Hydrating with Coconut Water: Tips for Runners on Pre, During, and Post-Run Nutrition

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

Considering making the switch from your go-to electrolyte drink to coconut water for your training sessions? You’re in the perfect spot to explore that thought.

Let’s take a moment to talk hydration. It’s the backbone of any good training session, right? Water is the undisputed go-to for staying hydrated, but sometimes, it just doesn’t do the trick.

Ever found yourself craving a bit more than water during those long runs? I know I have. That’s where coconut water comes in, striding confidently onto the scene with its natural electrolyte-rich profile, offering a refreshing alternative to the standard hydration routine.

But what’s the real deal with coconut water? Is it just another trend, or does it offer bona fide benefits for runners like us?

Ponder no more.

In this article, I’m about to dive deep into the ins and outs of coconut water as a hydration means for runners. From its impressive nutritional lineup to the comparison with its more synthetic counterparts, I’ve got the scoop.


Let’s get started.

Role of Electrolytes in Running

Before we get into the ins and outs of coconut water, let’s first discuss the impact of electrolytes on performance and overall health.

Here’s the rundown. Electrolytes are essential minerals with an electric charge, found in blood, urine, and body fluids, crucial for runners due to their roles in hydration, muscle function, and nerve signaling.  This means that they play a vital role in keeping our bodies functioning optimally, especially when we’re pushing through those miles.

Here’s the lowdown on why they’re so crucial:

Hydration Station

Electrolytes are key for proper hydration, directing fluids to the areas that need them most. They ensure each cell gets its fair share of water, preventing dehydration and keeping us running smoothly.

Muscle Management

Ever hit by a sudden cramp that makes you stop in your tracks? That’s your body crying out for electrolytes. They’re the grease that keeps the gears of our muscles moving seamlessly, warding off those pesky cramps and spasms.

Nerve Signaling

Electrolytes play a pivotal role in ensuring our nerve signals fire correctly, crucial for maintaining coordination and preventing missteps, especially critical during long runs or races.

I learned this firsthand during a half-marathon attempt at a personal record. My legs started feeling like lead, and my coordination was way off.

Looking back, I realized I had loaded up on water but skimped on electrolytes, a crucial oversight that impacted my nerve signaling and muscle response. It was a hard-earned lesson on the importance of maintaining a proper balance of electrolytes.

Discovering Coconut Water as an Electrolyte Powerhouse

My journey to embracing coconut water as a go-to source for electrolytes started unexpectedly.

While on a run in Bali, a local runner introduced me to his post-run ritual of enjoying fresh coconut water.

Initially skeptical, I was quickly converted after finishing a particularly sweaty 10-mile run and trying it.

The taste was refreshing, and the immediate sense of rehydration was undeniable. It was a eureka moment, showing me the benefits of coconut water as a natural, electrolyte-packed hydrator.

Understanding Coconut Water

Pure coconut water shouldn’t be confused with high-fat coconut milk or coconut oil. The real deal is the liquid derived from the fluid inside of the coconut. It’s a natural drink that hydrates you without the added ingredients found in many commercial sports drinks.

Coconut water’s appeal largely comes from its electrolyte composition, making it a beneficial drink for runners and athletes:

  • Potassium: Coconut water is rich in potassium, an essential electrolyte for maintaining fluid balance and supporting muscle function. Its potassium content is often higher than that found in standard sports drinks.
  • Sodium: While it contains less sodium than many sports drinks, the sodium present in coconut water can still support recovery by replenishing the sodium lost through sweat.
  • Magnesium and Calcium: Though in smaller amounts, magnesium and calcium are also found in coconut water. These minerals are vital for muscle function and maintaining bone health.

Comparison with Traditional Sports Drinks

When choosing between coconut water and traditional sports drinks for staying hydrated, it’s essential to weigh their differences and how they match up with your hydration needs, taste preferences, and workout intensity. Here’s a closer look at how they compare:

Electrolyte Balance:

Coconut water is a powerhouse of potassium, often offering more of this crucial electrolyte than what you’d find in sports drinks. Potassium plays a key role in muscle function and maintaining fluid balance.

Sports drinks, on the other hand, are formulated to mimic the electrolyte profile lost through sweat, particularly sodium, which is vital for rapid rehydration during or after intense physical activities.

Sugar and Calorie Content:

Typically, coconut water contains less sugar than many sports drinks, and importantly, the sugar in coconut water is naturally occurring. This is a stark contrast to the added sugars found in many commercial sports drinks.

If you’re watching your calorie intake, coconut water is generally a lower-calorie option compared to most sports drinks, making it an attractive choice for those looking to hydrate without the extra calories.


A significant advantage of coconut water is its natural composition, free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives commonly found in many sports drinks. This makes coconut water an appealing choice for those seeking a more natural hydration method.

