There is no shortage of hacks and pre-workout supplements for gym goers with the goal of achieving their desired “muscle pump”.
Social media, especially the hashtag #FitTok and #GymTok on TikTok, is full of recommendations.
What we usually refer to as a “muscle pump” is technically known as cellular swelling. During intense exercise, an excess of blood and fluid floods the muscles through a process known as vasodilation. This excess of blood gives us an increase in muscle size.
My fellow gym-goers recently referred me to a trend I found particularly interesting and worth investigating: the pomegranate pump. Some TikTok accounts with large numbers of followers promote eating fresh pomegranate before strength training in the gym as a way to improve the pump. Are you actually working?
What you need to know:Are you at risk of heart attack during exercise?
Pomegranate: superfruit galore
Pomegranate is rich in antioxidants. They consist of an inedible, shiny red outer surface and an inner core filled with crunchy pink seeds called aryls.
Some studies suggest that it is these seeds that pack the well-known pomegranate seeds. It may also reduce atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in the arteries.
The answer may surprise you:Would spending more time in the sauna save your life?
are you next More Americans are diagnosed with high blood pressure than ever before.
Here is where it becomes interesting. Pomegranate also contains nitrates that are converted to nitric oxide when consumed via a very complex pathway called the nitrate-nitrite-intestinal salivary nitric oxide (NO) pathway.
Let me break down the main steps in this process:
- The nitrate-rich pomegranate is eaten and absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract
- The salivary glands absorb circulating nitrates and are excreted in saliva
- Nitrates are converted to nitrites by oral bacteria
- Nitrite is ingested and converted to nitric oxide in the stomach
- Additional nitrite enters the systemic circulation where it is converted to nitrogen oxide in the blood and tissues
And here’s the key step: it’s not instrumental in promoting vasodilation and blood flow—two essential muscle pump factors as mentioned above.
Nitric Oxide: The Secret of the Pomegranate Revealed
We can draw a straight line connecting the effects of nitrate-rich pomegranate and the muscle pump. The key is no; Relaxes the smooth muscles of blood vessels, causing vasodilation and increased blood flow. Additionally, it has also been shown that improved oxygen delivery to hard-working muscles from increased blood flow enhances cardiovascular performance in athletes.
Pomegranate is just one of many sources of dietary nitrate. others:
- Green leafy vegetables (rocca, cabbage, lettuce, spinach)
- beetroot (red beet)
- bok choy
How much pomegranate do I need?
So how much pomegranate do you need before a workout? I found different recommendations in my research. About 6-8 ounces of pomegranate juice — or about one cup of the seeds — seems to be the consensus. Personally, I mix pomegranate juice with 12-16 ounces of sparkling water.
Aim to eat a pomegranate about 30 minutes before your workout.
The other advantage of pomegranate is that on a calorie basis, it offers a lot of benefits compared to other fruit options.
Bottom line: Pomegranate is a healthy, natural way to boost both muscle pump and cardiovascular performance before exercise.
Michael Daignault, MD, is a board-certified ER physician in Los Angeles. He studied global health at Georgetown University and received his medical degree from Ben-Gurion University. He completed his residency training in emergency medicine at Lincoln Medical Center in the South Bronx. He is also a former US Peace Corps volunteer. You can find him on Instagram @ dr.daignault