Hydration Blog

Coconut water as a sports drink....Dr Jutley's thoughts.....*UPDATED*

Sunday, March 11, 2023

Since writing this post the following email landed in my inbox. It seems the Consumer Law Group (CLG) have filed a suit against a coconut water company for making claims that it is a good substitute for a sports drink:

Consumer Law Group files lawsuit against Vita Coco

Rebecca Prescott 12 Mar 2012

Consumer Law Group (CLG) has launched a national class action lawsuit against All Market on behalf of individuals who have purchased the product Vita Coco coconut water.

CLG has said that the class action involves the deceptive, misleading, false, and unfair advertising of Vita Coco as an electrolyte induced beverage similar to a sports drink.

In fact, in an independent study it was found that Vita Coco Coconut Water did not contain the amount of nutrients specified on the product’s label. In tests, it was sown that there was 40% less sodium than advertised (only 18mg out of its listed 30mg), 35% less magnesium (only 20.80 out of its listed 32mg), and 16% less potassium (only 432.60 out of its listed 515mg)

In addition, Vita Coco contains much less sodium than a sports drink, which is the key mineral lost during sweating and is, therefore, not effective for sports recovery, the group said.

Therefore, consumers of Vita Coco would not have agreed to buy a product which does not contain the level of nutrients that was represented to them and certainly would not have consented to pay a premium price for it, according to CLG.

Source: CLG

I felt compelled to post this in response to an article I saw entitled:


See http://frugivoremag.com/2012/03/ditch-the-sports-drink-coconut-water-is-natures-way-to-rehydrate/ 

We're seeing coconut water touted as 'natures electrolyte' more and more often I'm really not sure about this! The article does make some valid observations about the high energy/sugar content of some sports drinks not being needed when you are not training hard but the comments on electrolyte balance are not completely accurate.

While coconut water may be natural I'm not convinced that its the best way to hydrate before, during and after exercise.  For very gentle sessions perhaps it might be ok once in a while but I certainly wouldn't be telling anyone to ditch the sports drinks as recommended by the author.  The article does advise against drinking too much to avoid over-hydration and hyponatraemia (low blood sodium) which it admits can be life-threatening (very true).  However, coconut water typically contains only 160mg sodium per litre which is much less than the average sweat sodium losses in humans of around 920 mg per litre so the issue of hyponatraemia is not really avoided by using it.  Then there's the high potassium content (Potassium is not a bad thing in reasonable quantities in protecting against diabetes and high blood pressure) but one litre of coconut water contains over 60% of your daily potassium requirements.  In long hot events if used as a primary hydrator, even with 3 litres the total potassium load will be 1.8 times the daily requirement plus whatever is taken via sports gels and normal food intake. I use Potassium to stop the heart during cardiac surgery so would be extremely hesitant in advising people to drink large volumes of a potassium rich drink when exercising hard or sweating a lot.

The bottom line is that sodium, not potassium, is the key electrolyte you need to replace when sweating and this is summed up nicely with the quote below:

"The only electrolyte added to drinks consumed during exercise that is known to confer physiological benefit is sodium.”

Report of the Scientific Committee on Food on composition and specification of food intended to meet the expenditure of intense muscular effort, especially for sportsmen. 2001. 

Dr Raj Jutley. CMO Precision Hydration ltd.

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