How Tomato Juice Improves Athletic Performance

Lycopene Protects Our Muscles, Cells, and DNA

Tomato juice
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Regular exercise is a great way to stay in shape and maintain our health. Research indicates consistent workouts improve physical function and decrease the risk of various types of disease. Physical exercise is recommended at the very minimum of two times per week and for at least 30 minutes.

This seems reasonable but unfortunately, a large percentage of people don’t make exercise a habit. The largest reason appears to be muscle discomfort and fatigue felt during workouts.

Also, many complain about post-workout pain or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

If muscle fatigue could be reduced more people would commit to a regular exercise program according to studies. This is where tomato juice may be able to help. Clinical research has shown drinking tomato juice prior to exercise reduces muscle pain and fatigue, potentially improving athletic performance.

Why Does Exercise Hurt?

Exercise places stress on our muscle tissues, cells, and central nervous system (CNS). Active adults and athletes alike will experience varying degrees of exercise-induced stress depending on the workout intensity.

Our muscle tissue and cells undergo oxidative stress during a workout. Oxidative stress is a direct result of physical exertion causing an imbalance and compromise of normal body functions. What we feel is a depletion of energy and pain from lactic acid buildup. What is occurring as a normal response to exercise causes many of us to be turned off by the discomfort.

Tomato juice is shown to help with oxidative stress and improve our ability to workout longer and stronger.

Tomato Juice Can Help

Tomatoes and tomato juice contain a powerhouse of nutrition. Tomatoes are actually a fruit but are often referred to as a vegetable. They are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants including lycopene.

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant providing numerous health benefits. It is shown to enhance athletic performance and improve overall health and fitness. Drinking tomato juice prior to workouts is said to reduce harmful chemical levels caused by oxidative stress.

Think about lycopene as the inflammation cleanup crew when we exercise. Demanding workouts increase levels of oxygen (oxidative stress) and other chemicals potentially damaging to muscle tissue, cells, and even DNA. Antioxidants—especially lycopene—have been shown to significantly reduce these inflammatory chemical reactions.

Lycopene Facts

Lycopene is a naturally occurring phytonutrient found in tomatoes and other plant foods. It is also a pigment in food and responsible for the red color of the tomato. Lycopene is also registered as a food coloring in the United States.

Lycopene is one of the most powerful antioxidants widely researched for its amazing health benefits. Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene and athletes are utilizing the juice to improve exercise performance.

The Research

According to scientific research, tomato juice has been shown to reduce exercise-induced fatigue. A small study was conducted on both humans and mice to test this theory. Eight healthy men and two women aged 24 to 29 volunteered to participate. The testing period lasted for two days and participants had to follow clinical research guidelines.

Human study:

Participants were in a fasted state (no food) and underwent two 30-minute exercise sessions. One test session was conducted with participants drinking only mineral water. The following test required volunteers to drink 320g of tomato juice one hour before exercise. They were monitored for rate of perceived exertion (RPE) or how difficult the testing was for each participant.

Research results indicated a significantly improved rate of perceived exertion (RPE) score with tomato juice consumption. Participants were able to exercise longer with reduced fatigue levels.

Mice study:

The research conducted on mice included more clinical testing. Blood samples were collected over the course of the study to examine plasma levels of corticosterone and transforming growth factor (TGF-β1). Corticosterone is a hormone secreted by the adrenal gland that helps regulate energy but also elevates as a stress response. This would be the same as checking cortisol levels in a human. TGF-β1 is a secreted protein that helps cellular function.

Mice were divided into several groups and given either tomato juice or water. They ran on a treadmill for 60 minutes while researchers monitored their motor functions. In addition, blood was drawn six hours after exercise completion.

Exercise fatigue levels were significantly decreased in the mice consuming tomato juice compared to the water group. Blood levels of corticosterone and TGF-β1 were greatly reduced for the group of mice ingesting tomato juice. This means the mice drinking tomato juice experienced less internal stresses at the chemical level during exercise testing.

More Evidence

Another study was conducted on select athletes to examine if tomato juice would help reduce oxidative stress. Remember, oxidative stress is a response to exercise, potentially causing harm to our muscle tissue and cells.

Fifty male track athletes aged 20 to 25 years participated in the research. They were divided into two groups of 25 where one group drank 75ml of tomato juice after physical training for a period of 60 days. Baseline blood samples were drawn prior to supplementing with tomato juice and again at the end of the research period.

