Eating Too Much Fruit Has An Unexpected Effect On Your Muscles

From the time we were little, fruits and vegetables were touted as must-eats to include in a wholesome diet. Fruits provide a lot of essential nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, and folate. They're also low in fat and sodium, per Web MD, and protect you from a variety of health concerns like gastrointestinal discomfort, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. 

But is it possible to eat too much of a good thing? Experts seem divided on the matter — some suggest that you can overdo things in the fruit department, while others say the more common problem is that Americans aren't getting enough of this nutritious food group. The latter is mainly because fruit is naturally filling with its fiber and water content and well, when was the last time you munched on fruit all day? 

But average lifestyles aside, there are cases — for example, with fruit-only or "fruitarian" diets, etc. — where fruit becomes the star of someone's diet. This is when you're risking consuming too much fructose which can lead to weight gain and other problems like diabetes and tooth decay. Your over-reliance on fruit could be negatively impacting your muscles too. As explained by New York-based nutritionist Amy Shapiro (via Vice), the main concern is the lack of other essential macronutrients in your diet, like protein for example, which is essential for muscle mass and muscle strength. Fruits are heroes in a lot of ways but they don't have sufficient levels of protein in themselves to fuel optimal muscle health. But not all side effects of eating too much fruit are negative. 

A fruit a day might help your muscles too

According to a 2020 study done by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and published in the Journal of Nutrition, the vitamin C content found in fruits and vegetables could improve skeletal muscle mass as we get older. 

The study employed 13,000 people aged between 42-82 years and looked at their skeletal muscle mass, vitamin C intake, and vitamin C concentration in their blood (via Science Daily). Dr. Richard Hayhoe from UEA's Norwich Medical School, explained, per Science Daily, "We studied a large sample of older Norfolk residents and found that people with the highest amounts of vitamin C in their diet or blood had the greatest estimated skeletal muscle mass, compared to those with the lowest amounts." The researchers believe that incorporating fruits into your everyday diet might stave off age-related muscle loss, sarcopenia, and frailty. 

The role of vitamin C is also important in muscle recovery post-exercise, per Healthline. When it comes to protecting our muscles as we age, the team at UEA think that vitamin C keeps muscle cells and tissues sheltered from the harmful effects of free radicals. What does this mean for consumption of fruit? How much should you be eating for overall health, including optimal muscle health?

Consume fruit as part of a regular balanced diet

The key is not let the pendulum swing too far to either side — eating too little fruit or none at all to when you only eat fruit every day. One and a half cups of fruit a day as part of a nutritious and balanced diet is the recommended amount for adults (via Web MD). Even with the findings of the vitamin C trial, the researchers aren't suggesting "mega-doses," but adding one fruit and some vegetables to your daily intake, per Science Daily. Try and choose fruits that are particularly high in vitamin C, like citrus fruits, papaya, and guava. 

And if you're working out and looking to find complementing sources of protein for muscle recovery and gains, fruits can play a role here too. Guavas, avocados, kiwifruits, apricots, and blackberries are some of the fruits that contain a decent amount of protein (for a fruit), and can be added to your diet to mix things up. Try and consume them whole and avoid juicing fruits (because then you're taking away from the nutrients and also putting yourself at risk of over-consumption). Dried fruit is also a concern with dieticians because of their higher sugar content. 

At the end of the day, fruits are packed full of great nutrients. Over-relying on them can be detrimental to your health but choosing to add them wisely to your regular diet can benefit more than just your muscles. However, if you have certain food sensitivities or health conditions like diabetes, you may want to run fruit intake by your healthcare provider first.