Coconut Water for Athletic Performance vs. Sports Drinks

Coconut Water for Athletic Performance vs. Sports Drinks
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Coconut water is tested head-to-head against plain water and sports drinks in athletes.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

So far, I’ve reviewed the evidence on coconut oil and coconut milk that suggest neither is good for you. But what about coconut water? When I first learned about athletes using coconut water as a natural Gatorade, I did a medical literature search for athletes and coconut, and only came up with this: a study of “canine athletes.” Turns out feeding drug- or bomb-sniffing dogs coconut oil can sometimes wipe out their ability to smell at all. But, what about coconut water and human athletes?

Studies on coconut water as an electrolyte-replacement beverage date back decades, when coconut water was compared to other beverages, and found to be “more suitable.” But, the other beverages they compared it to were like Pepsi, Coke, Sprite and 7Up. You don’t really know—until you put it to the test. It was found to help in cases of mild dehydration, due to childhood diarrhea, despite having an unbalanced “electrolyte composition”—by which they meant the sodium/potassium ratio was off.

Coconut water has so much potassium that people with kidney disease can run into “life-threatening hyperkalemia” (too much potassium in the blood) if they drink like two quarts of coconut water and don’t have normal kidney function—which would otherwise just flush the excess away. People may not realize coconut water has so much potassium. So, even if your doctor warned you about staying away from high-potassium foods, you may not realize, and may run into problems. Even one quart a day may be too much for someone whose kidneys have been compromised by diabetes, for example. Cream of tartar is the same kind of thing. People don’t realize it’s like 20% pure potassium. So, when they listen to websites claiming it’s some “‘natural’ remedy,” even young people with healthy kidneys can run into problems if they take spoonfuls of the stuff—with cream of tartar overdose deaths dating back to the 1800s.

But, what about “rehydration after exercise with fresh young coconut water”? Yes, it can help replace fluid loss from diarrhea; what about fluid loss from heavy exercise? We didn’t know, until this study. 90 minutes at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit until they lost up to 3% of their body weight. Then, researchers had them drink coconut water, versus a sports beverage, versus just plain water—and, no significant difference in rehydration for any of them. Subsequent study findings were more mixed. Some showed a sports drink beat out water for hydration, but coconut water didn’t. Or, they both beat out water, but not each other. The reason athletes care about rehydration is that they care about performance. But, there had never been any studies on not just “measures of hydration,” but on “physical performance”—until this study.

They tested water, versus coconut water, versus coconut water from concentrate, versus a standard sports drink. Then, they stuck people on a treadmill and timed how long they could go before they collapsed. And, they discovered “no significant difference” between any of them. Plain water did just as well as coconut water—in fact, even better, since those drinking the coconut water felt “more bloated,” with upset tummies. Now, this was all done at room temperature, about 70 degrees. What about instead at over 90 degrees Fahrenheit? Then, the coconut water did seem to beat out water. But, “time to exhaustion” isn‘t the same as performance. That’s something that’s routinely used in laboratory studies. But, doing something like “a time trial test” would actually measure speed and performance. But, there’s never been a head-to-head water versus coconut water-time trial—until now.

Drinking coconut water, bikers make it 10k in 971 seconds, and on plain water, about five seconds faster—in other words, no significant difference. The first study on the use of coconut water during exercise, and it looks like it’s “no more beneficial than plain water.”

How’s the coconut water industry going to spin this? They were the ones that funded the study that found no difference between plain water, coconut water, and sports drinks. So, did the authors conclude VitaCoco is no better than water? No, they said coconut water…is just as good as sports beverages! That’s a finding athletes and coaches will “likely [find] of most importance”—failing to note that not only did plain water do just as well, it did better, because there was twice as much stomach upset in the coconut-water groups. But wait; if all the beverages did equally well, then this isn’t just a refutation of any special properties to coconut water, but the sports drinks as well. If they do no better than water, are sports drinks just a waste of money? We’ll find out, next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Mike Mozart via flickr. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

So far, I’ve reviewed the evidence on coconut oil and coconut milk that suggest neither is good for you. But what about coconut water? When I first learned about athletes using coconut water as a natural Gatorade, I did a medical literature search for athletes and coconut, and only came up with this: a study of “canine athletes.” Turns out feeding drug- or bomb-sniffing dogs coconut oil can sometimes wipe out their ability to smell at all. But, what about coconut water and human athletes?

Studies on coconut water as an electrolyte-replacement beverage date back decades, when coconut water was compared to other beverages, and found to be “more suitable.” But, the other beverages they compared it to were like Pepsi, Coke, Sprite and 7Up. You don’t really know—until you put it to the test. It was found to help in cases of mild dehydration, due to childhood diarrhea, despite having an unbalanced “electrolyte composition”—by which they meant the sodium/potassium ratio was off.

Coconut water has so much potassium that people with kidney disease can run into “life-threatening hyperkalemia” (too much potassium in the blood) if they drink like two quarts of coconut water and don’t have normal kidney function—which would otherwise just flush the excess away. People may not realize coconut water has so much potassium. So, even if your doctor warned you about staying away from high-potassium foods, you may not realize, and may run into problems. Even one quart a day may be too much for someone whose kidneys have been compromised by diabetes, for example. Cream of tartar is the same kind of thing. People don’t realize it’s like 20% pure potassium. So, when they listen to websites claiming it’s some “‘natural’ remedy,” even young people with healthy kidneys can run into problems if they take spoonfuls of the stuff—with cream of tartar overdose deaths dating back to the 1800s.

