Athletes are always looking for a way to improve their game and eating fruit for sports performance may be something you haven’t considered.
FRUIT FOR SPORTS PERFORMANCE
Good nutrition is important for performance in sports and for activities you do every day. It may not be enough for young athletes to hear from an adult that they need a healthy diet. They need to know how and why eating certain foods is beneficial. Each food has their own benefits, so let’s explain how eating fruit can help with sport performance.
I focus on 3 beneficial aspects of eating fruit that can benefit performance: Hydration, Carbohydrate Content, and Muscle Recovery
FRUIT FOR HYDRATION
Hydration is critical to maintaining peak performance levels. Not only can dehydration make you tired, it can also put stress on the heart — both of which can put a young athlete at risk for injury. Even small levels of hydration, 2% of body weight, can put an athlete at risk for dehydration at levels of up to 10% of a deficit with alterations in force generation.
Many fruits are high in water content. This means that even though you are not drinking fluid, these foods contribute to overall daily fluid intake. Some fruits with high water content are:
FRUITS AS CARBOHYDRATES
Most fruits are composed of mostly carbohydrates. Some fruits contain a small amount of protein, and avocados are a healthy source of monounsaturated fats, but for the most part, carbohydrates dominate fruits. This is good news for fruit and sports performance.
Sports with an aerobic component (soccer, swimming, cross country, distance events in track, basketball, etc) will use a lot of energy — carbohydrate foods provide that energy. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose for immediate use by the muscles or stored as glycogen as an energy reserve.
The sugar in fruit can be utilized quickly by the body and if you are choosing high-water fruits, you are getting more water versus fiber (which can fill you up).
FRUITS FOR MUSCLE RECOVERY
Some fruits have been extensively studied for their effects on muscle recovery, most notably cherries, pomegranates, watermelon, and pineapple. In most studies, researchers use juice to study the effects, most often because it is a concentrated form of the nutrient they wish to study.
Each of the four fruits mentioned have the following compounds in them that have been studied for decreasing muscle soreness and improving muscle function compared to a placebo.
Cherries – Anthocyanins
Pineapple – Bromelain
Pomegranate – Ellagitannins
Watermelon – Citrulline
So, let’s say these fruits aren’t in season, not practical, or your athlete doesn’t like them. Find other fruits that contain the same beneficial properties. Pineapple is the one exception, where bromelain is only found in fresh pineapple.
You can find ellagitannins (pomegranate) in strawberries and raspberries. Anthocyanins (cherries) are found in blueberries, grapes, blackberries, strawberries, and pretty much any other fruit that is red, blue or dark purple. Citrulline (watermelon) is also found in cantaloupe and cucumbers.
It’s not known yet how much of these fruits must be consumed or if there is a window in which they must be eaten to have an effect, so it’s best to consume a variety of fruits on a regular basis to help with muscle recovery throughout the week.