We runners are always looking for new and better ways to recover from long, tiring sessions or races. A food that is or should be very popular with athletes in the recovery phase is sour cherry juice.
But are cherries really good for athletes and if so, why?
The simple answer is yes! Research has confirmed in various studies that cherries can be beneficial when recovering from a strenuous workout or race. For example, a team of sports scientists from Northumbria University found a direct link between tart cherry consumption and recovery in marathon runners (1). The authors claimed that tart cherry juice improves recovery in athletes by increasing antioxidant capacity, which in turn reduces inflammation. For the study, 20 marathon runners drank cherry juice or a placebo five days before and two days after the marathon. In the study, the inflammation values of the cherry juice test subjects in the body were proven to be lower than in the control group.
In addition, scientists are discovering more and more benefits of tart cherries for a healthy life. These include relieving pain from exercise and muscle recovery (2), better sleep and stress management (3), anxiety, mood and memory for a healthy brain (4).
How much tart cherries should athletes eat?
Determining the right amount of tart cherry juice is difficult. A wide range of amounts are used in studies, ranging from 45 to 270 tart cherries per day. Therefore, one must consider which dosage was most effective in the studies. This was particularly the case with a quantity of 240 ml tart cherry juice. The experts recommend combining or blending the cherry juice or tart cherry concentrate in a smoothie or juice.
When should athletes drink tart cherry juice?
For highly active athletes, 8 ounces of tart cherry juice twice a day is recommended up to four to five days before the main event (5). The time of consumption should be about two hours before training to ensure a high concentration of tart cherry juice in the body. The same amount should be taken daily for up to three days after the competition.
What is the best way for athletes to consume tart cherries?
The most popular way to consume tart cherries is in the form of juice or powder, but you can also eat fresh tart cherries. But here you have to be aware that you have to eat a lot of cherries to get the recommended amount of 240 ml of juice. A glass of tart cherry juice is a faster, more efficient and also cheaper alternative. To achieve the recommended amounts, athletes can also use tart cherry powder that they consume every day.
Why are cherries so good for regeneration?
For athletes, tart cherries are particularly good for muscle recovery and regeneration. Cherries are antioxidant-rich berries that reduce the inflammatory effects of strenuous exercise. This allows the muscles to return to full strength more quickly.
Author: Dr. Alan Medcalf (PhD Exercise Physiology) - Coach at two-peak endurance
1 Howatson et al. 2010. Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running. Scandinavian Journal of Sports Medicine & Science in Sports 20 (6): 843-852.
2 Bell et al. (2014) The role of cherries in exercise and health. Scandinavian Journal of Sports Medicine & Science in Sports 24(3): 477-490.
3 Garrido et al. (2013) A jerte valley cherry product provides beneficial effects on sleep quality. Influence of aging. The Journal of nutrition, health & aging 17: 553-560.
4 Thangthaeng et al. (2016) Tart cherry supplementation improves working memory, hippocampal inflammation, and autophagy in aged rats. Age 38(5-6):393-404.
5 Vitale et al. (2017) Tart Cherry Juice in Athletes: A literature review and commentary. Current Sports Medicine Reports 16(4): 230-239.