Watermelon, Beetroot and Pickle Juice Improve Performance?
Updated: Apr 16
Many athletes are on the “Juice” – and not just the illegal anabolic kind. Three juices not likely in your refrigerator that are gaining a reputation from athletes and the scientific community alike for their supposed performance enhancing properties are watermelon, beetroot, and pickle juice. They are popping up in athletic rooms and gyms all over. So what is all the hype about? Before you read on, let me just say that I believe most humans don’t need any fruit juice in their diets. It is chock full of fructose (arguably the worst sugar for weight gain) and empty calories. Although elite athletes with no insulin issues or weight control problems may benefit from some juices.
Take Home Message:
If you are interested in decreasing your muscle soreness drink a glass of fresh (not pasteurized) watermelon juice prior to a workout. It just may speed up your recovery time. However, I wouldn’t make a habit of it due to the juice’s high sugar content. As self-experimentation you can test if eating a cup of watermelon (more fiber which will slow down your insulin response) will have the same effect as the watermelon juice on your post workout soreness. The research is promising but more needs to be done before this juice can be added to the list of true ergogenic aids.
I love myself some beet and goat cheese salads and even the occasional borscht soups, but beetroot juice? Ugh. Sounds disgusting. This juice is backed with lots of well-done peer-reviewed research making it one of the most promising ergogenic (& medicinal) aids to come down the pike in awhile. Many 2012 Olympic teams were on this juice for its performance enhancing abilities. Beets are a great source of inorganic nitrates (not the kind in deli meats and hot dogs). These nitrates are converted to nitric oxide, which improves blood pressure, muscle contractions, neurotransmission, among other things. Drinking beetroot juice seems to increase one’s tolerance to high intensity exercise and enhance stamina by up to 16%. Professor Andy Jones of the University of Exeter’s School of Sport and Health Sciences, said:”We were amazed by the effects of beetroot juice on oxygen uptake because these effects cannot be achieved by any other known means, including training.” Exactly which mechanisms contribute to the enhanced performance boosts remains unclear but is likely due to multiple mechanisms. Apparently, eating beets will not give you the same benefit of drinking the juice. Furthermore, the research demonstrates that only drinking it with regularity will produce positive results. Having one glass before a race will likely do nothing except make you visit the port-o-potty a little sooner than usual.
Take Home Message:
Drinking 1 to 2 cups of beetroot juice daily may lower your blood pressure and boost your cardiovascular exercise response. The science is strong and I will be surprised if we don’t soon start seeing this juice at the local bodega right next to the Gatorade.
The muscle cramp is relieved so quickly (before it is even digested) it is likely the acid from the vinegar in the pickle juice has an immediate effect on the nervous system receptors within the mouth. This is just a theory.
Muscle cramps are not solely the result of dehydration as previously believed. Cramps may be caused by biochemical muscle fatigue which cause misfiring contractions or spasms. It seems likely the vinegar acid in pickle juice activates nervous system receptors in our mouths that immediately affect the cramping muscle.
Take Home Message:
If you are one prone to muscle cramps it may be a good idea to have some pickle juice in your fridge. Besides eating a pickle now and then is good for you. They are a very low calorie snack filled with beneficial bacteria (probiotics) and they taste great!
Sesame Street taught me that everyone is special and unique in their own way. Evidently, this means we may not all respond the same way to a stimulus or supplement. Depending on your genetics, bacterial makeup, medication regimen, activity level and so on the above juice may or may not work for you. When in doubt consult your doctor.