But, what about “rehydration after exercise with fresh young coconut water”? Yes, it can help replace fluid loss from diarrhea; what about fluid loss from heavy exercise? We didn’t know, until this study. 90 minutes at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit until they lost up to 3% of their body weight. Then, researchers had them drink coconut water, versus a sports beverage, versus just plain water—and, no significant difference in rehydration for any of them. Subsequent study findings were more mixed. Some showed a sports drink beat out water for hydration, but coconut water didn’t. Or, they both beat out water, but not each other. The reason athletes care about rehydration is that they care about performance. But, there had never been any studies on not just “measures of hydration,” but on “physical performance”—until this study.

They tested water, versus coconut water, versus coconut water from concentrate, versus a standard sports drink. Then, they stuck people on a treadmill and timed how long they could go before they collapsed. And, they discovered “no significant difference” between any of them. Plain water did just as well as coconut water—in fact, even better, since those drinking the coconut water felt “more bloated,” with upset tummies. Now, this was all done at room temperature, about 70 degrees. What about instead at over 90 degrees Fahrenheit? Then, the coconut water did seem to beat out water. But, “time to exhaustion” isn‘t the same as performance. That’s something that’s routinely used in laboratory studies. But, doing something like “a time trial test” would actually measure speed and performance. But, there’s never been a head-to-head water versus coconut water-time trial—until now.

Drinking coconut water, bikers make it 10k in 971 seconds, and on plain water, about five seconds faster—in other words, no significant difference. The first study on the use of coconut water during exercise, and it looks like it’s “no more beneficial than plain water.”

How’s the coconut water industry going to spin this? They were the ones that funded the study that found no difference between plain water, coconut water, and sports drinks. So, did the authors conclude VitaCoco is no better than water? No, they said coconut water…is just as good as sports beverages! That’s a finding athletes and coaches will “likely [find] of most importance”—failing to note that not only did plain water do just as well, it did better, because there was twice as much stomach upset in the coconut-water groups. But wait; if all the beverages did equally well, then this isn’t just a refutation of any special properties to coconut water, but the sports drinks as well. If they do no better than water, are sports drinks just a waste of money? We’ll find out, next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Mike Mozart via flickr. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video.

Doctor's Note

Here are the videos I alluded to about coconut oil:

Other coconut oil videos include:

What if you just put it on your skin? See Eczema Treatment with Coconut Oil, Mineral Oil vs. Vaseline

How Much Should You Exercise? Great question—watch the video!

How Many Glasses of Water Should We Drink a Day? Got one on that too!

Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion in Are Sports Drinks Safe & Effective?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

93 responses to “Coconut Water for Athletic Performance vs. Sports Drinks

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  1. Great information! I will have to let my athletic son know about this as he consumes a variety of sports beverages. Hope it turns out that he can save himself a pile of money and just drink good quality water.

    It appears the, “electrolyte replacement” idea might be a myth when it comes the assumption that it affects performance-severe gastric illness and dehydration aside.

    A proud and health monthly supporter of Nutritionfacts.org

  2. Regarding the bloating issue, I would be very curious to see a study between plain water and water that claims to be “micro-clustered” and alkalized (i.e. Kangen water) through a machine from Enagic or Tyent.

  3. The problem I see with the studies above is apparently there are no references to the KIND of water tested. Was it RO?… Distilled?… magnetized Distilled?… magnetized Hydrogenated Distilled? or (ugh) tapwater, and if so, from where?

      1. Sure, it is basically a very low amount of electrifying. That is, I transfer my distilled water from a common glass jug into another glass jug that is wrapped a couple of times in a narrow (1/2 inch) ribbon of sticky back magnetic tape. Onto this tape I place some rare earth magnets to up the magnetism of the tape.

        I make no claims as to how this may change the properties of the distilled water. However, I once read that scientists had finally agreed that you can change the properties of distilled water, something that was not thought doable previously. The fact that I have continued doing this for at least a decade, even though it is an extra step in my drinking water/tea water preparation, suggests to me that my body is responding to this regimen as I often drop some things I do for no reason.

        The same is true with my recent (past six months or more) practice of suspending a magnesium rod in this same water at least a day before I drink it. I keep 5 separate gallon and half-gallon jugs scattered throughout the house including in my bedroom for when I get up at night and re-hydrate.

        I go through at least a gallon of water a day and my above preparations are rather time consuming. My inner brain would have scuttled the regimen if it didn’t feel I am getting benefit from my labors.

        1. Why would you want your water “electrified”? And what does that even mean?

          And why would you want magnesium in your water, too?

          As the name states, this is a website for evidence-based nutrition facts. Could you share a few?

          1. As the name states, this is a website for evidence-based nutrition facts. Could you share a few?

            I think I qualified that this is evidence based on MY experience and thinking. I make no claims of being a certified professional.

            Why are you threatened by my observations?

            I want magnesium in my water to increase the Hydrogen (not the coming released cell phone, but the mineral ‘-) Some “Interneter crowd sciencers” say that is a good thing. No one has come out against it that I’m aware of.

              1. Sorry, for the suggestion that distilled water properties can be changed by an electric charge (the magnetic field is my own version of a lower charge) I am unable to provide anything other than my memories as this is something I read over a decade or two ago.

                And even if I saved it on the computer du jour, that was probably 3 or 4 obsolete or crashed computers ago… so no way to retrieve that info.

                I could search up an article on hydrogenated water but in order to eliminate my personal bias, I would rather you did the search and get more viewpoints other than my own.