Inflammatory chemical levels released during exercise were significantly improved for the group ingesting tomato juice. The athletes were also able to increase running distance and overall athletic performance compared to those not consuming the tomato juice. Results indicated that the lycopene in tomato juice provided antioxidant protection, helping reduce oxidative stress caused by exercise.

Other research was conducted on untrained adults examining the effects of tomato juice on reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are chemicals formed as we breathe in oxygen. These chemicals are metabolized and play an important role in cellular balance. ROS levels can become too high from environmental stress or extensive physical exercise potentially harmful to the body. An accumulation of these heightened chemicals is also known as oxidative stress and can have adverse effects on our blood, cells, and DNA.

Fifteen healthy untrained adults participated in the study. Blood samples were drawn prior to and after testing specifically measuring levels of 8-oxodG. In our cells and DNA, 8-oxodG appears as a lesion biomarker of damage caused by oxidative stress. Our goal is to keep this biomarker as low as possible to protect the body and reduce the risk of cancer and age-related disease.

The participants completed two separate exercise test cycles at 80% maximum pulse rate. The first cycle was performed without tomato juice supplementation. The second test session was performed after volunteers consumed 150ml tomato juice daily for five weeks. This amount of tomato juice contains 15mg of lycopene.

Blood test results indicated drinking tomato juice daily for 5 weeks significantly reduced 8-oxodG levels. The research strongly suggests lycopene in tomato juice has a powerful antioxidant effect lowering ROS levels caused by extensive physical exercise.

Another study indicated tomato juice to significantly reduce creatinine phosphokinase (CPK), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), homocysteine, and C-reactive protein levels in athletes drinking tomato juice. CPK and LDH are enzymes released by muscles when muscle damage has occurred. Homocysteine is a non-protein amino acid and increased levels are shown to impair heart function. C-reactive protein is a substance produced by the liver and an indicator of inflammation in the body. Results show lycopene in tomato juice to help improve all chemical levels returning them to normal values. Tomato juice is said to provide antioxidant protection during exercise and a reduced risk of heart disease.

Other Health Benefits

Lycopene-rich tomato juice does more than improving athletic performance. Its superior antioxidant effect provides numerous health benefits.

  • Protects against heart disease: lycopene reduces chemical biomarkers like homocysteine for decreased risk of coronary heart disease.
  • Fights cancer: tomato juice contains lycopene and other carotenoids shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers including breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer.
  • Reduces inflammation: research suggests a daily glass of tomato juice to significantly reduce inflammatory chemicals for improved health and reduced risk of certain cancers.
  • Detox: tomato juice is a natural detox indicated to flush harmful toxins from the body. Tomato juice is also a rich source of chlorine and sulfur compounds shown to improve liver and kidney function to better remove these toxins.
  • Eye health: tomato juice also contains beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These phytonutrients are shown to promote healthy eyes and reduce the risk of degeneration.
  • Improves digestion: nutrient rich tomato juice is shown to improve liver function for better digestion, stimulate regular bowel movements, and promote a healthy colon.

Other Foods Rich in Lycopene

Tomatoes are one food rich in lycopene, but there are a few more to take advantage of for improved health and fitness:

  • Watermelon (100g or approx. 1 cup): 4.1g
  • Pink grapefruit (100g or approx. 1 ½ cups): 3.4g
  • Red guava (100g or approx. ¾ cup): 5200 mg
  • Asparagus (100g or approx. ¾ cup): 30 mg
  • Apricots (100g or approx. ¾ cup): 0.86 mg

Research Fun Food Fact:

Tomato juice is said to be a better workout drink than expensive sports drinks on the market.

Sources:
Harms-Ringdahl M et al., Tomato juice intake suppressed serum concentration of 8-oxodG after extensive physical activity, Journal of Nutrition, 2012.

Mukuta K et al., Administration of Tomato Juice or Aqueous Components of Tomato Reduces Fatigue Induced by Acute Treadmill Exercise, Food and Nutrition Sciences, 2016.

Ramaswamy L et al., Effect of supplementation of tomato juice on the oxidative stress of selected athletes, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2011.

Tsitsimpikou C et al., Administration of tomato juice ameliorates lactate dehydrogenase and creatinine kinase responses to anaerobic training, International Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2013.

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