Squash & Pumpkin seeds: Benefits for Athletes

Athletes should regularly eat both squash and pumpkin seeds. Squash is packed with antioxidants while supporting a lean body, due to its low-calorie content, while pumpkin seeds build muscle mass. A serving has almost 9 grams of a complete plant-based protein and they’re packed with minerals and antioxidants that improve metabolism and accelerate recovery.

Benefits for Athletic performance & Muscle Growth

Help build a Lean body

Squash is one of the best foods an athlete can eat every day. Especially in the cutting phase as it’s packed with nutrients while containing only a few calories. It supports weight loss.

All squash cultivars are low in protein. They have less than 2 grams per serving.

On the contrary, pumpkin seeds are an excellent dietary source, providing almost 9 grams per 1 oz. Moreover, they are a complete vegan protein as they contain high amounts of all 9 essential amino acids.

Keep in mind that squash and pumpkin seeds are particularly rich in phosphorus, zinc, and magnesium which are involved in protein synthesis, which is crucial for muscle repair and growth after exercise.[1]

Benefits of Squash for Sports performancePin

Zinc in particular plays a role in regulating testosterone levels, which can impact energy levels and fatigue in athletes, particularly males. Additionally, zinc is involved in the absorption of other essential nutrients. Athletes generally have higher zinc requirements than sedentary individuals due to increased sweat losses and metabolic demands.

Pumpkin seeds provide 20% of the Daily Value of zinc, while squash offers 2-4% DV per serving.

Also, B vitamins, particularly vitamin B6, are involved in protein metabolism and amino acid utilization. Squash is high in almost all B vitamins.

Provide steady Energy levels

Athletes could eat squash a couple of hours before exercise, as it provides steady energy levels for a long time, boosting your sports performance.

Glycemic Index

It has a low glycemic index. It’s lower than 55. That’s why squash is low in net carbs while it’s rich in fiber, minerals, and antioxidants that manage glucose metabolism. For instance, a cup of pumpkin has less than 4 grams of sugar!

Iron

Iron is a vital component of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Adequate levels ensure efficient oxygen delivery to muscles, enhancing the stamina of athletes and reducing fatigue during exercise.[2]

Low iron stores can lead to iron deficiency anemia, causing fatigue, weakness, and decreased exercise tolerance. Maintaining good iron levels combats these issues.

Athletes, especially those in endurance sports, may have higher iron requirements due to increased blood volume and red blood cell production.

Squash provides 1-7% DV iron per serving, depending on the cultivar, while pumpkin seeds provide 14% DV per 1 oz.

Copper

Copper, found abundant in squash assists in iron absorption. Low copper levels can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness, and decreased exercise tolerance. Athletes with copper deficiency might experience a significant decline in performance.

Pumpkin seeds provide 42% DV while squash offers 9-20% DV per serving.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a cofactor in over 300 enzymes, including those involved in energy production from carbs and fats. Adequate magnesium levels can contribute to optimal energy availability during exercise.

Magnesium is also necessary for proper muscle function, nerve transmission, and oxygen uptake and utilization by muscles. It helps muscles relax and contract efficiently, potentially improving athletic performance.[3]

Pumpkin seeds provide 40% DV magnesium per 1 oz while squash provides 4-8% DV per cup.

Manganese

Manganese is a co-factor for the enzyme pyruvate carboxylase, which plays a role in converting carbs into usable energy. This can be beneficial for athletes by ensuring their bodies have sufficient energy for training and competition.

Pumpkin seeds are among the richest dietary sources of manganese, providing 56% of the Daily Value per handful. Squash contains decent amounts, ranging 5-15%, depending on the cultivar.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus, along with copper, is a key component of ATP, the primary source of energy for muscle contractions. During exercise, your body breaks down ATP to fuel movements. Adequate phosphorus and copper stores ensure your body can continuously regenerate ATP for sustained performance.

Moreover, phosphorus plays a role in carbohydrate metabolism, helping the body convert food into energy. This can be beneficial for endurance athletes who require sustained energy release.

It also plays a role in creatine phosphate production, a molecule that helps replenish ATP during high-intensity activities.

Pumpkin seeds are packed with phosphorus, providing 50% DV per 1 oz! Squash provides 5-9% DV per cup.

B Vitamins

B vitamins, especially thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin, are essential for converting carbs, fats, and proteins into usable energy. This ensures your body has the fuel it needs to perform at its best during intense training sessions. They can help delay fatigue and improve exercise tolerance, allowing you to push harder and train for longer durations.

B vitaminAmount
per cup
% DV
riboflavin (mg)0,211,8%
pantothenic acid (mg)0,48,3%
thiamine (mg)0,075,8%
folate (mcg)22,45,6%
niacin (mg)0,85,3%
vitamin B6 (mg)0,15,0%
B vitamins in Squash.