            1. “Universal drinking water and beverages containing moderate to high levels of magnesium (10–100 ppm) could potentially prevent 4.5 million heart disease and stroke deaths per year, worldwide. This potential is calculated with 2010 global mortality figures combined with a recent quantification of water-magnesium’s inverse association with heart disease and stroke mortality. ”
              https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306987713004763

            2. There isn’t a lot of research on magnetised water – certainly not in humans. However, this trial with diabetic rats is intriguing

              “the supplementation of magnetized water not only decreased the blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin levels but also reduced blood and liver DNA damages in STZ-induced diabetic rats.”
              https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3572224/

              They used magnets delivering 9-13,000 gauss to produce the magnetised water – which is why Lonie is presumably using (strong) rare earth magnets for her water processing.

              1. Tom, a thumbs up and an Atta Boy for finding that research. I’ve not done a search for magnetized water ’cause I never figured any research existed.

                Sometimes our intuition tells us to do something and later we find out why.

                ‘-)

        2. Forgot to mention… I got the idea of setting up the electric field around my water from reading how initially in France, later in China, experiments were done by electrifying lower grades of wine and then actually winning awards in taste competitions.

          The French could not allow this assault on their wine industry. I suspect the Chinese are still doing this procedure as they have no labels to protect.

    1. Could you kindly provide the scientific journal article references that support the consumption of these KINDS of water you are asking about?

      1. Could you kindly provide the scientific journal article references that support the consumption of these KINDS of water you are asking about?

        Sorry no. But I can repost some of mine and TGs posts above this one than should explain why.

        I said:

        Sorry, for the suggestion that distilled water properties can be changed by an electric charge (the magnetic field is my own version of a lower charge) I am unable to provide anything other than my memories as this is something I read over a decade or two ago.

        And even if I saved it on the computer du jour, that was probably 3 or 4 obsolete or crashed computers ago… so no way to retrieve that info.

        I could search up an article on hydrogenated water but in order to eliminate my personal bias, I would rather you did the search and get more viewpoints other than my own.

        Then TG said:

        “Universal drinking water and beverages containing moderate to high levels of magnesium (10–100 ppm) could potentially prevent 4.5 million heart disease and stroke deaths per year, worldwide. This potential is calculated with 2010 global mortality figures combined with a recent quantification of water-magnesium’s inverse association with heart disease and stroke mortality. ”
        https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306987713004763

        and he further stated:

        There isn’t a lot of research on magnetised water – certainly not in humans. However, this trial with diabetic rats is intriguing

        “the supplementation of magnetized water not only decreased the blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin levels but also reduced blood and liver DNA damages in STZ-induced diabetic rats.”
        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3572224/

        They used magnets delivering 9-13,000 gauss to produce the magnetised water – which is why Lonie is presumably using (strong) rare earth magnets for his water processing.

        Then I last post on the subject:

        I got the idea of setting up the electric field around my water from reading how initially in France, later in China, experiments were done by electrifying lower grades of wine and then actually winning awards in taste competitions.

        I realize these comment threads can get confusing at times. I’m hoping that putting them all together can help cut through the confusion.

        1. provide the scientific journal article references that support the consumption of these KINDS of water

          Should have also mentioned that, while in some cases I do rely on scientific journals and such, they are not my gold standard for information.

          My feeling is there are many things in the wild that just work but when research is narrowed down to a single part of the whole, efficacy cannot be proved. I’ve been of the mind for years that studies should be about systems rather than single interactions, as most studies concentrate on.

          Seems some of this is changing, but still a long way to go.

        2. Further should have mentioned to help you do your own research in the distilled water, it is the only way to treat water by killing both gram positive and gram negative bacteria.

  4. Coconut water has meant no more cramps in our family.
    Worked so well in treating dehydration from vomiting that hospital pediatrician inferred that the illness had gone on much longer and the body had compensated. Serously. Made him look up coconut water.

    Guzzling then exercising is the wrong way round. Never a bad tummy by sipping along a long hot trail. That bit of sugar keeps you going.

    Also to mention the a freshly opened coconut is sterile so perfect in far flung destinations.

  5. If I’m adding a 1 1/2 cup of !00% coconut water to my post workout protein smoothie, is this a good potassium boost or a waste of money?

    1. Steven,
      Thank you for your question. 1 1/2 cup of coconut water will provide about 900 mg potassium. If you are eating lots of fruits and vegetables you are already getting plenty of potassium. In fact whole plant foods is the preferred way to get your potassium because you will also get numerous other vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients. For example, 1 banana in your smoothie provides about 430 mg potassium.

  6. Good to know about cream of tartar. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it at my Farmer’s Market, but I added it to my “Stuff to Avoid” list on One Note anyway. =]

    For those interested, here’s the list I have so far (from NF.org, et al.)

    Animal products (see NF.org)
    Dairy (see NF.org)
    Eggs (see NF.org)
    Fish oil, Omega 3 caps (Hg)
    GMO products (see Smith, Seeds of Deception)
    Prilosec, Nexium, etc. (linked to dementia)
    Wines (linked to cancer; regulated by ATF: CFR, Title 27)
    Honey (high sugar)
    PBA (recycle codes 3, 7)
    Phthalates (scented soaps, cosmetics, plastics, rubber)
    Artificial Colors (DNA damage)
    Kelp (excess iodine)
    Spirulina (liver toxins)
    Blue Green Algae (neurotoxins, ALS)
    Tarragon (possible DNA damage)
    Licorice (harms kidney function)
    SLS in toothpaste (delays healing of canker sores)
    Hijiki (Hiziki) seaweed (arsenic)
    Cream of Tartar (20% potassium content)
    Nutmeg (toxic above 2 tsp)

    1. Thanks Dr. Cobalt for the list of things to avoid.

      So, the kelp granules, which I just bought to make vegan tuna aren’t a good thing?

