Why I Drink Coconut Water to Replace Lost Electrolytes from Running

It’s officially my favorite season for running and being outdoors! But just because it’s not 90 degrees anymore, doesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to properly hydrating for and during your run.

During your hard runs and your long runs, you are likely still getting a very good sweat session on, so you should know that your body needs to replenish what was just lost from such a taxing workout. After sweating so profusely, your body is in need of you replenishing two vital things: water and electrolytes.

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Photo of me while running the Foot Traffic Flat Half Marathon on July 4th. This was during a heat wave and it was already about 75 degrees at 6am when the race started…hence the bottle in my hand.

You need to drink water. We all know this. But water isn’t the only thing that is needed after cardio workouts and profuse sweating. If you only drink water to hydrate before or during hard sessions of cardio exercising, you will further deplete what your body has also lost while sweating: electrolytes. As the linked article can explain in further detail, excess water causes you to urinate more and when you do this, electrolytes are lost (FYI: electrolytes are always lost when you pee and sweat).

There are several major electrolytes for proper body function but the top ones on most scientists’ lists are: sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium. Of the many functions of electrolytes, the most important roles they have are to keep fluid levels balanced (includes water levels), to maintain muscles’ ability to contract, and to transmit nerve impulses. Each electrolyte has a different responsibility in the body, but they are all required for optimal functioning and they need to be balanced in order for each of them to function properly. Therefore, runners and those who engage in other forms of cardio exercise need to make sure they are replenishing the electrolytes lost when they sweat. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “sweater,” you should still make an effort to keep up on your electrolytes and hydration.

So…we need water and we need electrolytes, but how can we achieve balance? My answer: coconut water.

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There are so many coconut water products on the shelves of most grocery stores nowadays so it’s likely you’ve at least seen coconut water if you haven’t had it already. For years now, my top choice for coconut water has been C2O. Sure, there are other good coconut waters out there, but C2O isn’t messing around. They’re coconut water is never from concentrate; they don’t add sugar to their product; and C2O tastes amazing.

See, concentrated coconut water means that the natural waters of the fruit was heated down to a syrup before water is added later. When this heating occurs, the nutrients you bought the coconut water for in the first place are mostly lost and enzymes are denatured in the process. Simply put: It loses its nutritional benefits.

Coconut water is a beautiful thing. Some people can’t stand the taste, but taste buds can change so I always suggest they give it a try due to the benefits of this natural drink. So why is coconut water my favorite natural sports drink? Let’s get right into it…

Here’s a rundown of its nutrition content as provided by WebMD:

It has fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than a sports drink. Ounce per ounce, most unflavored coconut water contains 5.45 calories, 1.3 grams sugar, 61 milligrams (mg) of potassium, and 5.45 mg of sodium compared to Gatorade, which has 6.25 calories, 1.75 grams of sugar, 3.75 mg of potassium, and 13.75 mg of sodium.

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So let’s discuss this nutrition breakdown. A 17.5 oz can of C2O (pictures above) contains nearly 25g of sugar. Not good right? Wrong…unless you need to closely watch your sugar levels for a medical purpose of course. Your body just used up so much of the glycogen that was stored in your body. Sugar, especially from natural products such as coconut water, is great to begin replenishing glycogen stores which you Need to do anyway. Next: Sodium. It’s an electrolyte so it is absolutely essential. A 17.5 oz of C2O has about 135mg of sodium which is not a lot compared to the sodium that was lost during a hard cardio workout so I just make sure to add sodium into my consumption by way of a tablet or foods with sodium. And lastly: Potassium. C2O coconut water of the same size as has been described has about 600mg of potassium. What makes potassium so important for runners is its necessity for muscles contracting properly. One thing is that for the body to properly absorb potassium, adequate magnesium levels need to be present. A 17.5 oz of C2O provides its consumer with just over 8% of the daily requirement of magnesium so more is needed and can be gotten from leafy greens, beans, some nuts, brown rice and sweet potatoes.

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This is why Val and I love having some C2O in the fridge for after a hard workout. And when there is only one can left…let’s just say it can get fierce. I want to point out that coconut water shouldn’t take the place of water which should be drunk mostly and often, but instead of drinking 16 ounces of water after a workout, in this case coconut water should be used to replace those lost electrolytes.

I often bring a bottle with me when I’m running in warmer temperatures. I never drink plain water on a run. It’s either coconut water or water with an electrolyte tablet for me. Last year, during a 6 hour race (Montour 24), I discovered coconut water with an electrolyte tablet boost. Race-changing discovery. My goal is to ensure I am consuming the electrolytes mentioned earlier which are being lost as I’m sweating and which I need if my muscles are going to continue to allow me to use them by maintaining proper functioning.

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See the bottle I’m holding? I’ve learned the hard way that properly hydrating during a long distance event or warm race is absolutely essential. Adding coconut water ensures you’re getting natural electrolytes, but making that coconut water C2O ensures that your natural sports drink also tastes good too.

What are your go-to drinks for electrolytes? Do you bring a bottle while you run and if so, what’s it filled with? Let’s talk in the comments!

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7 thoughts on “Why I Drink Coconut Water to Replace Lost Electrolytes from Running

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