CL found that because coconut water contains lots of potassium (and very little sodium), sports drinks might actually be a better choice. Large quantities of potassium could impart a laxative effect (desirable or undesirable, you decide) while coconut water drinks without added sodium are probably not as good as sports drinks after “intense, prolonged exercise.”
And they add, “plain water may be sufficient for simple rehydration.” In a 2012 study all 3--sport drink, coconut water (both pure as well as reconstituted from concentrate), water--were shown to be of equal utility.
Or you could give the Mother Earth a break and just make your own electrolyte post-workout beverage.
Basically these drinks are just a quarter cup or so of fruit or fruit juice (containing variable proportions of glucose, fructose, sucrose) with a little salt (sodium chloride +/- potassium iodide and possibly some other trace minerals if it’s fancy) mixed into water. For help choosing from among isotonic, hypertonic and hypotonic options, this BBC page might be useful.
Michael Barr is a board certified acupuncturist and herbalist and can be reached at Manhattan Acupuncture Associates, with offices at Columbus Circle and Flatiron. His expertise and interests include sports acupuncture, pain syndromes, liver health, immunological support, low energy, mood disorders, anxiety, insomnia, GI complaints, and herbal and acupuncture approaches to getting off/putting off prescription medications of unsatisfactory or unclear benefit, and in helping to manage the side-effects of other necessary and life-saving biomedical interventions. He has also been busy exploring the application of Chinese herbal therapies, and specific acupuncture protocols, for all aspects of sexual health and anti-senescence.