      I needed to have a list like that.

      I have been buying all sorts of herbs and spices and finding out that nutmeg has a toxic dosage and I have no idea what tarragon tastes like, but I have pondered it and I can stop pondering it. I only eat licorice once every few years, so in a few years, I will be coming back looking for what bad thing it did.

      I am pondering kidneys, because of my cousin and LOVE everything I can add to my “good for kidneys” and “bad for kidneys” lists.

      I am so happy that coconut water isn’t good for me. I threw up the coconut oil and pondered the coconut water, but put it off until “maybe next year” as a concept, so now I can change it to the never category without even tasting it. Hooray, for knocking expensive things, which I don’t think I will like the taste of off the list.

      I have watched the kidney videos and the fatty kidneys makes me wonder if when we get my cousin off of saturated fats, will the kidneys start functioning again, like Dr. Barnard’s work with the Pancreas? That is my working wishful thinking hypothesis. I feel like it could be possible.

      I got my cousin to want to do WFPB and his doctors have been pushing meat and white bread and sugary treats on him and I am going to be bringing him groceries to see if we can reverse things, before they put the port in for him to start dialysis. I have about 3 weeks to get any type of improvement.

      1. I have a note on one of my soup recipes next to the ingredient Tarragon that says: Substitute fennel or anise seed; all three have a licorice taste.

        I am certain I got that tip from Dr. G,, though I cannot recall exactly where I heard him mention it.

      2. Deb, Dr. Greger has a video where he explains why he doesn’t recommend consuming kelp, it’s only due to very high iodine levels. But kelp is not bad, you just don’t want to exceed small amounts. I’ve been taking on average, 1/2 or 1/4 tsp a day as a supplement for a few years, I used to take a full tsp but stopped not due to adverse effects, but simply because it was unnecessary. If you want something with lower iodine levels, dulse is a good option. I know there’s one type of kelp that is very high in arsenic, Dr. Greger explains that in one of his videos, so that particular type should be avoided, but I use Maine Coast kelp granules which has a mixed variety of kelps and it does not contain that type.
        Another commenter on here shared an anecdotal experience about her friend lowering lead levels by taking kelp, I’ve heard of sea vegetables working as chelators before, I would love if Dr. Greger does a video on that in the future.

    2. dr cobalt, thanks for the note on terragon! Wouldn’t have known… Do you have a link?

      There is also the same neurotoxin in spirulina, I believe Dr. Greger points this out in his video.

      But why avoid cream of tar tar? Potassium is good for us and typically only a small amount is called for in day, an entire cake. Why and how would anyone consume excessive amounts of cream of tar tar? I also take dried kelp for iodine I just do so in small, measured amounts instead of taking a supplement… no kelp salads though… not that I’d want one lol.

      I’m surprised you don’t have cassia cinnamon on your list!

      1. The transcript and video for the Tarragon topic is at https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-safety-of-tarragon/. This ¶ appears in the transcript: And so, I was going to leave it at that, and not even do a video about it, since tarragon seemed to be in the clear. But, a 2013 study on human white blood cells reopened the question, finding that whole-leaf tarragon extracts may have DNA-damaging properties after all.

        For some reason I never did add Cassia cinnamon to the list. Not sure why. I still use it occasionally in cooking.

        Here’s the link for kelp and excess iodine: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/cancer-risk-from-arsenic-in-rice-and-seaweed/. Dr. G. summarizes with this statement: So, I’d recommend to avoid hijiki due to its excess arsenic content, and avoid kelp due to its excess iodine.

        Hope that helps.

        drc

        1. Thanks! I appreciate it! I did see the one on hijiki. As for the kelp, I would avoid sitting down and eating it, but taking in small amounts I find work as a great and easy way to supplement with iodine. Due to the fact there’s so much, I can have 1/4th tsp a day so it’s convenient and affordable and I prefer it over supplements. I would definitely avoid eating it in large quantities. My dried kelp granules have over 100% DV of iodine in 1/4th tsp.

      2. I’m surprised you don’t have cassia cinnamon on your list!

        I agree that Ceylon cinnamon is best in most cases, but the cassia cinnamon acts as a natural version of the drug Warfarin. So if one needs their blood thinned, maybe the cassia is useful.

        Personally, I don’t necessarily need my blood thinned so I use the Ceylon cinnamon. Of course, if you eat foods off the shelf that contain cinnamon (for me that’s Honey Maid graham crackers with cinnamon) to consume with unsweetened tea as in my case, you are very probably getting cassia.

        Or another natural blood thinner may be White Willow Bark (natural version of aspirin without the side effects.)

        1. There’s also turmeric… I would imagine clove too, garlic from fresh but I think the dried spice too. So many plants help with that so I don’t think you’d be limited to cassia cinnamon. The cassia cinnamon is great for blood sugar control but isn’t necessarily a safe alternative because of the potential liver toxicity. Small amounts are probably fine, I mean if they weren’t we’d have noticed by now… but for regular consumption I choose to get ceylon.

            1. Watched the video, but I get along fine with turmeric and get daily doses of it as well as adding to any soups I fix, so no need to do the cumin. I do have a small pkg of cumin. Very pretty stuff.

              Some add it to milk and or other drinks. I may try that with some almond milk just to see how it tastes.

