Tart Cherry Juice and Exercise Recovery

June 5, 2012 at 4:48 pm Leave a comment

Have you ever felt beat up after a tough race?  Felt sore and achy in your muscles and joints?

Intense endurance exercise can take its toll on muscles due to the stress and inflammation it causes.  Athletes can either suffer through the pain or pop ibuprofen.

Enter tart cherries to the rescue!

Most fruits, like cherries, contain antioxidants which help to protect our bodies’ cells from damage due to oxidative stress.  Tart cherries also appear to reduce inflammation and muscle damage.

In one study, marathon runners drank 16 oz of tart cherry juice 5 days before , on the day of, and 2 days after a marathon.  These athletes had less inflammation than a control group.  They also had greater leg strength 48 hours after the race.

A similar study also found that athletes’ recovery after drinking cherry juice concentrate was significantly faster compared to when they drank a different juice that didn’t have the phytonutrient content of tart cherry juice.  The study also found that the athletes returned to 90% of normal muscle force at 24 hours.  This was likely due to the antioxidant compounds which decreased the oxidative damage done to the athletes’ muscles.

As a dietitian, I always recommend choosing real foods to provide vital nutrients and performance benefits as opposed to supplements or drugs.  Here is a perfect example where one can drink tart cherry juice instead of taking an anti-inflammatory drug.  Not only do cherries provide antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties to your diet, they also offer carbohydrates, fiber, calcium and potassium.  And the phytonutrient properties of colorful fruits and vegetables have beneficial properties that we are only just beginning to discover.

Word of caution!  Cherries can cause some GI upset!  Sixteen ounces of cherry juice is about 90 cherries!  Have you ever brought home a beautiful bag of cherries and popped one after another sweet, juicy red fruit into your mouth only to experience some serious intestinal gurgling a few hours later?  Not to mention a few other unpleasantries?!

On your next endurance event, I hope you’ll try drinking cherry juice (or eating cherries) before and after your event to minimize soreness and help you recover quickly so you can hit the trails again to prepare for your next event!

I will be travelling to Michigan in July.  Bardenhagen Farms is a nearby orchard that grows the tart cherries, also known as Montmorency cherries.  I’m looking forward to going for a visit!  I’ll bet the cherry blossoms in the spring are gorgeous!  Harvest season for Montmorency cherries in Michigan isn’t until mid to late July.  Sweet cherries are available a few weeks earlier.

This is what is blooming in my yard this week:

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