You have 90 to 120 minutes following your workout to repair muscle and rebuild glycogen stores according to researchers. After this, the rate of repair slows significantly. That’s why it’s so important to consider post-workout nutrition as part of your fitness plan.
While many food manufacturers (think: protein bars and sports drinks) have capitalized on this biologic reality, watermelon deserves a place as an au naturel post-workout beverage. The red fruit boasts an impressive list of nutrients — with some pretty unique properties — to keep sweaty gym-goers energized.
Below are five reasons you should give watermelon a try:
- Rehydrates — Watermelon’s high water content (a whopping 92%), makes it a natural thirst-quencher. Plus, like Gatorade, it’s a great source of the electrolytes potassium and magnesium, which your body loses through sweating. For an added boost of sodium following an intense workout, add in a pinch of salt (it’s delicious too!).
- Refuels — One glass of watermelon juice contains roughly 22 grams of simple carbohydrates, making it a great choice for a post-workout recovery. Consuming carbs after exercise replenishes tired muscles by replacing the glycogen that your body relies on for energy.
- Improves recovery — Watermelons are a unique source of the amino acid L-citrulline, coveted for its known property of speeding up recovery. Athletes take citrulline supplements to enhance blood flow to tissues and muscles and reduce lactic acid buildup. One glass of watermelon juice contains an estimated 600 mg — enough to see results.
- Supports overall health — Tomatoes are usually what come to mind when people think of lycopene, but studies show that red-fleshed watermelon is a more concentrated source in comparison. The potent antioxidant is touted for its ability to improve heart health, lower risk of certain cancers, and protect against the sun (so eat up!).
- Easy-to-prepare and just plain delicious — You can make watermelon juice in a pinch by blending 2-3 cups of watermelon chunks, straining the mixture, and serving it over ice. For an added zing, try combining it with a squeeze of lime, chopped herbs like mint or basil, and/or a pinch of salt. For inspiration, check out these recipes from Bon Appetit and blogger Elizabeth Rider. The National Watermelon Promotion Board created this handy video to show just how easy it is.
(We’re not making this stuff up! Live Strong, World’s Healthiest Foods, and the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry explain the science around the benefits of watermelon juice. Plus, just take look around your grocery store — brands like WTRMLN WTR and What a Melon receive a prime spot on refrigerated shelves.)