  7. People, such as myself, who get exercise-induced migraines can avoid them by drinking an electrolyte replacement drink during / after exercise. I used to use the effervescent tabs that dissolve in water, but they often contain artificial sweeteners, so these days I drink coconut water after exercising. Not only for the electrolytes, but because it’s a lot less sugary than fruit juice.

    1. What I’ve been doing after workouts lately, is just taking my can of black soy beans and blending it into a smoothie, sometimes adding other things (you can even make it sweet!). It’s so nutritious and so refreshing! It probably sounds gross but I actually really enjoy the taste… it’s verry mild.

  8. I love using coconut water for times my blood sugar gets too low (hypoglycemic) it has just enough natural sugars to slowly raise my levels without it spiking up to high too fast like most juices do. I always feel better when I have coconut water to drink when I’m not hungry but still need I small amount to sugar to keep my blood sugar at a good point.

  9. I was coming down with moderate headaches after going for a run even though I was not dehydrated. As an experiment, I tried drinking a glass of coconut water before my run and I didn’t get a headache. Since then, I’ve been doing this consistently and have not had any running-related headaches. Perhaps it’s my imagination or plain luck but it seems to work and does not cause me any harm (other than buying the coconut water). Can anybody else report positive results from coconut water?

    1. Well I hadn’t noticed anything negative (other than price) and it’s been tasty and refreshing when I’ve had it! But I did once give one to a family member with coronary artery disease who after a party was experiencing an alarming amount of water retention and had very high blood pressure, they described to me what they ate and had been eating over a weekend trip and it sounded like they had WAY too much sodium among other things and pretty much zero plant food so I had them drink that and gave them a bit of red wine or balsamic vinegar as these were two things I knew that might offer immediate assistance and their blood pressure went down to normal levels for them and they started feeling better. Yes, they got a lecture too lol.

      1. Balsamic vinegar for elevated BP? Hadn’t heard that one. If it works, I’m rich! (I’ve got gallons of that stuff. ‘-)

        1. I think balsamic vinegar my be helpful for lowering triglycerides and cholesterol, which may have a long term effect in lowering BP, at least in rats. It’s probable that anyone eating a WFPBD probably has their triglycerides and cholesterol in good shape anyway.

          1. Actually, I remember from old comments the occasional person saying they strictly practice WFPB and were not enjoying those benefits. Perhaps the balsamic vinegar could be the (cliche alert!) last piece of the puzzle.

            Plus, few if any of us take blood tests on a daily basis so without knowing it there may be times during the day when we are out of phase.

            I think the balsamic (plant based, BTW from grape must) is a good addition to the diet when able to be added.

            1. I agree a WFPB diet is generally efficient on its own but I also agree things like balsamic vinegar can be very beneficial additions. You can’t have too many health promoting plants in your diet…. ok, well maybe if you’re eating truck loads of bok choy as one women was doing daily, lol.

        2. With the vinegary I wasn’t thinking blood pressure, I was thinking “what could quickly help arterial function” and I was going by one of the videos here on red wine/balsamic vinegar and other vinegars. To me it seemed they needed any boost in arterial function they could quickly get.

          1. Interesting that you used it to treat irregular arterial function. Still, most of us are thinking in the long term as you also noted.

            I’ve just run out of malt vinegar today and poured some balsamic into the same bottle as it is best for dispensing. I preferred the taste of the malt vinegar but having finally used it all up (I hate waste so could not just pour it out) I can now go back to using the balsamic.

            It just seems being derived from grape must, it “must ” be better for us.

              1. Thanks for pointing me to that video. It helped build out my knowledge base even more.

                I use small amounts of vinegar on a daily basis, but now I am comfortable in the fact that I have at least a decade supply of balsamic vinegar, poured up into glass bottles.

    2. Hi David
      I occasionally drink coconut water for runs lasting over an hour. Gives me an energy boost. I suppose I could just as easily eat something. But as you know running and eating is not that easy. I suppose I could slow down. Anyhow there is no way I am going to drink a prebottled sport drink so it works for me when I am in the 10 mile range.

      1. I’m from Thailand and I’ve drunk coconut water all my life. I’d like these studies to use real fresh coconut water, not the bottled stuff. I buy young coconuts from my local Asian markets and crack them myself. I know most people aren’t willing to do this, but if you’re going to do hard science to prove or disprove the benefits of coconut water, use the real stuff please. This coconut water is as fresh as I can get it here in California. It hasn’t been sitting around store shelves for god knows how long, hasn’t oxidized, and it’s raw. I definitely notice a difference between fresh coconut water vs. plain water for running and intense hikes. It’s good for sustaining energy and great for recovery. Plus, it’s a yummy reward for having worked out. And no, you’re not supposed to drink gallons of coconut water in one sitting. Too much coconut water can have a laxative effect. I thought that was general knowledge, but maybe not. I drink what comes out of one coconut. Then I drink water.

        1. I’d not only be willing but incredibly excited for the opportunity to buy and crack open the young coconut! There’s nothing like that available around here. I can’t even find an organic mature coconut around me. Not sure what the growing practices are and if pesticides are ever used for coconuts, so the conventional might be the same… even those I don’t see often though.
          But I would like to know what was studied, some brands don’t even contain what they say. To my knowledge, Harmless Harvest seems like the most reliable source of bottled coconut water.

          1. Then you are not most people. Lol! I’ve tried teaching others how to crack a coconut (at their request, not because I’m pushing my way) and usually, folks are too scared of the cleaver (that’s how I do it, but there’s more than one way to crack a coconut). They don’t trust themselves with a blade and their own hand-eye coordination. So they don’t even try. Which is fine.

