Aid For Muscle Recovery With Cantaloupe

  • Pranjal Yeole Bsc in Biological Sciences, University of Warwick

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When you wake up in the morning, get out of bed and maybe take a little stroll down the street it is your muscles, amongst other organ systems, which enable us to do so. The term muscle is used to describe a group of muscle tissues which contract together, in the human body these muscles work alongside the skeleton to form the musculoskeletal system and are also present in vital organs including the heart and stomach. You may notice that when you go on a particularly strenuous run or partake in a hard session at the gym you experience aching muscles, this is often because you’re new to a particular exercise and have overused the muscle. However there are things you can do which help support muscle recovery, one example being nutritional supplementation.

Importance of physical activity and exercise

Physical activity is unavoidable to some degree, naturally throughout the day we rely on bodily movement to complete daily tasks and jobs such as household chores and even walking from one place to the other. When we perform any type of physical activity our skeletal muscles are engaged and energy is expended as a result. 

Historically our ancestors undertook greater levels of physical activity due to several factors which included walking or using bicycles to travel to work, increased manual labour and higher levels of people spending time outdoors. Nowadays health experts and medical professionals attribute a growing number of chronic health epidemics to sedentary lifestyles which include:

  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Just by simply getting out every day for a walk or jog or doing some form of physical activity in the house we can give our bodies the following benefits:

  • Improved muscle tone and strength
  • Strengthens bones
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Weight control
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Boosts mood 

Exercise

Exercise is a subcategory of physical activity which is defined as intentional, planned activities whose purpose is to build and enhance physical fitness and strength. Usually, when we think of exercise it is more strenuous and physically demanding than physical activity, think of Olympic athletes who maintain strict conditioning regimes.

As a result of the potential strain we can place on our muscles when participating in new or more demanding forms of exercise, we also increase the risk of:

  • Muscle and ligament tears
  • Exercise induced muscle damage (EIMD)
  • Muscle fatigue

Exercise induced muscle damage (EIMD) is characterised by loss of muscle function accompanied by muscle soreness. Whereas, muscle fatigue describes a decline in muscle function and capacity to exert power is attributed to exercise.1,2

There are many supplements available which boost muscle function and recovery post-exercise. However, there are foods we can add to our diet which can perform the same job. This article will look at how the nutritional composition of the cantaloupe melon can aid and accelerate muscle recovery.

Cantaloupe melon

The cantaloupe melon (Cucumis melo) is a type of true melon belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family and can also be referred to as a muskmelon and honeydew melon. These fruits are of great economic importance and consumed globally due to their characteristic sweet flavour.3 Cantaloupes thrive in warm soil and are believed to have first originated in India or the Middle East and later introduced across Asia, Africa, the United States and Europe. Cantaloupes are widely enjoyed not just because of their delicious flavour but also the wide range of health benefits they are believed to provide, for example, hydrating and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Potassium

The cantaloupe melon is rich in potassium, an essential mineral and positively charged element known as an electrolyte. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that on average a 100g portion of raw cantaloupe melon contains 157mg of potassium while we require approximately 3,500mg of potassium daily. Potassium is not synthesised in the body and therefore we rely on external sources for our supply, it is then excreted in the urine.

A decrease in potassium gradients across the cell membrane which surrounds skeletal muscle fibres has been linked to whole-body fatigue and impaired exercise performance.4 When important ions are lost from the body through sweating during exercise this can throw off the balance within the body and disturb gradients which are maintained at equilibrium. Cantaloupe can help to replace these ions and help to restore the ionic balance within the body necessary for muscle recovery.

High water content

Given that water is such a major constituent of the body making up approximately 60%, it is no surprise if you notice when you are dehydrated and develop a headache, dry mouth or become sleepy and tired. Dehydration also affects the muscles and can present as:5

  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Reduced muscle strength
  • Reduced muscular endurance

The cantaloupe is an extremely hydrating fruit made up of 90% water making it a highly thirst-quenching food item. This will help to provide weary muscles with the water they require for protein synthesis, muscle repair, ion transport and exchange which are necessary for muscle function and preventing muscle fatigue.6 

Vitamin C

Cantaloupe melons are rich in vitamin C, an essential water-soluble antioxidant, also known as ascorbic acid. According to the USDA 177g of cantaloupe provides us with approximately 65mg of vitamin C, exceeding our recommended daily intake.

Antioxidants are substances which scavenge and neutralise harmful free radicals and reactive oxygen species in the body helping to prevent inflammation and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndromes, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.7 Studies have shown that acute exercise, defined as a short bout of intense physical activity as opposed to more consistent training, has been linked to exercise-induced oxidative stress. These free radicals can contribute to:8

  • Muscle fatigue
  • Impaired muscle force production
  • Muscle damage

Vitamin C has been shown to reduce muscle damage most likely due to its ability to acquire roaming free radicals reducing levels of oxidative stress, which will help to boost muscle recovery following bouts of intense exercise.9

Vitamin C also plays a role in the synthesis of collagen, a structural protein, which is a primary building block for skin, muscle and ligaments. Collagen synthesis is an important process for the healing of musculoskeletal tissues including tendons and ligaments.10 Vitamin C facilitates the activity of two enzymes; prolyl hydroxylase and lysyl hydroxylase which enable proper folding of collagen and cross-linkage formation between molecules, strengthening the collagen network. Poorly spaced collagen-derived matrices have been found to increase the risk of injury further highlighting the value of vitamin C for injury prevention and aiding muscle recuperation.

