Fructose Frenzy: The 5 Best Fruits for Muscle-Building

The role of fruit in a muscle-building diet is undervalued and sometimes misunderstood. Fresh fruits contain an array of micronutrients (e.g., minerals, vitamins, and polyphenols) essential for muscle function, growth, and recovery. Even though the micronutrients in fruit may not directly influence muscle protein synthesis, they can facilitate muscle gain indirectly by promoting a healthy immune system, hydration, blood flow, and connective tissue integrity, among other things.

For example, potassium-rich fruits, like bananas, oranges, and cantaloupes, help gym-goers avoid muscle cramps during exercise by maintaining a balance of electrolytes and fluids in muscle cells. Naturally, this translates to better exercise performance and more efficient muscle gain.

Moreover, flavonoids, a large class of polyphenols naturally found in fruits like berries, cherries, and apples, are well-known to help reduce inflammation, which can alleviate muscle soreness and improve recovery [1]. Flavonoids, particularly anthocyanins, can also accelerate muscle recovery by enhancing blood flow, ensuring that muscles receive a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients [2]. Furthermore, the dietary fiber and enzymes in fruits aid digestion and help maintain a healthy gut microbiome, thereby enhancing nutrient absorption.

Suffice it to say you should eat fruit regularly, even if you're not actively trying to pack on muscle mass. With that in mind, we'll break down how much and what types of fruit you should consume to promote muscle growth and overall health.

How Much Fruit Should You Eat Per Day?

Vitamins and minerals are essential micronutrients despite being devoid of energy (calories). Research on bodybuilders that follow either a flexible-dieting or clean-eating meal plan suggests that many people from both groups fall short of their daily micronutrient needs [3].

So yes, you can eat Pop-Tarts and drink soda while meeting your macronutrient and calorie goals, but micronutrients will be lacking in the diet if you're relying on "empty-calorie" foods and liquids.The same can be said for if you're overly restrictive about your food selection.

For the average adult, most dietary guidelines recommend consuming at least 2 to 3 servings of fruit daily, but this recommendation can vary for athletes and active individuals. The increased physical demand necessitates a higher intake of nutrients, fluids, and electrolytes, making fruits an integral part of the diet. While fruits are beneficial for just about everyone, they should be consumed as part of a balanced diet providing a mix of protein, healthy fats, and other carbohydrate sources (since too much fructose can be deleterious).

For those looking to build muscle mass, incorporating 3 to 5 servings of fruit daily can help ensure adequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals without going overboard on fructose. Ideally, you should eat a variety of fruits to get a broad spectrum of beneficial micronutrients (and macronutrients) for muscle growth and recovery.

The Truth about Fructose and Muscle Growth

Fructose is a type of sugar naturally found in fruits, and it has been the subject of much debate and misconception, particularly regarding its impact on the liver. Unlike glucose, which can be utilized by every cell in the body, fructose is primarily processed in the liver [4].

However, when consumed as part of whole fruits, fructose comes with a host of beneficial nutrients and fiber, which moderates its absorption and mitigates potential negative impacts. The myth that fructose is inherently bad has been debunked by numerous studies showing that, in the context of a balanced diet, fructose from whole fruits does not exhibit the same effects as high-fructose corn syrup or other refined sugars [5].

The fiber in whole fruits also slows down sugar absorption, preventing sharp spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, and contributes to satiety, reducing the likelihood of overeating. (Hence, if you begin your meals with a few slices of fresh fruit, you'll likely notice you get full quicker.)

It's worth noting that the body's capacity to process fructose without adverse effects is limited. Excessive fructose intake, particularly from processed foods and sweetened beverages, places undue stress on the liver, leading to insulin resistance and hepatic fat accumulation [6]. The consensus among nutritionists is that keeping fructose intake to less than 50 grams per day — roughly equivalent to the amount found in 3 to 4 servings of fresh fruit — is safe and beneficial for most people [7].

The 5 Best Fruits for Building Muscle

Avocadoes

The avocado is an "atypical" nutrient-dense fruit that contains very little sugar; instead, it's rich in monounsaturated fats that help reduce inflammation and promote cardiovascular health [8]. Avocadoes also contain ample amounts of vitamin E and vitamin C, essential antioxidants to protect your (muscle) cells from oxidative stress. Avocados also provide a substantial amount of potassium, even more than bananas on a per-gram basis.

Berries (Blueberries, Acai Berries, Strawberries, Etc.)

As a whole, berries are some of the best fruits for building muscle mass thanks to their anthocyanins that promote blood flow [9]. They are also an exceptional source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and fiber. Whether your goal is to build muscle mass, lose body weight, or stay healthy, it's hard to go wrong by eating a few servings of berries daily.

Mangoes

Mangoes, often touted as the "king of fruits," are a juicy powerhouse replete with polyphenolic compounds, vitamin C, B vitamins, and carotenoids, making them a superb fruit for muscle-building [10]. There is also evidence that the polyphenols in mangoes support gastrointestinal health and reduce inflammation by modulating the gut microbiome [11]. In addition, mangoes provide a generous amount of carbohydrates, helping replenish glycogen stores before and after exercising.

Pineapple

Pineapple is an excellent fruit for those focusing on muscle building, largely due to its bromelain content. Bromelain is an enzyme that helps in the digestion of protein so the body efficiently utilizes the building blocks (amino acids) necessary for muscle repair and growth. Moreover, pineapple appears to support testosterone levels in the body [12]. Testosterone is crucial for muscle protein synthesis and growth, and certain compounds in pineapple, including vitamins and minerals, may promote the body's endogenous anabolic hormone production.

Montmorency Cherry (Tart Cherry)

The montmorency cherry, commonly referred to as tart cherry, is a dense source of anthocyanins, B vitamins, vitamin A, iron, calcium, magnesium, and even omega-3 essential fatty acids. The unique anthocyanins in tart cherry give it five times greater antioxidant capacity than sweet cherry varieties [13]. Further evidence suggests that tart cherry can help reduce blood pressure and ameliorate gout symptoms by decreasing uric acid levels in the body [14, 15]. 

A simple way to distinguish tart cherries from sweet-cherry varieties is their color; tart cherries are naturally a vivid, bright red, whereas sweet cherries are generally a darker, maroon hue. Be wary that tart cherry juice at the supermarket may contain high amounts of added sugars.Your best bet is to find pure tart cherry juice (without added sugar), whole tart cherries, or a tart cherry powder supplement. 

The VitaCherry® ingredient in Transparent Labs POST is a patented tart cherry powder that's freeze-dried to retain its concentrated profile of anthocyanins and micronutrients; Tart cherry powder is one of the few fruit-based supplement ingredients shown to attenuate delayed-onset muscle soreness in active individuals [16].

When You Eat Fruit, Choose the Fresh Varieties

Before you head to the grocery store and stock up on our list of best fruits for muscle building, we should clarify that the aforementioned health benefits are associated largely with fresh fruits (not the canned, dried, or candied stuff).

Fresh fruits contain a dense profile of essential nutrients needed for muscle repair, growth, and overall health without the added sugars or preservatives in processed options. If you don't already incorporate a variety of fresh fruits (i.e., in their natural, unprocessed state) in your diet, now is the time to start.

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