Some B vitamins can help manage stress hormones, which can be elevated during intense training. This can contribute to improved focus, mental clarity, and overall well-being.

B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12, are vital for proper nerve function. This ensures optimal communication between your brain and muscles, leading to better coordination, faster reflexes, and improved control during training.

Athletes, especially those engaged in high-intensity training, may have higher B vitamin requirements due to increased energy demands and cellular turnover. A well-balanced diet can offer adequate amounts of most B vitamins.

Only, vitamin B12 deficiency is pretty common. Especially among athletes. There aren’t plant-based sources. Both endurance and bodybuilding athletes could benefit from vitamin B12 supplementation once a week.

May delay Soreness

Manganese can potentially aid in recovery and reduce muscle soreness. Along with phosphorus plays a role in nerve impulse transmission and muscle contraction. Adequate levels might contribute to optimal muscle coordination and response during exercise.

Maintaining healthy magnesium concentrations may also help reduce post-exercise muscle soreness.

Tart cherry juice might have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce muscle soreness. Athletes could benefit from drinking this antioxidant-packed beverage close to strenuous exercise.

Also, athletes could take supplements with pumpkin seed oil extract if consuming squash or pumpkin seeds isn’t your cup of tea. It also improves athletic performance and delays physical fatigue.[4]

You can find pumpkin seed oil extract supplements on iHerb.

Protect from injuries

Yes, squash and pumpkin seeds strengthen the bones. In fact, bones require much more than calcium. For instance, phosphorus is a major component of bones and teeth. Athletes with sufficient phosphorus levels are less susceptible to stress fractures and other bone injuries.[5]

Magnesium is another essential mineral for bone health and mineral density. Adequate levels may help prevent stress fractures and other bone-related injuries common in athletes.

Squash may be a poor dietary source of calcium (2-3% DV) but it’s particularly rich in other important minerals for bone metabolism.

Vitamin D is also essential for bone health. Along with iron and vitamin B12, vitamin D is very common. There aren’t many common foods high in vitamin D. You can boost your intake with eggs, though.

Collagen

Furthermore, manganese, zinc, iron, and copper, all found abundant in pumpkin seeds are necessary for the production of collagen, a crucial component of bones, tendons, and ligaments. Adequate levels may help maintain strong bones and connective tissues, potentially reducing the risk of injuries.

Hydrate the body

Moreover, squash hydrates the body. It’s about 90% high-quality water. Actually, vegetables and fruits are natural water filters!

Most noteworthy, squash replenishes electrolytes. It’s high in magnesium and potassium.

Athletes lose electrolytes primarily due to sweating. Sweat is the body’s natural cooling mechanism during exercise. It’s a clear liquid containing water, electrolytes, and waste products. Key electrolytes lost through sweat include sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, with sodium and chloride being the most abundant.

We get high doses of sodium and chloride from table salt (also called sodium chloride)!

The harder you exercise, the more you sweat, and consequently, the greater the electrolyte loss. When sweat losses are not adequately replaced, an electrolyte imbalance can occur. This can lead to various problems, including muscle cramps and spasms, fatigue, weakness, decreased exercise performance, headaches or dizziness.

Nitric Oxide

Foods such as squash which are rich in polyphenols, especially flavonoids, appear to modify the endothelial formation of Nitric Oxide.[6]

Nitric oxide has gained popularity among athletes for its potential benefits on exercise performance and recovery. Here’s a breakdown of the science behind it:

Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes blood vessels, allowing them to widen. This improved blood flow can deliver more oxygen, glucose, amino acids, and other nutrients to working muscles, potentially enhancing performance and reducing fatigue.

Enhanced blood flow can also improve the removal of waste products like lactate from muscles, which can contribute to muscle fatigue.

Additionally, nitric oxide might play a role in muscle growth by stimulating satellite cells, which are involved in muscle repair and regeneration.

Athletes should eat Pumpkin seeds dailyPin

Should Athletes take supplements with Nitric Oxide?

While the idea of nitric oxide boosting athletic performance sounds appealing, the current evidence for supplementation is limited. There are safer and more established methods for optimizing athletic performance.

Unlike medications, nitric oxide supplements aren’t as rigorously tested and regulated by the FDA. There aren’t long-term data for potential side effects.

Athletes with pre-existing health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, or glaucoma should avoid nitric oxide supplements due to potential risks associated with vasodilation and blood pressure changes. They may also cause side effects like headaches, stomachache, low blood pressure, and even dizziness.

The body naturally produces nitric oxide. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables naturally containing nitrates (which convert to nitric oxide in the body) can contribute to maintaining healthy nitric oxide levels.

