Watermelon and DOMS


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can damage the stomach and also the small intestine. Within hours of taking NSAIDs it can make our gut leaky and inflame our bowels. All in all they can disrupt the intestinal barrier function and, as I mentioned previously, they can inhibit our ability to adapt to exercise stress.

So, in addition to tart cherries helping reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), what other foods can help?

Researchers in Spain had athletes pre-load with watermelon juice (500 ml) prior to a strenuous bout of exercise and compared this to a group of athletes who drank a taste alike placebo prior to the same bout of exercise. Those drinking the watermelon juice reported having significantly lower levels of soreness or DOMS.

Why pick watermelon?

Watermelon is an excellent source of L-Citrulline. Citrulline is an amino acid that can be metabolized to arginine. Arginine is the nitrogeneous substrate used in the synthesis of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide plays an essential role in cardiovascular and immune function. For starters, nitric oxide is a potent vasodilator (think nitroglycerine and Viagra). Thus, the benefits to athletes might be via increased blood flow to muscles enhancing recovery. Or, it could also be via the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory action of the many phytochemicals found in watermelon.

In addition to citrulline, watermelon is one of few foods rich in lycopene, a carotenoid that has up to twice the antioxidant capacity of β-carotene. Data from epidemiological studies suggest lycopene may have protective effects against certain types of cancers and cardiovascular disease not to mention protect us from oxidative stress. Unlike tomatoes, where absorption is improved with heating, absorption from watermelon does not require heating. One study showed that fresh-frozen watermelon juice produced a significant increase in plasma lycopene, comparable to the increase observed with a similar amount of lycopene from canned tomato juice.

And here I thought watermelon was, well, mostly water. Click here for a couple of my watermelon smoothie recipes.

Also, check out Dr Greger’s review on this.