It’s hard to miss the massive red spheres of super fruit power staring at you, when you’re strolling through the produce department at your local natural foods market. By now, most of us are attuned to the fact, that pomegranates those juicy red behemoths are emphatically rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Recent studies however suggest that conventional health benefits aside, pomegranates are proving to be an unequivocal addition to your daily nutrition habits and supplement protocol, aiding in muscular endurance, quicker recovery times, and increased strength.
The word superfood is often overused, however in this case, pomegranates exhibit more potent and superior effects of any other food in its class with even greater antioxidant effects than green tea, red wine and turmeric [R].
What Are Pomegranates
Pomegranate is an ancient fruit originating in the middle east. It’s been around since the beginning of time and has had a presence in every ancient middle eastern civilization as well as China and India. The pomegranate is comprised of several components. The nutrient-dense outer layer or “husk” envelopes clusters of berry-like seeds called arils. All the glory lies in within the arils.
Pomegranates are rich in vitamins, essential minerals, and polyphenols. As one of the most nutrient dense fruits in the entire fruit ecosystem, studies have shown that pomegranates may benefit a wide modalities of training protocols, due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory capabilities, and nitrate content.
Pomegranates Improve Athletic Performance
In a systematic review, conduced by Cambridge University, 11 studies were identified that examined the effects of pomegranate intake on exercise performance exercise-induced muscle fatigue, soreness, muscle damage, oxidative stress, inflammation and cardiovascular function. Identified studies investigated the effects on several training modalities including; running, cycling, weightlifting, and endurance training. The review concluded that pomegranate has the potential to enhance endurance, strength performance, and improve post workout recovery by conferring antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and improving cardiovascular responses during and following exercise [R].
Pomegranates Can Reduce Muscle Soreness
Improved recovery and reduced soreness are key to get back in the gym and improve workout load and volume. A study published in the journal Plos One, investigated the effects of pomegranate supplementation on recovery, muscle damage, and soreness following Olympic weightlifting training. Nine elite powerlifting athletes ingested 500mg of pomegranate juice or placebo 60 minutes before performing high-intensity Olympic training workouts specifically snatches and clean and jerks. Heart rate, blood pressure and blood samples (hematological parameters, muscle damage and C-reactive protein (CRP)) were collected at rest, 3min and 48h after each session. Weightlifting performance, RPE, and DOMS were also assessed after each training session. Study results concluded that pomegranate ingestion 60 minutes before training, improved total workload by 8.3% and maximal load lifted by 3.26%.
Pomegranates Can Enhance Endurance Capacity
Endurance athletes, powerlifters, and bodybuilders require more nutrients, especially those that promote improved cardiorespiratory performance and muscular endurance. Because athletes consume far more oxygen than the average gym goer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods are of particular interest to help protect against free radical damage, improve recovery times, enhance endurance, and optimize performance outcomes.
In a study conducted at the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill, 19 participants were randomized to investigate the effects of pomegranate on blood flow and exercise performance. Three treadmill tests were conducted after baseline was established at 90,100, and 110% of peak velocity. After a 7-10-day washout, participants repeated the same procedures, but ingesting the placebo as opposed to pomegranate juice. The study found that participants that the pomegranate group significantly increased blood flow and delayed muscle fatigue [R].
Delayed muscle fatigue increases time to exhaustion, which can benefit any and every training modality, improving performance, workout load, and workout volume.
Pomegranates Can Improve Strength Gains
Pomegranates are rich in nitrates, much like beetroot or citrulline malate. Nitrates help dilate blood vessels, thus enhancing oxygen, blood flow and nutrient uptake. Foods rich in nitrates have been shown to improve performance outcomes such as strength, endurance, and recovery.
A study performed at the University of Texas, at Austin investigated the effects of pomegranate supplementation on muscle strength and exercise soreness post workout. 17 resistance trained men, were randomized into a crossover design and administered 500mg of pomegranate juice or a placebo for 9 days. After 5 days of supplementation, participants 3 sets of 20 reps of single-arm eccentric biceps exercises and 6 sets of 10 reps of single-leg eccentric leg extension exercises.
Maximal isometric elbow flexion and knee extension strength and muscle soreness measurements were made at baseline and 2, 24, 48, 72, 96, and 168 hours postexercise. The study found that strength was significantly greater and soreness was significantly reduced with isometric elbow flexion, amongst the pomegranate group [R]. Based on these results, it seems that regular consumption or supplementation of pomegranate could benefit recovery, increasing training volume, and thus result in better performance.
High content of polyphenols (flavonoids) found in pomegranates promotes nitric oxide synthesis, which has been shown to increase strength and recovery times. In addition, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of pomegranates have also shown positive effects on muscle strength and recovery.
Pomegranate Contain Powerful Plant Compounds Which Benefits Athletic Performance
Polyphenols – Shown to have impressive anti-inflammatory effects, which can improve joint health, mobility, and optimize post workout recovery times.
Antioxidants – Decreases free-radical damage and oxidative stress which protects against chronic disease states and helps in the anti-aging process.
Nitrates/Nitrites - Improves oxygen, blood, and nutrient uptake directly to muscle tissue, which can improve recovery times, delay muscle fatigue, and increase strength. Much like citrulline malate, or beetroot, nitric oxide boosters have vasodilating effects, which result in the intense blood rush, otherwise known as the “pump” to the muscle.
Potential Pomegranate Performance Benefits
- Increased Time To Exhaustion
- Delayed Muscle Fatigue
- Improved Recovery Times
- Reduce Post Workout Soreness
- Improved Strength
Pomegranate Performance Benefits: Takeaway
Studies have proven that pomegranates contain powerful plant compounds such as punicalagins, catechins, anthocyanins, ellagic acid which have incredible antioxidant capabilities and anti-inflammatory effects. Drinking 4-6oz of pomegranate juice and/or supplementing with 500mg a day not only provides incredible health benefits, but can improve training performance, and recovery times, getting you back in the gym quicker and doing what you do best, crushing it.
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Ammar A, Bailey SJ, Chtourou H, Trabelsi K, Turki M, Hökelmann A, Souissi N. Effects of pomegranate supplementation on exercise performance and post-exercise recovery in healthy adults: a systematic review. Br J Nutr. 2018 Dec;120(11):1201-1216. doi: 10.1017/S0007114518002696. Epub 2018 Oct 23. PMID: 30350760.
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