As a Registered Dietitian specializing in sports nutrition, I’m here to help you understand the role of watermelon in bodybuilding, focusing on its effects on muscle growth, recovery, and overall body composition goals.
- Watermelon can benefit bodybuilders by providing fast-digesting carbs to fuel your workouts. Unlike other fruits, watermelon is low in fiber and is less likely to lead to stomach discomfort if you eat it directly before training.
- Watermelon is approximately 90% water, helping you stay hydrated. This is highly beneficial as a mere 3-4% dehydration can reduce your performance in the gym.
- Watermelon may be better for cutting than bulking because it’s low in calories and high in water. As such, it can fill you up when you’re hungry but doesn’t provide many carbs (only 11.5 grams per cup).
One benefit of watermelon is that it is relatively low in calories, with one cup having only 46 calories.
This makes it one of the best fruits to eat when cutting calories for weight loss.
However, watermelon might not be the best fruit for a bodybuilder while bulking.
A bodybuilder in a bulking phase could have a caloric intake of 3000+ calories, making a 45-calorie snack far from ideal.
One of the benefits of watermelon is that you can create smoothies with it. Therefore, you can easily mix watermelon into a high-calorie shake if your goal is to gain weight.
- Check out my article on the Best Fruit For Smoothies on incorporating watermelon.
Watermelon provides mostly carbohydrates, which is great because bodybuilders need to get 50-60% of their daily calories from carbs.
Carbs fuel you daily and provide energy if you have them before training.
However, a cup of watermelon doesn’t provide many carbs (only 11.5 grams per cup), so you should have other carb sources (e.g., bananas, oats, and rice) to meet your daily needs.
Unlike some fruits, watermelon is relatively low in fiber, with one cup providing only 2% of the recommended intake. If you want to add fiber to your diet, watermelon isn’t the way to go.
However, since it is low in fiber, it is easy to digest. It won’t cause stomach issues (especially before training) unless someone has irritable bowel syndrome or IBS (more on that in the cons section).
Since it is only a source of carbs, it lacks the other two macronutrients a bodybuilder needs: protein and fats.
Therefore, eat watermelon with protein (e.g., a protein shake) and healthy fats (e.g., nuts and seeds) for a balanced snack.
Watermelon provides vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and magnesium. Here’s a quick look at these nutrients:
- Vitamin C (14% of daily needs per cup). A potent antioxidant (meaning it protects healthy cells from damage) and helps boost immunity. Stronger immunity means a lower risk of the common cold that can keep you away from the gym. Additionally, it supports collagen synthesis. This protein is crucial for bone, joint, and connective tissue health.
- Vitamin A (5% of daily needs). It is a potent antioxidant that helps decrease inflammation in the body. Having less inflammation after training can increase muscle recovery. It can also help boost immunity.
- Potassium (4% of daily needs). A mineral and electrolyte necessary for proper muscle function (such as contractions).
- Magnesium (4% of daily needs). A mineral and electrolyte involved in 300 processes in the body. An adequate intake is necessary for optimal muscle function and may reduce the risk of muscle cramps.
Pros Of Eating Watermelon
1. Promotes Hydration
Dehydration can impair performance and muscle recovery.
According to research in the Journal of Human Kinetics, a 3-4% loss in body mass due to dehydration could lead to a noticeable decrease in strength, which might mean lifting slightly less weight or performing fewer repetitions than when fully hydrated.
The good news is that watermelon is almost 90% water. If you are not used to drinking water during the day, adding fruits and vegetables that are high in water helps you keep hydrated.
Additionally, thanks to watermelon mainly being water, it adds bulk to your diet without adding calories. This leads to feeling fuller and helps you cut down calories—ideal for a bodybuilder in a cutting phase.
Here’s what Registered Dietitian Lindsey DeSoto says:
“If you’re trying to lose weight, watermelon is one of the best fruits to include in your diet. It’s high in water yet low in calories, which can keep your appetite in check.”
2. Improves Recovery
Watermelon has an amino acid called citrulline, found in most pre-workout formulas. One of its benefits is that it increases nitric oxide (NO), which helps blood vessels dilate (widen).
This means blood flows more freely, and more oxygen and nutrients can reach your muscles, supporting your performance and recovery.
In one study, participants were either given 500 ml of watermelon juice (containing 1.17 grams of citrulline) or enriched watermelon juice containing 4.83 grams of citrulline), or a placebo.
The results showed that both natural and enriched watermelon juices helped reduce the recovery heart rate and muscle soreness after 24 hours of intense physical activity.
After 48 hours, there were no differences between the placebo and watermelon groups.
As such, the functionality of using watermelon for recovery may benefit those training on back-to-back days greater.
3. Reduces Inflammation
Vitamin A and vitamin C are potent antioxidants and protect cells in the body from damage and stress.
Along with these vitamins, watermelon has lycopene, another powerful antioxidant. Together, these nutrients help decrease inflammation in the body.
Less inflammation can lead to better muscle recovery, giving you a slight edge in the muscle-building department in the long run. It can also help limit muscle soreness.
Con of Eating Watermelon
It May Produce Gastric Problems
Unfortunately, watermelon is classified as a high FODMAP food, which means it could lead to gastric problems like bloating and abdominal pain in people with IBS.
FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, which the body cannot digest.
So, if you’re diagnosed with IBS (or suspect you may have it), consult your doctor about watermelon and eat small quantities (a cup or less) to see if it leads to any stomach discomfort.
Can You Eat Watermelon Before Workouts?
Watermelon is a great option to help fuel your training session. Since it is low in fiber, it is easily digestible, giving you energy straightaway. It can also help hydrate you before working out.
Research recommends having 1 gram of carbs per kilo of body weight an hour or more before training.
For a 70-kilo (154 lbs) bodybuilder that would be 70 grams of carbs or just over six cups of watermelon, which may be too much.
Despite digesting quickly, watermelon is voluminous and can make you feel uncomfortably full, so be mindful of your intake.
Plus, too much watermelon before training can fill your bladder, causing you to take multiple bathroom breaks during your workout.
Perhaps you can have some watermelon (one or two cups) alongside another low-fiber carb source, such as a slice or two of white bread with jam.
Can You Eat Watermelon After Workouts?
Watermelon is okay to have as part of a post-workout meal or snack. It has some carbs to help replenish the energy (glycogen) lost and provides citrulline––the amino acid we discussed above. But you need protein as well.
Research suggests having at least 0.3 grams of carbs per kilo of body weight after training. That’s the equivalent of just under two cups of watermelon for a 70-kilo (154lb) bodybuilder.
Add a protein source along with the watermelon to provide your muscles with amino acids to kickstart recovery. Whey is a fast-digesting protein you can have after training.
Final Verdict: Does Watermelon Help Muscle Growth?
Watermelon can add carbs to your diet, which is critical for muscle growth. However, the carbs and overall calories are low, so watermelon is okay, but it’s not my number one recommendation for muscle building.
- Learn more in my Best Fruits For For Muscle Gain article.
Higher calorie and carb alternatives include bananas and figs, as well as dried fruit like raisins and apricots.
That said, watermelon has antioxidants and citrulline that provide modest recovery benefits, so having at least some watermelon while bulking is still beneficial.
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