            As far as organic coconuts go, no, the ones I buy aren’t labelled as such. But for me, the benefits outweigh the risk. I don’t know how they’re grown. But coconut water comes in its own sterile environment (the nut). Not saying pesticides/heavy metals/industrial pollutants can’t get in there… I don’t know. Everyone has to make that decision for herself, right? Not all coconut water is created equal. I agree that different brands have their own methods. The moment coconut water is exposed to air (oxygen), it starts to oxidize. Some companies have invested time, money, and resources to get a product that’s as fresh as possible. Others have not. So I’d rather trust a product that I cracked myself. Not to mention, it tastes astronomically better :P

            1. I would guess that coconuts would be one of the safer conventionally grown foods in any case, given their hard shells, but it would be refreshing to learn if they’re typically not grown with pesticides… I’ll have to look into it. If I’m ever lucky enough to see a young coconut being sold around here, I’ll have to try it! That sounds like a lot of fun to me and it would be so cool to be able to drink right from the source!
              It does seem like a lot of people don’t appreciate the whole over the convenience. I used to be able to get raw whole cacao beans, skin still on them and all! I loved that they weren’t processed and the fact that I got to hold a whole cacao bean in my hand was so cool if not even a little magical. The company stopped selling them though and when I asked why, they said they weren’t making enough sales because people preferred the cacao nibs due to the fact that they were pre-broken.

              It would be hard to imagine that something that nature provided like that, and something that is so refreshing, wouldn’t offer benefits. And that’s a good point, it’s not like someone would stand there cracking open 50 coconuts to get drink after drink, so it would be hard to overdo if we drank from the source. Of course it’s hard to over do if you get a quality coconut water anyway, due to price. But I agree I wish scientists would make sure they’re getting the legitimate thing when conducting studies and see how fresh from the source compared to more readily obtainable versions. I’m actually surprised they didn’t use from fresh whole coconuts consider (if memory serves) the coconut water industry funded the study, you’d think they’d want the best possible outcome so they’d want the best possible source.

  10. Haha I love this. Thanks for doing the research. As a top level cycling athlete of 50 years of age, I can look at all the research provided and see major flaws in it.
    Time to exhaustion, about 11 min, 10k time trial, at worst 35min, but if they are good athletes 20-23 min. If your exercising less than 1:30:00 there should be no reason to take anything other than water, becuse our bodies have enough of what we need. After that, as we deplete glycogen and electrolyte reserves the body will start pulling from other areas and create deficiencies in some areas leading to an electrolyte imbalance. When one does events of 2-4 hours I think you could see the difference. For instance I did an event recently lasting 2:30mi. For 60 miles. My clothing was covered in electrolyte salts. I was almost to the point of cramping. Had I not had some electrolytes going In I would have had severe cramping. For this one effort Of 2:32:00 I burned over 2500 calories. That’s more than many of you eat in an entire day. And I weigh only 152lbs.

    1. Isn’t it the case that for long endurance events, athletes can get by on water with a pinch of salt? Electrolytes are mostly salt, right?

      If so, that’s a lot cheaper than sports drinks.

      1. PJK, Well yes that’s true. And there is a difference in going at a moderate pace or a race pace. I think the problem comes in when we do this constantly day in day out. As the event and training increase the needs become greater. Studies suggest we can absorb a tad more fluid /calories when they have a bit of glucose in them along with proper electrolyte balance.

        That would be my next question what “sports drink “ are they using. If it’s Gatoraid that’s not a sports drink. It’s a marketing gimmick to sell sugar water for money and wouldn’t use that if my life depended on it.

        Some of the top drinks have a mix of what we sweat out in the proper balance. I seem to do best with that. If I take salt only over wells or months I’ll have blood pressure spike. If I only use water, I’ll get low pressure for me and become un- energetic to lethargic.

    2. Agree. It’s ridiculous. I see people stopping 3 times during a 10K trail race to guzzle water. Where would all that water go in a few minutes? I see people hiking with a hydration bladder in their pack and hydration tube stuck in their mouths like you have to have a constant iv of water just because you’re moving. I can’t even imagine how we successfully evolved without those hydrations tubes stuck in our moths. Sports gear marketing.

      1. I think hydration is incredibly important and when you’re working out, you should DEFINITELY drink when you’re thirsty! Honestly when I’m feeling heated and like I need water, once I hydrate, I feel so refreshed and my performance is greater and I feel like I can workout much longer, which I do. So I wouldn’t scoff at having water available.
        But one thing I’ve noticed was that since going vegan and then WPFD, I need less water when working out. I used to get so thirsty where I’d need to guzzle water during my workouts, I don’t feel the need now and typically don’t get thirsty until after or in between hard workouts.

        One thing to consider about runners and such today vs. our ancestors is the fact that, most of the time, they’re eating diets high in animal products, processed foods, and have much higher salt intake, and needless to say, less plants.

      2. I challenge you to go on a 6+ hour hike in 100 degree weather with zero shade in the desert without water. See what happens.

  11. I’m not totally buying this. Sure performance is an important measure, but Dr. Gregor seems to be discounting time to exhaustion, which for endurance athletes is important, actually, very important. To discount that seems to be doing the same thing VitaCoco did, ignoring the outcome that did not support his position. Looks like a case of confirmation bias to me.

