Thomas Swensen, professor of exercise science and sports studies, knows that watermelon juice can ease sore muscles after exercise. What he is trying to find out is whether it can help lead to a faster recovery - and better performance.
Q: What are you working on currently?
A: We’re making some students sore with sprint tests and then having them drink watermelon juice. The next day we’re testing them to see if their performance is better, which would indicate a better recovery.
Q: Can you explain the difference between lack of soreness and improved recovery and performance?
A: If you feel less sore, that should translate to better performance. But soreness might be mental or physical. The studies saying watermelon juice improves recovery didn’t measure muscle recovery. They just measured how participants felt after taking the compound.
Q: Are there researchers out there testing every juice or food to see if it improves muscle function or recovery?
A: People are looking for a magic elixir. But the bottom line is there is nothing out there that will prevent you from getting sore. If you exercise, you are going to be tired; you are going to be sore. If you are a little over exuberant and do way too much, you’re going to be very sore. The best way to manage muscle soreness is to exercise incrementally, increasing the stimulus a bit at a time and adapting to it before increasing it again.
Q: What about elite athletes?
A: They are looking to increase recovery, so they can do more work the next day. If you improve your recovery, you can do a little bit more training. If you can do a little bit more training, maybe you will get an edge over someone who doesn’t do that extra training or doesn’t have that improved recovery.
Q: Should these types of aids be banned substances?
A: They are nutrients. You have them in your body. From an ethical perspective it can be a gray area, but taking a nutrient is a lot different.