Gut Health

Squash and pumpkin seeds are a good source of fiber, particularly insoluble fiber. This type of fiber acts as a prebiotic, feeding the good bacteria in your gut microbiome. These beneficial bacteria help with digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune function, indirectly aiding in exercise performance.

Also, magnesium in squash plays a role in muscle relaxation, including the muscles in your digestive tract, promoting smoother digestion and potentially reducing bloating.

Zinc is essential for a healthy gut lining as well. It’s key for the body’s immune responces. A healthy gut barrier helps prevent harmful substances from entering the bloodstream.

Antioxidants in squash also help reduce inflammation throughout the body, potentially including gut inflammation. Chronic inflammation can disrupt gut health.

Benefits for Athletes

A healthy gut microbiome can boost energy levels and aid digestion for optimal training. Gut bacteria help with nutrient absorption, which is crucial for muscle repair and recovery after workouts.

Furthermore, a balanced gut microbiome can support a strong immune system, helping athletes fight off infections and stay healthy. Hence, they can perform more hard workouts before a competition which can make all the difference! After all, fewer cramps, bloating, and other digestive discomforts mean smoother training.

Accelerate Recovery

Squash has so many compounds with potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can speed up recovery time.

Minerals

Copper contributes to the body’s antioxidant defenses, helping to combat free radicals produced during exercise. These free radicals can damage muscle tissue and hinder recovery if left unchecked. Insufficient copper can hinder muscle repair and recovery after exercise, potentially extending recovery time between workouts.

Magnesium plays a role in glycogen storage, the primary fuel source for muscles. Adequate levels can aid in replenishing glycogen stores post-workout, promoting muscle recovery and growth.

Zinc is also necessary for tissue repair and wound healing. It’s crucial for recovering from injuries sustained during high-intensity training or demanding competition. Zinc also has anti-inflammatory properties

Vitamins

Vitamin E has some benefits for recovery, as it helps protect cells from free radical damage. During exercise, your body produces more free radicals, and vitamin E may help mitigate some of this oxidative stress and manage exercise-induced inflammation.

A cup of squash provides about 10% DV while a handful of pumpkin seeds provides 4% DV of vitamin E.

B vitamins like thiamine and riboflavin play a role in glycogen synthesis and storage, as well. Maintaining adequate B vitamin levels ensures efficient glycogen replenishment after workouts which is crucial for muscle recovery and growth.

Carotenoids

Squash is rich in certain carotenoids, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin in particular. Carotenoids possess anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce muscle soreness and inflammation after exercise. Moreover, some carotenoids, like beta-carotene, can support a healthy immune system, which is crucial for athletes who are more susceptible to infections due to intense training.

Lutein and zeaxanthin specifically accumulate in the macula, a region of the eye responsible for sharp central vision. Adequate levels might contribute to protecting your eyes from blue light damage from long hours spent outdoors training.

Phenolic Compounds

Winter and summer squashes contain dozens of phenolic compounds, especially flavonols. Kaempferol, isoquercetin, quercetinin, gallic acid, vanillic acid, and caffeic acid are among the most well-studied.

Phenolics also possess anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce muscle soreness and inflammation after exercise. In fact, some phenolic compounds might improve blood flow, delivering essential nutrients and oxygen to muscles, which can aid in repair and optimize recovery processes.

Berries, grapes, and leafy greens are the best dietary sources of these beneficial compounds. I personally eat raw or unsweetened frozen strawberries and raspberries after the gym. Not only do they taste great in smoothies, oatmeal, and Greek yogurt, but they also offer unique antioxidant compounds.

How to Cook Squash for Faster Recovery?

During exercise, your body primarily uses carbohydrates for energy, stored as glycogen in muscles and the liver. A post-workout snack high in net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) helps replenish these depleted glycogen stores.

These delicious and nutritious snacks are perfect for post-workout recovery. They’re high in net carbs, protein, minerals, and antioxidants:

Roasted Butternut Squash Cubes with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds (15g net carbs): Roast butternut squash cubes with cinnamon and a sprinkle of olive oil. Toss with roasted pumpkin seeds for a satisfying and flavorful snack. Try to add cinnamon to any high-carbohydrate meal. It supports weight loss as it manages insulin secretion.

Sweet Potato & Kabocha Squash Mash with Pumpkin Seed Pesto (20g net carbs): Combine mashed sweet potato and kabocha squash with a homemade pesto made from pumpkin seeds, garlic, herbs, and olive oil.

Spiced Pumpkin Seed Yogurt Bowl with Berries (15g net carbs): Top Greek yogurt with roasted pumpkin seeds, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a medley of fresh berries for a protein and fiber-rich snack.

