Pomegranate Power

Ancient civilizations revered this antioxidant-rich superfruit, but its benefits to training and recovery are only now being studied.


I don’t have to tell you that CrossFit is an extremely demanding sport. WOD success depends on the match between mental expectation and physical capacity. Nutrition is absolutely vital to building the energy stores that power workouts as well as providing protein and other nutrients that build strength, power and endurance over time. Moreover, certain ingredients may provide acute benefits by increasing energy, vitality and even muscle efficiency. Among the latter group is pomegranate, a superfruit that contains nutrients that support physical performance and recovery. In this article, we will peel the skin off the pomegranate in order to discuss the performance and general benefits to CrossFit performance provided by this exotic fruit.

Pomegranate’s Performance Potential

Pomegranates have long been known to be good sources of essential nutrients like vitamin C, potassium and iron. Pomegranates also deliver phenolic molecules and nitrates. Nitrates are simple nitrogen- and oxygen-endowed molecules, but they and their molecular relatives nitrites are exciting nutraceutical concepts because they contribute to blood vessel nitric-oxide balance within tissue, especially tissue with high oxygen demand like muscle. Nitric oxide is one of the factors that can help expand the diameter of smaller blood vessels, thereby increasing blood flow to high-oxygen-demanding tissue like muscle.

To see what pomegranate could do for heavy weight trainers, researchers at the University of Texas gave men who routinely performed resistance training pomegranate juice for several days and scheduled a strenuous training session in the middle. The researchers saw that the return of strength was improved by pomegranate juice. They confirmed this in a follow-up study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, and found that those participants also experienced less muscle soreness. In another study that was recently completed and published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, runners received a pomegranate-fruit extract 30 minutes before an intermittent sprinting challenge. Here, the pomegranate juice increased blood flow after 30 minutes and then supported higher-intensity running and then increased blood flow during recovery. Lastly, in a study involving CrossFit athletes, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, pomegranate extract as part of a preworkout regimen helped improve WOD performance.

So there you have it. Pomegranate juice or extract seems at this time to have great potential as a CrossFit-performance-supporting food and supplement. Supporting optimal circulation and, potentially, exercise efficiency is certainly desirable for any CrossFit competitor. Meanwhile, reducing soreness and hastening the return of strength after a tough WOD can help the body tolerate more frequent training.