There has been a great deal of research which indicates that your diet can have a large impact on exercise performance and recovery. That rationale explains why so many supplements advertise themselves as aids to your exercise performance. But can food impact your workout too?
Recently, some research from Spain published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry has found interesting results on how watermelons can help you recover post-workout.
The study assessed seven males who completed a maximum effort ride on a cycloergometer for three days. On day one, before the workout, the subjects drank 500 ml of watermelon juice (containing 1.17 gm of citrulline—an amino acid naturally found in watermelons). On day two, they drank 500 ml of enriched watermelon juice (containing 4.83 gm of citrulline), and on day three, the men drank a placebo drink before their workout.
The participants reported that they had less muscle soreness and recovered faster from the work out after 24 hours when they drank either drink containing the watermelon juice.
“The watermelon juice reduced soreness because it contains an amino acid called L-citrulline, which boosts blood flow—so drinking it may help your muscles get more oxygen, which means they can repair themselves faster,” said lead author of the study Dr. E. Aguayo.
Citrulline is an amino acid which can increase the production of a chemical called nitrous oxide which can cause the arteries to relax and widen. Citrulline can also increase the production of another amino acid called L-Arginine, which can also cause the arteries to relax.
Citrulline has also been shown to be very capable at removing waste products from muscles after high-energy exercise. This biochemical effect would explain its unique ability to improve post-exercise muscle soreness and improve recovery. However, the use of this compound has not shown to be helpful in highly-trained athletes.
My recommendation is to use these types of supplements carefully if you wish to add them to your watermelon juice. The other recommendation is to be very careful regarding these types of studies which are very small and uncontrolled. Although the results may be interesting, they can also be very misleading.
However, on the bright side, you can try drinking natural watermelon juice before a workout, to reap the benefits of this nutrition fruit!
Thapoung, K.,“The Best Way to Reduce Post-Workout Soreness,”Women’s Health web site; http://blog.womenshealthmag.com/scoop/the-best-way-to-reduce-post-workout-soreness/,last accessed October 16, 2013.
Aguayo, E., etal.,“Watermelon Juice: Potential Functional Drink for Sore Muscle Relief in Athletes,”J Agric Food Chem 2013; 61(31):7,522–7,528.
Sureda, A., et al., “Arginine and citrulline supplementation in sports and exercise: ergogenic nutrients?,” Med Sport Sci 2012;59: 18-28.