Mini Squash Fritters with Pumpkin Seed Dip (25g net carbs per 2 fritters): Make bite-sized fritters from grated zucchini or yellow squash mixed with a bit of flour and egg. Serve with a creamy pumpkin seed hummus or dip. Besides being an excellent protein source, the egg is particularly rich in vitamin B12.

Pumpkin Seed Butter on Whole-Wheat Toast with Sliced Squash (15g net carbs): Spread creamy pumpkin seed butter on whole-wheat toast and top with thinly sliced raw zucchini or yellow squash for a quick and easy snack.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Pumpkin Seed Quinoa Salad (20g net carbs): Roast acorn squash halves and fill them with a protein-packed quinoa salad tossed with roasted vegetables, pumpkin seeds, and a light vinaigrette.

Pumpkin Seed Energy Balls (10g net carbs per ball): Make energy balls with rolled oats, mashed dates (rich in iron), nut butter, and a generous amount of pumpkin seeds for a portable and satisfying post-workout treat.

Spiced Pumpkin Seed Sweet Potato Fries (15g net carbs per serving): Bake sweet potato wedges tossed with spices and serve them with a side of homemade pumpkin seed salsa for a healthy twist on fries.

How much can an athlete eat a day?

For athletes with moderate calorie needs (around 2,500-3,500 calories), 1-2 cups of cubed squash and a handful (around 30 grams) of pumpkin seeds per day could be a reasonable starting point. This can be adjusted based on individual needs and dietary preferences.

In the cutting phase, consider focusing on a smaller portion of pumpkin seeds (1 tablespoon) as they have almost 160 calories per 1 oz. On the contrary, you can continue consuming high amounts of any squash variety. The cooking method is far more important for losing weight. Avoid the use of vegetable oil or butter.

Athletes in a bulking phase could consume 2 handfuls of pumpkin seeds a day or even more. But it’s always preferable to consume a variety of foods. Consider flaxseeds, walnuts, or chia seeds. Not only are they packed with minerals and protein but also they’re among the richest sources of omega-3s which especially, athletes require in high amounts!

Can all athletes eat Squash?

Individuals with allergies to cucurbits (a family that includes squash, zucchini, pumpkins, and melons) should avoid squash altogether. Symptoms of a cucurbit allergy can range from mild (itching, rash) to severe (anaphylaxis). Moreover, some individuals with digestive sensitivities might experience bloating or gas after consuming squash. If this is the case, it’s best to limit intake.

What’s the best time of the day to eat Squash?

At Breakfast

You can enjoy your favorite seeds or even squash first thing in the morning. They can fuel your workout and boost your immunity. Also, antioxidants protect the skin, hair, and eyes from oxidative stress due to air pollution or sun radiation.

After the Gym

Certainly, a great time of the day to eat squash or pumpkin seeds is at your post-workout meal. They’ll reduce recovery time and might relieve soreness.

Don’t consume them right before exercise though. They need time to digest. You may feel bloated, gas, or stomach cramps while exercising, substantially deteriorating your sports performance.

At Dinner

Another great time of the day for athletes to consume squash or pumpkin seeds is at dinner. They contain so many compounds that can improve sleep quality, including magnesium which relaxes the muscles and regulates sleep patterns.

Deep sleep allows your body to repair and rebuild muscle tissues, which is essential for sustained performance during long training sessions and competitions. Growth hormone, crucial for muscle growth and repair, is primarily released during deep sleep stages.

Also, adequate sleep fuels the nervous system, leading to faster reaction times, better coordination, and improved performance in activities requiring precision and power.

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Quiz: Benefits of Squash & Pumpkin Seeds for Weight Loss!

Unveiling the secrets and true power of Squash for Weight Loss & good Health | Fun Facts & Myths!

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The best time of the day to eat pumpkin seeds is at breakfast.

A list of vegan foods rich in phosphorus.Pin

Squash has a moderate Glycemic Index.

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Eating a handful of pumpkin seeds a day will make you fat.

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Pumpkin seeds are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat every day.

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How much tryptophan, the sleep-enhancing amino acid, does a serving of pumpkin seeds provide?

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Cooking destroys most nutrients in squash.

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Squash is rich in Polyphenols.

Eat Squash & Pumpkin Seeds at Dinner for better SleepPin

Pumpkin seeds can reduce hunger.

Eat Squash & Pumpkin Seeds at Dinner for better SleepPin

Pumpkin seeds are a complete vegan protein.

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Squash is packed with Vitamin C.

Why should Athletes eat Squash every day?Pin

How many Calories are in a serving of Squash?

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Pumpkin is a good dietary source of Iron.

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What’s the most important nutrient in pumpkin seeds that supports sleep?

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Squash is rich in Carotenoids.

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