Elite athletes will try anything to improve their performance. Whether it's an all-natural vegan diet or a superhuman, super illegal performance enhancing supplement, there’s someone out there who’s given it a go in order to get a little faster, endure a little longer, or lift a little heavier.
So it’s funny when one of the most basic and delicious foods around happens to be an athletic performance powerhouse. Enter the humble watermelon.
With the rise of all natural sports drinks like coconut water, maple water, aloe juice, and even wheatgrass, watermelon juice offers something that these hydrating beverages cannot–an increase in athletic performance for all types of athletes.
Despite its rotund appearance, recent studies show that one nutrient in particular makes watermelon the perfect performance enhancing food: L-citrulline. This non-essential amino acid keeps muscles from feeling fatigue as intensely during difficult training workouts. The effects of consuming a bit more of this little nutrient? Runners will be able to endure for a few more miles and lifters will get a few more reps in without risking injury. And for an elite athlete, sometimes that extra mile or that one bicep curl can give you the competitive edge you need to get to the next level of athleticism.
And its benefits don’t just span the Olympian set—anyone can benefit from super citrulline. Cucumbers, garlic, and chickpeas all contain citrulline, but watermelon contains far more of this endurance boosting amino acid than any other fruit or veggie—especially when you're consuming it as a juice.
In a study that compared L-citrulline to L-arginine (another popular amino acid that helps with muscular recovery), athletes that used L-citrulline far outperformed their L-arginine counterparts. Citrulline has also been proven to help with blood flow and blood pressure, and has even been recommended to alleviate erectile dysfunction... better at sports and better in bed? Not bad for a piece of fruit.
That being said, you’d need to drink about 2.5 quarts of this sweet pink juice in order to get the same amount of citrulline that the athletes in the study ingested. Although watermelon juice is incredibly hydrating, the natural sugars in the fruit can add up and give your blood sugar quite the spike.
For some athletes, like runners and triathletes, the naturally occurring sugar can actually be a benefit; instead of fueling up with gels that are loaded with high fructose corn syrup that's chemically produced and will cause athletes to "hit the wall" once their blood sugar drops a few minutes later, watermelon juice or even a slice of watermelon can help with fueling and longevity.
In a world where athletes are stacking tons of processed supplements like caffeine, creatine, and glutamine in order to enhance their performance, it looks like this naturally occurring super supplement could be all that you need to get the most out of your workouts.
Photo credit: Jira Saki via Flickr