Rehydrate like Rihanna and play like a pro. New research suggests pure coconut water and coconut water from concentrate are as effective as water and sports drinks for rehydrating after moderate exerciseComparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men. Kalman, D.S., Feldman, S., Krieger, D.R. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2012;9(1):1. Epub ahead of print..

Photo by Ben Draper

In the study, 12 physically active men walked and jogged on a treadmill for an hour, until they’d lost about two percent of their body weight (which marks the start of dehydration). Researchers then gave participants pure coconut water, coconut water from concentrate, a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink, or bottled water— and repeated the experiment on four different days. Results showed all the beverages were equally effective at rehydrating (though, obviously, those guzzling sport drinks felt a lot cooler). Three hours after quenching their thirst, participants hopped back on the treadmill (no showering allowed!) and ran until they were exhausted. It turned out all beverages restored the men’s athletic performance to the same level.

Based on the study findings, lead researcher (and Greatist Expert) Dr. Douglas Kalman recommends drinking coconut water to rehydrate after moderate exercise. “If you exercise less than 75 minutes, coconut water is a perfect solution,” he said.

In fact, Kalman suggests coconut water’s even more nutritious than plain old bottled water because it’s a great source of potassium. And— even despite bananas’ a-peel— most Americans are potassium deficient.

Moreover, according to Kalman, some sport drinks are loaded with salt that most Americans don’t need. Sport drinks help replenish sodium and electrolytes, so they’re a good option for someone running a triathlon or doing other intense exercise, Kalman said.

This study isn’t the first to show the benefits of slurping the way to the Caribbean. Other research suggests coconut water’s just as good as a sport drink for rehydrating after a workoutRehydration with sodium-enriched coconut water after exercise-induced dehydration. Ismail, I., Singh, R., Sirisinghe, R.G. Sports Science Unit, School of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Kubang Kerian, Kelantan. The Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health 2007;38(4):769-85.. And some researchers say drinking coconut water after exercise is less likely to cause nausea and stomach upset than plain water or sport drinksRehydration after exercise with fresh young coconut water, carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage and plain water. Saat, M., Singh, R., Sirisinghe, R.G. Department of Physiology, School of Medical Science, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia. Journal of Physiological Anthropology and Applied Human Science 2002;21(2):93-104..

But keep in mind: This study was pretty small, and involved people who were already physically active. So the same findings might not apply directly to the general population. It’s also worth noting this study was funded by VitaCoco® Company. And these results don’t imply coconut water’s a substitute for water— it’s just an efficient way to rehydrate after light exercise. Coconut water’s still a source of sugar and calories that don’t make an appearance in the plain Jane variety. So make sure to drink enough regular water to stay hydrated during the day… even if it’s sipped out of a coconut shell.