Save the seeds from your Jack-O-Lanterns and buy some extra gourds this holiday season—eating pumpkins and their seeds may help improve your athletic performance.
Let’s start with the most recent study, published in the journal Molecules just in time for Halloween. In this study, researchers found that pumpkin extract (from the curcurbita moschata, a.k.a. butternut squash) improved physical fatigue and exercise performance in mice. Rodents fed pumpkin extract in doses of up to 250mg per kilogram of body weight per day for 14 days increased their grip strength, endurance, and their bodies’ ability to store and release glucose. They also had lowered markers of muscle damage in their plasma, leading researchers to conclude that pumpkin extract may help athletes (at least little furry ones) go stronger longer.
As for pumpkin seeds, they’re an excellent source of magnesium, a mineral that helps your muscles contract properly and aids metabolism. A 3.5-ounce serving of pumpkin seeds packs 592 milligrams of magnesium, more than enough to satisfy the recommended daily intake of 320mg for females and 420mg for males over 30. Pumpkin seeds also boast a large amount of protein, and almost twice as much potassium as your average banana, making them an ideal post-workout snack to help repair muscle and replenish electrolytes.
Finally, pumpkins are high in fiber. Studies have shown that adding fiber to your diet will likely help decrease your overall food intake. If you’re trying to reach or maintain a certain race weight, eating more pumpkin this holiday season may help. (Here's more information on reaching your ideal race weight.) For a healthy pumpkin boost, try adding pumpkin to pancakes or baking pumpkin muffins.