February 14 is fast approaching—and more than a few people might be concerned with their ability to perform come Sunday.
There are a whopping 13 marathons scheduled for Valentine’s Day across the U.S. And although the hundreds of thousands of runners who’ve signed up have (hopefully) put in the training necessary to get through it without too much discomfort, they might turn to one particular supplement to help them cross the finish line with a little extra kick.
Whether you’re running a full 26.2 or just hoping to get lucky after a hot date on Sunday, pomegranate powder might be the magic little pill you’ve been searching for. Research shows that supplementing with just one gram improves athletic performance in endurance sports by increasing blood flow to muscles and warding off fatigue. The effect can also work wonders in the bedroom—in studies done on men with erectile dysfunction, pomegranate appeared to have beneficial effects.
It’s not just good for performance, though. The crimson juice of the arils—the coveted, nutrient-rich seeds protected by the thick outer skin—is loaded with vitamins C and K, potassium, and folate. But it’s the punicalagin compounds and punicic acid, both unique to the fruit, that elevate pomegranate juice to superfood status.
Because punicalagins are nearly three times more potent than the antioxidants found in red wine and green tea, pomegranate juice has been studied for everything from its beneficial role in fighting cancer cell growth to treating Alzheimer’s disease. Most importantly, punicalagins are incredibly anti-inflammatory, which means they’re effective in treating a variety of diseases linked to chronic inflammation (like heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune diseases like IBS or type 1 diabetes, and even obesity). Research suggests that regular supplementation with pomegranate juice or powder significantly decreases the body’s inflammatory response.
And those runners who swig pom juice before a race might want to consider refueling with another glass after, to help ward off aches. In 2005, Case Western University’s Rheumatic Diseases department discovered that pomegranate extract blocks enzymes that cause joint damage in people with osteoarthritis.
The commercial pomegranate juice you find in big, voluptuous bottles at the grocery store isn’t the best way to get your fix, because they often contain unnatural flavors and added sugars. For a cleaner, more nutritious beverage, opt for freeze-dried pomegranate powder, which is made from unsweetened juice at the height of its freshness. This locks in the natural flavor and vitamins in a shelf-stable product you can reach for during any season. Add a spoonful into smoothies, yogurt, salad dressings, marinades, and even desserts for slightly sour-sweet flavor, or try it in our Valentine's Day smoothie recipe!
Photo credit: Alicia Cho