With Halloween over and Thanksgiving right around the corner, pumpkins and pumpkin-flavored foods are everywhere. And that's a good thing! If you add them to your diet, you can pump up your performance with pumpkin foods. Pumpkins are full of nutrients that are beneficial to athletic performance and recovery.
Endurance and Muscle Strength
In a study involving the administration of pumpkin extract to mice, it was discovered that grip strength and time to exhaustive fatigue improved after 14 days of oral supplementation. After administration of pumpkin, the mice had less ammonia and more circulating glucose during exercise. Likewise at rest, the mice that consumed pumpkin had higher levels of glycogen in their livers and muscles. Glucose is our bodies' preferred source of energy during exercise, because we're more efficient at converting it to energy. In essence, pumpkin provides our bodies with a bigger gas tank, and more fuel means we can perform at a higher level for a longer period.
When we work out intensely, we lose electrolytes like potassium, magnesium and calcium. Low potassium levels can cause cramping and early onset fatigue. Pumpkin can be great for restoring our electrolyte balance after hard workouts, since it's loaded with electrolytes. One cup has 564 milligrams of potassium, one hundred milligrams more than the amount of potassium in a banana.
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Better vision might be the deciding factor that lets you see the open receiver in the red zone or tell the difference between a 95 mph fastball and a change-up. Pumpkin is rich in vitamins and antioxidants that help improve and restore eyesight. It has antioxidants that slow macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss.
Pump up your performance by using pumpkin as a pre-workout and post workout fuel. Use it pre-workout to load your glycogen stores to improve your stamina and strength, and again post-workout to recover lost electrolytes and glycogen. Mix a half cup of pumpkin puree into your oatmeal before a workout and a half cup of pumpkin puree into a protein shake after your workout for improved performance.
Wang, S., Huang, W., Lu, C., Wang, M., Ho, C., Huang, W., . . . Huang, C. (2012). "Pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata) Fruit Extract Improves Physical Fatigue and Exercise Performance in Mice." Molecules, 11864-11876.
Yadav, M., Jain, S., Tomar, R., Prasad, G., & Yadav, H. (2010). "Medicinal and biological potential of pumpkin: An updated review." Nutrition Research Reviews, 184-190.