4 Pomegranate Perks for Athletes + Healthy New Year Cocktail

4 Pomegranate Perks for AthletesFall and winter are prime time for pomegranates, a delicious superfood with juice and arils (fleshy seeds) that appear in everything from seasonal salads and smoothies to holiday cocktails and desserts. But there is much more to a pomegranate than festive flavor and ruby-red good looks, the prized fruit offers an abundant supply of vitamins, essential minerals, and a rich assortment of antioxidants – it’s also a good source of dietary fiber. It addition helping optimize health and wellness for the general population, pomegranate has several distinctive benefits for runners, ultra runners, cyclists, triathletes, obstacle course racers and other endurance and strength athletes.

Reduces DOMS: A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that the polyphenols found in pomegranate juice may help reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in previously resistance-trained individuals.  Study participants who drank pomegranate juice, rather than the placebo, reported less incidence of discomfort in the exercises administered to provoke arm and leg soreness. Take away:  Drinking pomegranate juice before exercise may lessen soreness and quicken recovery so that you can train again sooner.

Increases Exercise Efficiency:  A 2014 study reported in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, sports scientists at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill say that the nitrates in pomegranate extract enhance exercise efficiency by decreasing oxygen consumption during exercise without limiting performance, increasing blood lactate or increasing energy contribution from glycolysis or the phosphagen system. It’s the same sort of benefit that has also been attributed to consuming beet juice before endurance exercise. Take away: Pomegranate juice or extract supplements may enhance exercise efficiently and increase the amount of time it takes to get to reach exhaustion.

Reduce Inflammation and Bolster Immunity: Pomegranate seeds are rich in specific polyphenols, such as tannins, quercetin and anthocyanins — all of which may offer both heart health and anti-cancer benefits. Studies have shown that quercetin can help lower LDL cholesterol, reduce inflammation and serves as a natural antihistamine to fight seasonal allergies.  Additionally, studies specifically on athletes have suggest this phytochemical bolsters health during the 3 to 72 hour window of impaired immunity following heavy training and also may help increase endurance. Take away: Recover faster and keep from getting sick during intense training cycles with pomegranate.

Quick Source of Energy: A glass of pomegranate juice diluted with a bit of water makes a healthy “sports drink” that will fuel your brain and body with quickly-sourced, natural sugars.  Take away: Ditch sugary, store-bought sports drinks and power up with the healthy carbohydrates and antioxidants found in pomegranate juice.

Smart Tart Pomegranate Meyer Lemon Spritzer makes a healthy cocktail for New Years Eve or other celebrations.A mocktail featuring pomegranate is the perfect way to ring in 2106 – it’s a tasty toast to your health with no worries about driving home or feeling bad the next day. Shake up your holiday libations with my Smart Tart Pomegranate Meyer Lemon Spritzer, the recipe is simple, has no added sugar and features less acidic Meyer lemons (a hybrid orange-lemon) and the previously mentioned benefits of pomegranate arils and juice — it’s also no coincidence that both these fruits are in peak season as we speak!

Smart Tart Pomegranate Meyer Lemon Spritzer makes a healthy cocktail for New Years Eve or other celebrations.Directions: In large pitcher, pour 2 liters sparkling water and mix in 1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice, 4 packets Stevia (more or less to taste), and 4 ounces pomegranate arils (along with any juice in bottom of carton). Serve with thinly sliced Meyer lemon. Serves 8. 

What are you drinking for New Year’s Eve? Do you seed your own pomegranates or buy the packaged arils?