  12. What about drinking coconut water FOR the extra potassium? There have been times when I’ve had something with higher sodium than I normally consume and used coconut water to create a more equal ratio of sodium to potassium. Also the fact that people generally don’t get enough potassium would indicate to me that coconut water could be beneficial to ensure potassium intake in certain people or people eating high salt diets (which obviously they shouldn’t). I also wonder what quality of coconut water they used. I only on very rare occasion treat myself to a Harmless Harvest coconut water which is minimally processed and even used to be labeled “raw,” it’s usually pink even because of the varying levels of antioxidants and they don’t bleach it or anything. They also have transparency so you know you’re actually getting what they’re selling… I even contacted them about the slave monkey issue with coconuts and they assured me this didn’t occur for their company which I believe because their traceability and transparency, though I still worry a bit.

    I also love that about cream of tar tar… I can’t imagine eating so much that there’d be a problem but I’ve only ever used it in baking which I’m relatively new to (have to be, can’t find oil free chocolate avocado beet cakes at the store!… surprising to most, it’s amazing) and I was excited to learn that the cream of tar tar added a significant potassium boost.

    So if people generally get too much sodium and not enough potassium, couldn’t these things be useful? …. Yes I know whole plant foods are best, no arguments here.

    And what about the long term effects? Coconut water is from a natural source, there’s all kinds of stuff in sports drinks including artificial sweeteners and food colorings. By that alone it has to be better overall health-wise.

    Now for them to do a study on herbal teas and tea for post workouts!

  13. Sports drink makes my tummy bloated during triathlon, even though its not carbonated. Haven’t tried coconut water yet during triathlon.

    1. Oh, try it in training before your triathlon, not at your triathlon! You need to know how your body responds to new things before you race. :)

      1. I wonder how differently sodium chloride and sodium bicarbonate might act in the body… like in one of Dr. Greger’s salt videos, I wonder if the sodium bicarbonate would have had the same or similar impact on arterial function and other things talked about in the video. Dr. Greger didn’t seem too concerned about baking soda in one of his videos for one of its uses, but maybe because he’s not worried people will over do baking soda consumption. Luckily a tsp of baking soda contains about half as much sodium as salt.

        We obviously shouldn’t get too much sodium, but I would still like to see studies comparing the difference to table salt with anti caking agents, etc. compared to other more natural salts like himalayan. I read once where our bodies can’t use the sodium in processed salts so it just has to excrete it all using up water to do so. I’d also like to know more about what helps counteract effects of too much sodium, e.g. potassium, antioxidants, etc. I only know of the one study in one of the videos here, where they injected vitamin C directly in the skin… would be nice to see how more useable tactics play out.

        1. “We obviously shouldn’t get too much sodium, but I would still like to see studies comparing the difference to table salt with anti caking agents, etc. compared to other people more natural salts like himalayan”

          I think DR G said we should generally just get regular salt because of the iodine. And lack of iodine in other salts.

          “I’d also like to know more about what helps counteract effects of too much sodium, e.g. potassium” One of the best things that counteract excess salt and potassium is exercise. We can excrete or use/ excrete about 400mg if sodium per hour with intense exercise, and about 100-150 mg potassium. Generally we get enough potassium from WFPB diet.

          Sodium Bicarbonate is a decent lactic acid buffer, So its used to help with that. but it’s still sodium and causes water retention in the vascular system. I nearly gave my self a stroke with bicarbonate dosing. It wasn’t a lot, but it was frequent. I made the mistake have a little extra bicarbonate, being depleted then drinking good amount of water, then about 4 beers. Omg my veins swelled bigger than pencils. I busted 2 blood vessels in my hands and two in my feet, and had a massive headache. That being said I try to be very careful with extra sodium.

          1. I remember him referencing probably getting enough iodine if you use iodized salt, but I don’t actually remember him recommending it but rather saying we shouldn’t add salt in general. But as his whole “food is a package deal” goes, I would prefer to get my iodine elsewhere. For one, there isn’t very much iodine in iodized salt, I take a tiny bit of dried kelp granules to ensure iodine (my alternative to taking a supplement). Then you have the anti-caking agents and other factors… no thank you, sir! Plus, I don’t even have added salt everyday so it wouldn’t be a reliable source for me anyway.

            I suspected that about exercise and have read things here and there. I like the idea of exercise allowing me more salt intake because while I’ve lowered my salt tolerance and intake drastically, I still enjoy it and wouldn’t enjoy completely cutting it out as a rule. That’s what I love about coconut water for replenishing, it has all the potassium you could need, but you can simply get your sodium in more enjoyable ways than mixing it in water or a sports drink. But generally I just stick to water and plant foods. Although iced tea or iced herbal tea (I actually love mixing them) is soo refreshing.

            Wow, that sounds horrible!! busted veins…. *cringes! Good information though, thanks for sharing!

            1. Another comment on sodium and exercise. I typically go days without any added salt but I decided to not have any added for an entire week with heavy training 6 days out of the week. I ate lots of plant foods, as usual, and I did worry a bit about sodium but kept in mind Dr. Greger’s video about our ancestors and all that, however I did actually notice I seemed to be physically weaker that week during exercise. But of course I know that doesn’t necessarily mean I wasn’t getting enough sodium, my muscles could have been worn out and healing, etc… Still, it would be cool if he addressed what the science says about no added salt in the diet even in athletes or those extremely active.

              1. There in is the catch. You can go awhile, but if your sodium gets depleted you will feel dead. I stopped all sodium for awhile after my blood vessels broke. And a few months later I was low on sodium and chloride and calcium but high normal on potassium and iron, when I had my blood work done. And I felt weak and lethargic. So it’s a fine balance.