How to incorporate cantaloupe into your diet?

According to the NHS, an adult portion of fruit is 80g or 1 large 5cm slice of melon, the NHS also recommends a daily intake of at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables. Cantaloupe is generally safe for consumption except for those who have an allergy. It is best not to exceed daily consumption of 1.5 – 2 cups as this increases the risk of adverse effects.

For people with irritable bowel disease or a more sensitive stomach, there is an increased risk of gastrointestinal irritation which could result in diarrhoea, so it may be advisable to reduce your portion size and seek medical advice before introducing it to your diet.

Due to the high potassium content in cantaloupe, excessive consumption could cause hyperkalemia, a condition in which potassium levels in the blood are elevated above normal levels and can lead to heart and kidney damage. If you are currently taking beta-blockers please consult your GP or medical practitioner before introducing cantaloupe into your diet.

Cantaloupe can be enjoyed fresh or dried, however, it is important to note that dried fruit usually contains more sugar, so a small portion is advisable as cantaloupe is already sweet. 

Summary

Bodily movement in a variety of forms is widely encouraged due to its number of physical and mental health benefits. Physical activity and exercise can help to stave off weight gain, depression, chronic health conditions and boost muscle tone and self-image. Exercise provides a wealth of benefits but can leave muscles sore and fatigued particularly when we overexert ourselves. There is a wide range of supplements available to us today to provide our body with what we need to minimise the risk of muscle fatigue and enhance strength and performance. Nonetheless, we can also gain the same advantages by introducing certain food items into our diet. One such example is the cantaloupe, a sweet hydrating melon which can easily be enjoyed fresh. Cantaloupes provide us with potassium, water, vitamin C and a host of other anti-inflammatory and nourishing compounds. In addition, it provides important ions which help to boost our overall health and support muscle recovery after a strenuous workout. 

References

  1. Owens DJ, Twist C, Cobley JN, Howatson G, Close GL. Exercise-induced muscle damage: What is it, what causes it and what are the nutritional solutions? European Journal of Sport Science [Internet]. 2019 Jan 2 [cited 2024 Jan 2];19(1):71–85. Available from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17461391.2018.1505957
  2. Enoka RM, Duchateau J. Muscle fatigue: what, why and how it influences muscle function. The Journal of Physiology [Internet]. 2008 Jan [cited 2024 Jan 3];586(1):11–23. Available from: https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1113/jphysiol.2007.139477
  3. Ismail HI, Chan KW, Mariod AA, Ismail M. Phenolic content and antioxidant activity of cantaloupe (Cucumis melo) methanolic extracts. Food Chemistry [Internet]. 2010 Mar 15 [cited 2024 Jan 7];119(2):643–7. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814609008814
  4. Powers SK, Radak Z, Ji LL. Exercise‐induced oxidative stress: past, present and future. J Physiol [Internet]. 2016 Sep 15 [cited 2024 Jan 6];594(18):5081–92. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5023699/
  5. Shaheen NA, Alqahtani AA, Assiri H, Alkhodair R, Hussein MA. Public knowledge of dehydration and fluid intake practices: variation by participants’ characteristics. BMC Public Health [Internet]. 2018 Dec 5 [cited 2024 Jan 6];18(1):1346. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-018-6252-5
  6. McKenna MJ. The roles of ionic processes in muscular fatigue during intense exercise. Sports Medicine [Internet]. 1992 Feb 1 [cited 2024 Jan 7];13(2):134–45. Available from: https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-199213020-00009
  7. Yavari A, Javadi M, Mirmiran P, Bahadoran Z. Exercise-induced oxidative stress and dietary antioxidants. Asian J Sports Med [Internet]. 2015 Mar [cited 2024 Jan 6];6(1):e24898. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4393546/
  8. Powers SK, Radak Z, Ji LL. Exercise‐induced oxidative stress: past, present and future. J Physiol [Internet]. 2016 Sep 15 [cited 2024 Jan 6];594(18):5081–92. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5023699/
  9. Askari G, Ghiasvand R, Karimian J, Feizi A, Paknahad Z, Sharifirad G, et al. Does quercetin and vitamin C improve exercise performance, muscle damage, and body composition in male athletes? J Res Med Sci [Internet]. 2012 Apr [cited 2024 Jan 6];17(4):328–31. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3526124/
  10. DePhillipo NN, Aman ZS, Kennedy MI, Begley JP, Moatshe G, LaPrade RF. Efficacy of vitamin c supplementation on collagen synthesis and oxidative stress after musculoskeletal injuries: a systematic review. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine [Internet]. 2018 Oct [cited 2024 Jan 7];6(10):232596711880454. Available from: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2325967118804544

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Pippa Chapman

MSc, Immunology, University of Strathclyde

Pippa is a Cell Culture Scientist who after completing an MSc in Immunology has been employed in the biotechnology sector. She has a strong interest in medical research and the application of both conventional and holistic strategies to tackle today's most challenging health conditions.

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