Coconut water is touted as nature's sports drink for good reason; just like Gatorade or Powerade, it contains high levels of electrolytes like sodium, magnesium, and potassium. But a recent study suggests that when it comes to the coconut water vs. sports drink debate, you may be better off keeping the coconut water for lighter workouts and reaching for a sports drink for your sweatier exercises.
The study, presented at an American Chemical Society meeting, found that coconut water contains less sodium than the manufactured sports drinks: 400 mg/liter vs. 600 mg/liter. When it comes to a sweaty workout session, replacing the sodium lost from your body is important in order to keep your muscles and nerves functioning properly, and the study's authors say that coconut water may not contain enough to do so.
However, other nutrients, like magnesium and carb count, were similar between both coconut water and sports drinks. Coconut water contains far higher levels of potassium, which is crucial for proper organ function; coconut water also contains high levels of disease-fighting antioxidants, and other studies have noted no real difference between rehydration through coconut water, water, or a sports drinks after 60 minutes of dehydrating exercise. In any case, this study is a good reminder that proper hydration is important when you're working out — especially when it's a particularly long or grueling routine — and knowing the health benefits of both coconut water and conventional sports drinks can help you make a decision that's good for your body.