                I wonder if because we get so much sodium in American diet that our bodies waste it. Reminds me of the video Dr g did on calcium given to pregnant women in Africa causing their bodies to lose bone mass after. Perhaps our normal is actually high with both of those.

  14. I’m curious about the benefits for endurance athletes running/cycling 1.5hours, 3, hours, 6 hours, or more. In half-ironman distance events, the loss of salt is so extreme most, if not all athletes, take salt tablets to prevent cramps and maintain a good physical sensation. I have felt this myself after 90K biking in 35C humidex and full sun. Take the salt and all of a sudden, your body rebounds. Even your psychology changes. I also find that running a race or track workouts are more dehydrating than slow training. I don’t think the science on this is simple. However, cramping may be an issue for many athletes, regardless of the beverage (except perhaps water, which still can result in the dreaded sloshing!).

    1. During exercise Lots of water without electrolytes can be very dangerous, as it leads to hypernatrimia, because the electrolyte balance gets out of whack and bad things happen to us.

      But if we’re just hanging out in the air conditioning our food diet has all we need and probably more, as You know.

      And if your doing triathlons a lot you should invest In blood work a couple times a year, but once a year can clue you in to overages and shortages. On iron, sodium, chloride, bicarbonate, calcium, potassium.

      1. Hmm, doesn’t seem that way to me. I do fine on just water even when I’m doing some pretty extreme stuff for extended periods of time. However, I get a lot of nutrition in my diet (from whole plant foods), I have a lot of nutrition prior to working out just due to my regular diet and lifestyle and I always replenish eventually. I imagine it’s different if you’re running a marathon but still I would imagine that a person’s regular dietary habits would play a role in how quickly they’d need to replenish and such.

  15. I love the videos and information on athletic performance.

    I’m also interested in more information on long distance training and the need for replacing salt and electrolytes and what would be best salt tabs or specialized powders or plain water?

    Thanks for all the great conversation on this topic.

  16. They also sell cold pressed watermelon juice now. Eating a watermelon is the best way to get all the watermelony goodness, but as far as drinks go, I think this one may be better than coconut water. Going by WTRMLN WTR which is cold pressed and apparently unpasteurized, not organic but non-GMO and contains organic lemon, bpa free plastic but still plastic unfortunately, and they get the healthy but “ugly” watermelons that farmers would otherwise discard, it has a bit more potassium than coconut water and has lots of vitamin c, some vitamin A, and lycopene!
    They also talk about the L—citraline it contains which apparently helps with nitric oxide and is good for blood vessels. I imagine for that reason it actually just might help with athletic performance. Still I’d opt to eat watermelon but it might be a smart choice if you’re gonna buy a drink.

  17. In these studies was natural coconut water (vers a commercial concoction) used? I lived in Panama and when you say coconut water I am thinking water from a fresh, off the palm, coconut. None of the commercial “coconut water” compares to the real thing.

    1. Barry, I would like to see it tested as compared to off the shelf coconut water, but the reality is if your running a marathon, and are a athlete looking for best hydration, how many people would stop training or racing to crack coconuts, to get a drink?

      The next thing to ask is how many people have access to fresh coconuts even if you had the time to crack them? Most rural places in North America do not have them laying around.

      1. Don’t be silly. I don’t stop running to go crack a coconut. I crack it right before I go run and take it with me in a double-walled stainless steel bottle ready to drink. LOL

        1. That’s real coconut water….not this commercial production called coconut water. Enjoy your run.
          BTW: I use real coconut oil mixed with my ionized water daily in my morning

    2. Hi Barry,

      I am a volunteer for Dr. Greger. Thank you so much for your question.

      In these studies, a commercial coconut water is typically used; in this case it was VitaCoco coconut water. We don’t know if “natural coconut water” would make much of a difference, since VitaCoco coconut water doesn’t add or take anything a way, necessarily, from the coconut water. Therefore, in a sense, it is pure coconut water.

      While taking the coconut water instantly from a coconut would probably be the best way to consume it, we have no evidence that suggests that it would improve athletic performance. Your best bet appears to be through drinking water and supplementing with fruit.

      I hope this helps to answer your question!

      1. “Pure” “natural” processed coconut water is not necessarily equal to fresh raw coconut water. While Vita Coco doesn’t add anything to their product, I would argue that there is a difference between commercially packaged coconut water and fresh-from-the-nut raw coconut water. The moment coconut water is exposed to air (oxygen), it starts to oxidize. How long does it take for Vita Coco to process, store, and package their product? How long does it take a competitor? Plus their products are pasteurized (which is a good idea in a commercial product considering how many hands may have touched this final product and what equipments it has been exposed to and if these equipments are regularly cleaned…). Packaging materials also affect quality. Even Tetra Pak offers various packaging options from more economical materials to more premium materials. And after packaging, there is the matter of storage conditions before and after it gets to your store shelf, namely time and temperature. Does that affect electrolytes, nutrients and overall quality? Possibly?

        http://coconuthandbook.tetrapak.com/chapter/chemistry-coconut-water

  18. Dr. Gregor,
    Good information and good discussion. Anectodally, I can attest that it is difficult for me to rehydrate sufficiently using water alone after 60+ minutes of strenuous exercise, often resulting in exertion/dehydration headaches. Again, anecdotally, I notice that I feel better if I drink 12 oz of Gatorade (the only one without HFCS) or 12 oz of coconut water.

    Also, while I always appreciate the amount of research and sources you cite, in this instance I am disappointed that the total “n” of subjects in the literature you cited comes out to less than 30. This does not seem to be a statistically significant population to make the definitiveness of claims in your refutation.

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