What Are the Benefits of Citrus Fruits for Athletes?

Adequate doses of vitamin C improves the immune function, which can indirectly increase the performance of athletes. Learn why in the following article.
What Are the Benefits of Citrus Fruits for Athletes?

Last update: 24 May, 2020

Although some experts claim that consuming citrus fruits before training could increase the risk of muscle injury, these foods provide many benefits for athletes. Among their characteristics is a strong antioxidant power, which can contribute to reducing the presence of free radicals.

Athletes can get vitamin C from citrus fruits

Citrus fruits are characterized by containing large amounts of vitamin C. This vitamin carries several functions in the body. First, it’s responsible for promoting the synthesis of collagen, as stated in this study published in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine.

Because of this, ensuring an adequate amount of this nutrient in our diets, contributes to maintaining healthy tendons and muscles; this will in turn, help to reduce the risk of injury.

On the other hand, these fruits also have an important antioxidant function. Therefore, consuming them can reduce muscle damage and inflammation signs associated with intense exercise. However, excessively high doses of this type of compound could be associated with a worsening of muscle adaptations, according to a study published in 2016.

Likewise, adequate doses of vitamin C allow correct lipid oxidation in the framework of intense training. On the contrary, having a deficit of this substance could have a negative impact on the performance of resistance athletes.

Because of this, it’s essential for athletes to ensure the intake of citrus fruits and other foods rich in this nutrient, such as peppers.

Citrus fruits and other foods that contain vitamin C to improve the performance of athletes

Citrus fruits improve hydration levels

Another quality of citrus fruits is that they contain high amounts of water, as with many other types of fruits. This helps to improve the athlete’s hydration levels, which in turn helps to prevent complications associated with excessive loss of water and electrolytes.

Consuming fruit is an effective complementary strategy when it comes to improving the athlete’s fluid intake.

However, some experts recommend not eating acidic fruits before training or sports competitions. These professionals claim that acidic foods could increase the risk of muscle injury.

There’s still not enough scientific evidence to prove the veracity of this statement, as it’s still under study. In any case, it can be effective to avoid consuming these foods a few hours before doing sports, as a precautionary measure. After all, it’s a measure with a fairly favorable cost-benefit ratio.

Fruit consumption is essential

Beyond just citrus fruits, it’s important to mention that the contribution of all fruits is a fundamental part of the athlete’s diet. Apart from the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they provide, they also contain large amounts of fiber.

This nutrient can help reduce intestinal transit problems. Furthermore, consuming it leads to the selective growth of the microbiota, which could result in a reduction of systemic inflammation.

Finally, fruits also contain the necessary electrolytes to maintain the water and electrolyte balance in the athlete. This can help reduce the occurrence of muscle cramps and other accidents that jeopardize the athlete’s performance during a sports event.

Include citrus fruits in your everyday diet!

In summary, because of their contribution to vitamin C, and their antioxidant properties, athletes should frequently include citrus fruits in their diet. As we learned today, they can help to improve collagen synthesis and reduce oxidative damage.

A close up shot of a pink grapefruit

On the other hand, doses of vitamin C can boost the immune function of the body, which could in turn reduce the incidence of respiratory diseases. This also affects the athlete’s performance, although in an indirect way.

However, due to the models established by some experts, it may be advisable to separate the consumption of these foods from training hours. They argue that the acidic nature of citrus could influence the risk of muscle injury; although currently there’s no solid evidence in this regard.

Finally, we must not forget about the importance of consuming fruits and vegetables for athletes. Besides all the nutrients they contain, they also promote proper levels of hydration. This way, athletes can avoid performance drops and complications associated with excessive fluid loss.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • DePhillipo NN., Aman AS., Kennedy MI., Begley JP., et al., Efficacy of vitamin C supplementation on collagen synthesis and oxidative stress after musculoskeletal injuries: a systematic review. Orthop J Sports Med, 2018.
  • Mason SA., Morrison D., McConell GK., Wadley GD., Muscle redox signalling pathways in exercise, role of antioxidants. Free Radic Biol Med, 2016. 98: 29-45.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.