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August 8, 2013 posted by

Whole Foods, Watermelon, and Cycling Performance

Whole Foods, Watermelon, and Cycling Performance

Today’s seemingly non-sequitor titled post is on a Spanish study showing the watermelon could improve cycling performance. According to Chemistry & Engineering News (yes, I have some geek tendencies),

Before taking a long bike ride on a hot summer day, have some watermelon: The juicy fruit may ward off muscle pains. Researchers report that people who drank watermelon juice before exercising felt less sore the next day than those who drank a pink placebo beverage (J. Agric. Food Chem. 2013).

I knew there was a reason watermelon juice tasted so good during a ride, thought it stands to reason if your taste buds are trained properly. The key ingredient seemed to be L-citrulline, an amino acid that the article states “until recently, hasn’t gotten a lot of attention.” Also being an athlete, I’m going to have to disagree with that statement since it’s a mainstay in many NO supplements that have been flooding the market for a decade. The article seems to agree, too, as it transition to “Scientists now recognize that L-citrulline has antioxidant properties and may enhance athletic performance…studies have shown that L-citrulline in supplement form accelerates removal of lactic acid from muscles, allowing for more intense training and faster recovery.” Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor not journalist!

dammitjim

Anyway, we’re splitting hairs because the real nugget uncovered in the research was this:

They found that cells bathed in the unpasteurized watermelon juice had absorbed 19% of the L-citrulline, while absorption from pasteurized juice and spiked water never got above 13% and 12%, respectively. Better absorption should lead to a more potent benefit, Aguayo says.

Translation, natural watermelon had greater bioavailability than isolated L-citrulline. In other words, nature still kicks ass on science. Sorry geeks.

The story wraps with Spock-like logic that would drive our favorite doctor into a froth because we don’t really need to study to conclude that less sore = better performance.

The take-home message from this study, according to Thomas Swensen of Ithaca College, is that it’s better to drink unpasteurized watermelon juice than to take an L-citrulline supplement. Swensen says the next step would be to see if drinking the juice helps athletes perform better the next day because they are less sore.

Dammit-jim-Im-a-doctor-Not-a-dufus-e0d450

It’s also not exactly a leap of logic to assume it would improve performance in other sports as well.

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