Potential Limitations

While coconut water is celebrated for its natural hydration and electrolyte benefits, there are potential limitations to consider, especially when relying on it as a primary sports drink for running.

Here are some of the downsides of coconut water:

Sodium Content

Coconut water naturally contains less sodium compared to traditional sports drinks. Since sodium is the primary electrolyte lost through sweat during intense exercise, if you long serious miles in extreme conditions, coconut water may fall short on electrolytes needs.

When it’s the case, consider  additional sodium sources to fully recover electrolyte balance.

Caloric and Carbohydrate Considerations

You should also pay attention to coconut water caloric intake, especially when consumed along with other energy sources like gels or snacks. While coconut water does provide carbohydrates, its carb content may not be enough to sustain endurance training compared to specialized sports drinks designed such tasks.

Potassium Levels

Although potassium has a lot to offer, having too much of it can lead to hyperkalemia, a condition characterized by elevated blood potassium levels. This can affect your heart rhythm and in rare cases, lead to arrhythmias.

Don’t take my word for it. An extreme example involved athletes experiencing health issues after consuming 2.5 liters of coconut water during a tennis match, highlighting the potential risks of having too much of a good thing.

But please don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying that you should avoid coconut at all times.




In fact, unless you’re gulping it down non-stop, all bets that it’s unlikely to make you unwell or kill you. The key lies in moderation. Everything in excess isn’t’ good for you—coconut water is no exception.

When to Use Coconut Water

Coconut water can be a great addition to a your hydration strategy, fitting nicely before, during, and after your runs.

Let me show you how to make the most out of it:

Pre-Run Hydration:

I’d recommend that you make it a habit of starting all of your runs well-hydrated, especially in warm or humid weather.

Sipping on some coconut water before you head out can ensure you’re starting off on the right foot, fully hydrated and ready to tackle the miles ahead.

During Your Run:

For those longer sessions, coconut water can be a great ally. Drinking it at steady intervals keeps your hydration levels topped up and helps maintain a good electrolyte balance throughout your run. This is especially handy during those longer races or intense training days.

Just make sure to proactive about checking the labels and making a few changes to your coconut water if you plan to sip on it during your long runs (more on this later).

Post-Run Recovery:

After a run, coconut water can be a great choice for rehydrating since it can serve as a quick way to replenish those fluids and electrolytes you’ve sweated out. It’s a solid choice for aiding muscle recovery and getting you back on your feet faster.

How Much and How Often?

How much you need hinges on several factors: how long and hard you’re running, your personal sweat rate, and your unique hydration requirements. A rough guide is about 500-700 ml (17-24 oz) of coconut water per hour of running.

On longer runs, it’s smarter to drink small amounts frequently (think every 15-20 minutes) rather than chugging a large amount all at once. This helps maintain steady hydration without overwhelming your system.

Figuring Out What Works for You:

The key to success if trying out different things then see which one works the best.  Make sure to test out coconut water during your training to see how your body reacts and whether it meets your hydration needs effectively.

Taste and texture preferences for coconut water can vary widely from runner to runner. Some might like it cold or even diluted with a bit of water for a lighter taste.

DIY Recipes and Combinations

Looking to spice up your coconut water intake? Then the following DIY recipes is the way to go. Whether you’re looking to up your sodium intake after a sweaty run or just want a tastier twist to your drink, here are some simple ideas to try:

Salty-Sweet Mix:

If you find yourself sweating out a lot of salt during runs, mix about 1/8 teaspoon of salt (around 300 mg of sodium) into your coconut water to bump up its sodium content.

For those who really lose salt through sweat, going up to 1/4 teaspoon for every 16 ounces of coconut water can help replenish that lost sodium.

Citrus Twist:

Squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice into your coconut water for a refreshing change. It’s not just about taste; the vitamin C boost is great for your immune system too.

Fruit-Infused Refreshment:

Drop slices of cucumber, strawberries, or oranges into your coconut water for a naturally flavored drink. This infuses your hydration with a refreshing taste and extra nutrients without much effort.

Post-Run Smoothie:

Whip up a smoothie with coconut water, a banana, and some berries for a recovery drink that packs hydration, carbs, and antioxidants all in one. It’s a tasty way to refuel and recover after your run.

Wrapping It Up: Coconut Water in Your Running Diet

Coconut water can be a solid choice for runners, thanks to its natural hydration qualities and electrolyte content.

By playing around with these simple DIY recipes, you can tailor your coconut water to meet your specific needs for sodium or just to shake things up taste-wise.

Just remember, how well coconut water or any new addition fits into your hydration strategy will vary from runner to runner, so it’s all about finding what works best for you.

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