Hate Post Workout Soreness? Try Watermelon Juice!

Wednesday Jan 22 | BY |
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Watermelon Juice

A recent study suggests that drinking watermelon juice
before working out can help reduce muscle soreness.

If you’re into regular exercise (hopefully you are!), you may be a fan of sports drinks. These were originally created to help replace the water, sodium, and potassium lost through sweat, giving athletes more energy and helping to reduce post-workout muscle soreness.

For the health-conscious, however, Gatorade and other sports drinks are often too full of artificial and synthetic ingredients like food colorings, artificial flavorings, and food additives. Now, a new study suggests a natural alternative that not only performs just as well as sports drinks, but actually supplies additional benefits.

What the Study Found

Researchers from Spain investigated the potential for watermelon juice as a sports drink because it is a good source of L-citrulline, which is an amino acid that helps support the optimization of blood flow to the tissues. The nutrient has been used as a supplement for decades to improve athletic performance, and has been linked with helping to remove lactic acid from muscles after a workout, which can reduce soreness.

First, they tested the absorption of citrulline from pasteurized and unpasteurized watermelon juice, and from water supplemented with L-citrulline. They found that the body more readily absorbed the nutrient when contained in watermelon juice, and that it was best in unpasteurized watermelon juice. Specifically, after eight minutes:

  • Cells absorbed 19 percent of the L-citrulline from the natural watermelon juice.
  • Cells absorbed 13 percent of L-citrulline from the pasteurized watermelon juice.
  • Cells absorbed 12 percent of L-citrulline from the supplemented water.

Next, the researchers tested their theory in seven athletes. The men were each asked to drink one of three test beverages—500 mL of natural watermelon juice, 500 mL of watermelon juice enriched with extra L-citrulline, or a placebo drink—one hour before an 11-minute session on an exercise bike that included periods of intense pedaling.

The results showed:

  • Both watermelon juices helped reduce the recover heart rate and muscle soreness after 24 hours.
  • Participants who drank the watermelon juice reported essentially no soreness.
  • Men who drank the placebo did report sore legs.
  • The L-citrulline in the natural watermelon juice was the most bioavailable.

Pasteurization uses heat to kill harmful pathogens, but the process may also reduce bioavailability of nutrients, which may explain why natural watermelon juice was better absorbed in the body’s cells. The researchers also noted that previous studies have indicated that watermelon juice contains antioxidants that may be protective against post-workout inflammation.

More good news—watermelon juice is rich in potassium and vitamin C, which may contribute to a faster post-workout recovery. One cup contains only about 75 calories.

Not the First Study

Though this study is exciting, it was very small and more research needs to be done. There was another study performed on tart cherry juice, however, with the same questions in mind—might it help reduce post-workout soreness? Published in 2010, the study looked at 54 healthy marathon runners. Participants drank 355 mL bottles of tart cherry juice or a placebo cherry drink twice daily for 7 days prior to the marathon event and on the day of the race. They then assessed their level of pain at baseline, before the race, and after the race.

Results showed:

  • Both groups reported an increase in pain after the race, but the cherry juice group reported a significantly smaller increase compared to the placebo group.
  • Those who drank cherry juice were willing to use it in the future, and reported a higher satisfaction with pain reduction.

Researchers report that tart cherries contain anthocyanins that help reduce inflammation-induced pain and have also been found to help lower exercise-induced muscle damage.

If you’d like to take advantage of either of these juices, look for unpasteurized options, or make your own by juicing the fruit. Happy exercising!

Have you tried watermelon juice prior to a workout? Please share your experience.

* * *

Martha P. Tarazona-Díaz, Fernando Alacid, María Carrasco, Ignacio Martínez, Encarna Aguayo. Watermelon Juice: Potential Functional Drink for Sore Muscle Relief in Athletes. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2013; 61 (31): 7522 DOI: 10.1021/jf400964r.

“Could Watermelon Juice Be the Solution to Sore Muscles?” Huffington Post, August 27, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/27/watermelon-juice-sore-muscles-soreness_n_3757009.html.

Kerry S. Kuehl, et al., “Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial,” J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010; 7:17, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2874510/.

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho. www.colleenmstory.com


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  1. ella says:

    very interesting article, thanks 🙂

  2. Barbara says:

    I love watermelon juice! Although I haven’t done it prior to a workout, I pop big pieces into the blender and press the button and voila, instant ‘juice’. I also freeze it in ice cube trays so that when watermelon is in season and you get those massively huge ones you don’t find yourself drinking watermelon till you’re red in the face (insert laughter here). My kids are into sport though so I will definitely try this with them before they go to triathlon practice. Thanks so much for the tip!

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