Reasons to Drink Tomato Juice After Physical Activity

Tomato juice

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Regular exercise is a great way to stay in shape and maintain your health. Research indicates consistent workouts improve physical function and decrease the risk of various types of disease. How often should you exercise? 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. This could be due to time constraints, financial barriers, or lack of results. Also, many people complain about post-workout pain or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

If muscle fatigue could be reduced, more people might commit to a regular exercise program. 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. Tomato juice is also shown to help with oxidative stress and improve our ability to work out longer and stronger.

Benefits of Tomato Juice After Physical Activity

Tomatoes and tomato juice are nutrition powerhouses. Tomatoes are actually a fruit but are prepared in meals like a vegetable. They are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants including lycopene.

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.

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 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.

Tomato Juice and Oxidative Stress

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 and Exercise-Induced Fatigue

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.

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 that participants who consumed tomato juice were able to exercise longer with reduced fatigue levels.

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 reduced internal stress at the chemical level during exercise.

Tomato Juice and Enhanced Performance

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 lower after the ingestion of tomato juice for 60 days. The athletes were also able to increase running distance and overall athletic performance compared to those not consuming the tomato juice.

Results of this study indicated that the lycopene in tomato juice provided antioxidant protection, helping reduce oxidative stress caused by exercise.

Tomato Juice and Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS)

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 20-minute cycle sessions 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 from this study 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.

Tomato Juice and Muscle Repair

Another study indicated tomato juice can 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. After a 2-month period, replacing the carbohydrate supplementation beverages commonly used during training with tomato juice resulted in a significant reduction in CPK and LDH, which almost returned to normal levels, while homocysteine and C-reactive protein were decreased.

The lycopene in tomato juice provides antioxidant protection during exercise, repairs damaged muscles, and also reduces 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, especially during exercise, for improved health.
  • Eye health: Tomato juice also contains beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These phytonutrients have been shown to promote healthy vision and reduce the risk of degeneration.

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. All nutrition data is provided by the USDA.

Food Serving Size Amount of Lycopene
Guava 100 grams (approx. 3/4 cup) 5.2 milligrams
Watermelon 100 grams (approx. 1 cup) 4.5 milligrams
Pink grapefruit 100 grams (approx. 1.5 cups) 1.4 milligrams
Papaya 100 grams (approx. 3/4 cup) 1.8 milligrams
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