A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has found that watermelon juice may be a functional recovery drink for athletes.

Previously, research had been conducted on the antioxidant properties of watermelon as well as its potential to increase muscle protein and enhance athletic performance. The article’s co-author Encarna Aguayo and her colleagues at the Technical University of Cartagena set out to discover if the juice could offer any other benefits to athletes when enriched with L-citrulline.

Watermelon juice contains high amounts of the amino acid L-citrulline, which has potential to reduce muscle soreness. In an in vitro study, it was found that the bioavailability of L-citrulline for intestinal absorption was greater when contained in an unpasteurized watermelon matrix than when in a pasteurized, heated watermelon sample or when standing alone.

To test watermelon’s effectiveness in vivo, seven male athletes were given 500 mL of either natural watermelon juice (containing 1.17 g of L-citrulline), watermelon juice enriched with an additional 4.83 g of L-citrulline or a pink-hued control drink that contained no L-citrulline. An hour later, each participant exercised intensely on a stationary bike for 11 minutes. This process was repeated on three separate days. After 24 hours, participants who were given either the natural or enriched watermelon juice reported less muscle soreness and a slower recovery heart rate than those who were given the control.

Though the reason for L-citrulline’s effectiveness is unclear, Aguayo and her team theorize that it may help speed up the process of lactic acid removal from athletes’ muscles.


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, October 2013 (online 8/22/13)