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Why Watermelon is an Awesome Post-Workout Snack

watermelon, exercise, post-workout recovery, L-citrulline

Today, over four billion pounds of watermelon are produced each year in the US. On average, we eat over 15 pounds of fresh watermelon per person per year. It is also a very healthful food, containing many nutrients that are beneficial to preventing disease. One of these that is of increasing interest to scientists citrulline.

Researchers with the Technical University have found that L-citrulline has antioxidant properties that can help remove lactic acid faster than the normal rate, which means faster recovery time and less muscle pain after a tough workout.

Lactic acid (or lactate) is a by-product of metabolism that builds up in muscles and blood during strenuous activity. During exercise, muscles metabolize glucose (sugar) into energy. However, when a person exceeds their “lactate threshold” level through intense exercise, lactate is produced because the muscles begin to use glucose inefficiently. The lactic acid buildup is temporary and usually not harmful, but side effects include muscle soreness.

Of course, L-citrulline can be purchased as a dietary supplement, but eating fresh watermelon offers more than just one benefit when it comes to post-workout recovery.

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Watermelon is also an excellent source of – wait for it – water. Melons are 90-92% water, making them a perfect hydrating snack after a workout. Proper hydration is vital to your athletic performance. Katie Jeffrey MS RD CSSD, a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, recommends drinking 24 ounces of fluid for each pound lost during activity.

Additionally, watermelon contains phenolic compounds that are anti-inflammatory. The best known of these is lycopene. One study even found that lycopene can offer sunburn protection!

Other important nutrients include potassium (to prevent muscle cramps), vitamin C (to boost the immune system), and vitamin B6 (to help the body form red blood cells that carry oxygen to tissues).

An easy way to enjoy fresh watermelon after a workout (when solid foods are not yet appealing) is to simply puree the fruit along with some ice cubes. One serving of this simple fruit ice beverage only contains about 100 calories and 24 grams of easily digestible carbohydrate (to refuel those depleted muscles). To make a watermelon smoothie, just add a little plain yogurt to the blend.

Journal Reference:
Tarazona-Diaz M, Alacid F, Aguayo E, et al. Watermelon Juice: A Potential Functional Drink for Sore Muscle Relief in Athletes. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2013.

Additional Resources:
National Watermelon Promotion Board
World's Healthiest Foods
Active.com: 8 Hydrating Foods to Eat While Training in Hot Water