You already know watermelon is a healthy choice when your sweet tooth is acting up, but it may also be the perfect way to speed post-workout recovery, according to new research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
What made researchers from the Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena in Colombia test the power of this popular summer staple? It’s packed with L-citrulline, an important amino acid that’s rarely found in food. L-citrulline is a key player in the body’s nitric oxide system, which helps stabilize blood pressure and facilitate oxygen and glucose transport to muscles.
For this study, researchers gave participants one of three drinks: natural watermelon juice, watermelon juice enriched with L-citrulline, or a placebo beverage. Both the natural watermelon juice and the enriched version helped reduce post-workout muscle soreness, however it was the natural watermelon juice that was best absorbed and used by the body, say researchers.
To give your own muscles a little TLC, nosh on about two cups of watermelon or drink around 500 mL (roughly 17 ounces) of watermelon juice an hour before exercise. “That was enough to reduce the recovery heart rate and muscle soreness after 24 hours in athletes,” says lead study author Encarna Aguayo, PhD.