Before your next workout this summer, you may want to have a glass of watermelon juice to help stave off post-exercise muscle soreness.
Spanish researchers found that athletes experienced less muscle soreness when they consumed 500 milliliters (about 2 cups) of watermelon juice before a workout. This reduced muscle soreness has been attributed to an amino acid found in watermelon called L-citrulline.
Citrulline is a naturally occurring amino acid with antioxidant properties, but is found in relatively few foods. Additional food sources of citrulline include other melons, cucumbers, onions and garlic. One of citrulline's functions within our bodies is to contribute to nitric oxide synthesis. Nitric oxide acts as a potent vasodilator (blood vessel widener), which increases blood and oxygen flow to our tissues. When our muscle tissues receive higher amounts of blood and oxygen, we are able to exercise at a higher intensity and for a longer time period. Increased oxygen delivery to muscle tissue also enables faster muscle repair and recovery, which is the assumed mechanism behind the reduced soreness perceived by those within the study.
Some bottled juice brands are pasteurized (heated to a high temperature), which depletes the bioavailability of citrulline in the juice. If you plan to purchase watermelon juice, be sure to check that it is cold pressed and not pasteurized. You can also easily make your own watermelon juice — you don't even need a juicer. Try pulsing cubed watermelon in a high-speed blender, which preserves the watermelon's fiber that you would lose using a juicer. Thin out the watermelon purée by adding iced green tea for an antioxidant boost or coconut water for additional potassium.
By The Natural Gourmet Institute at the Institute of Culinary Education