 brands) have a potassium content that is similar to the water fresh from the fruit; however, the sodium content is much lower with an average of 35–60 mg per eight ounces. Compare this to Gatorade which contains 70 calories, 19 grams carbs, 154 mg sodium, and 42 mg potassium per serving and as a sports drink the sodium level in consumer coconut water is far too low for adequate electrolyte replacement.

Commercial coconut water brands versus traditional sports drink:

Product (per 8 ounces


Carbs (g)

Sodium (mg)

Potassium (mg)

Popular coconut waters:

Harvest Bay Original Coconut Water





Naked Juice Coconut Water





O.N.E. 100% Coconut Water





Vita Coco 100% Pure Coconut Water





Traditional sports drink:

Gatorade Thirst Quencher





Kaplan Higher Education Corporation is a division of Kaplan, Inc., a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company.

another brian hill design