If you’re like me, you sometimes struggle to find convenient, palatable ways to work additional servings of fruit or vegetables into your diet. Well, get ready to make that surprised Scarlett Johansson meme face because I found a real easy way to add more plant matter to your diet without you even tasting it.
It’s canned pumpkin. Yeah, the stuff people buy every Thanksgiving but ignore the rest of the year.
I keep several cans on hand at all times. I just open one and mix a generous dollop into my oatmeal, protein drink, or yogurt. I might also add some to any soup I’m making, or my mashed potatoes. I add it to pancake mix, even pasta sauce. And I barely know it’s there.
Once I take what I need from the can, I snap a plastic can lid on top of it and toss it in the fridge. It stays fresh for about a week but I almost always use up the contents before then.
But that’s not all. Get ready to go from a Scarlett Johansson surprised face to a Scarlett Johansson o-face (okay, maybe it’s not that exciting) because this same, easy to incorporate, bland, almost tasteless fruit/vegetable (botanists regard it as a fruit but everyone else calls it a vegetable) has also been shown to both increase endurance and prevent muscle protein breakdown.
Increasing Endurance, Preventing Muscle Protein Breakdown
The meat of the pumpkin is of course orange, which is nature’s way of telling us dumb animals that it’s full of carotenoids like beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin, stuff that’s all complicit in improving human health in general.
Pumpkin also contains high amounts of nicotinic acid and trigonellin, which have been shown to improve the glucose uptake of muscle cells. Beyond that, pumpkin contains dehydrodiconiferyl-alcohol, a plant metabolite that’s known to sabotage the glucose uptake of fat cells.
One study involving mice found that pumpkin extract led to increased grip strength and resistance to fatigue. (1) Another study found that pumpkin extract inhibited increases in plasma protein carbonyls, which suggests that the fruit protects muscle proteins from being broken down during intense exercise. (2)
So along with the increased health benefits of all that carotenoid-rich pumpkin meat, you get improved insulin sensitivity, the possibility of increased endurance and strength, and reduced exercise-induced muscle-protein breakdown.
The Great Poop Normalizer
Based on what I just told you about pumpkin, it’s clear that it’s a fruit/vegetable that’s perfectly suited for the fitness/weightlifting/bodybuilding/athlete modern-day lifestyle, especially in its canned form. (Get a 12-pack delivered here.)
But if you’re not yet convinced, pumpkin has another superpower you should know about: It’s the Mickey Mantle of bowel movements in that it’s the consummate bowel switch-hitter.
Bowel movements too loose? Pumpkin adds insoluble fiber to firm things up. Bowel movements too firm? Pumpkin adds soluble fiber to soften things up.
Imagine Scarlett Johansson’s face now!
Note: Here’s another tasty way to work pumpkin into your diet:
How to Make Protein Powder Pumpkin Waffles
- 1 scoop Metabolic Drive® vanilla
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup pumpkin purée
- 1 tablespoon coconut flour
- 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice blend
- 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of baking soda
- Option: monk fruit sweetener to taste
Options: Add berries or use bananas with chocolate Metabolic Drive® protein powder.
Whisk everything together and plop it into your waffle iron. Done!
- Serving Size: 1 Belgian waffle or 2 standard waffles
- Calories: 242
- Protein: 30g
- Carbs: 14g
- Fat: 9g
- Fiber: 7g
- Shih-Yi Wang, et al. “Pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata) fruit extract improves physical fatigue and exercise performance in mice,” Molecules. 2012 Oct 9;17(10):1186.
- Agata Rolnik, et al. “Comparative Phytochemical, Antioxidant and Haemostatic Studies of Preparations from Selected Vegetables from Cucurbitaceae Family,” Molecules, 2020 Sep. 21;25(18): 4326.
As an Amazon Associate, T Nation earns from qualifying purchases. When you buy something, using the retail links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. T Nation does not accept money for editorial reviews. Read more about our policy.