The term “superfood” gets thrown around a lot nowadays, and it can be tough to decipher what it really means. Regardless of whether it has a concrete definition, if you think a food that can help speed your recovery and preserve your strength gains is pretty awesome, then tart cherry juice is definitely a superfood.
Tart cherries are rich in phenols, antioxidants and melatonin, which have been shown to have major impacts on our ability to recover. Research has found that tart cherries have an impressive range of positive effects with just a small amount of supplementation.
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Sports Performance Recovery
The beneficial aspect of tart cherry juice for someone following an intense training program is that it reduces symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness and strength losses after bouts of intense exercise.
In a study of strength loss after an eccentric exercise training session, a group that supplemented with 24 ounces of tart cherries for eight days lost 4 percent of their strength compared to a placebo group that lost 22 percent. A different study, which examined supplementation with tart cherries over the course of a week following isometric strength training sessions, showed that cherry juice reduced participants’ recovery time compared to the placebo group.
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Tart cherries also have the ability to enhance the quality of your sleep. This is due to their melatonin content. Melatonin is beneficial for improving the duration of sleep and managing disturbed sleep. Quality sleep is a crucial component of recovery from intense training sessions. Sleep quality and sleep duration correlate positively with increased secretion of growth hormone and insulin sensitivity, as well as lowered body-fat and circulating cortisol levels. In simple terms, tart cherries help you build a leaner, stronger body.
In a double-blind study designed to treat insomniacs, tart cherry juice supplementation produced significant reductions in severity of insomnia (minutes awake after sleep onset) within 2 weeks of administration.
Another major benefit for athletes is that tart cherries have strong anti-inflammatory properties, which can both speed up the process of recovery and alleviate the soreness that comes from a rigorous training schedule.
In a study done at the University of California/Davis, 28 days of cherry supplementation led to a drop in participants’ amount of C-Reactive protein (the most commonly measured inflammation biomarker) by 25 percent. It’s believed that anthocyanin (a compound that give cherries their dark color) inhibits the same enzymes that anti-inflammatory drugs target when reducing pain.
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Tart Cherry Supplement Plan
Given all these awesome benefits, you’re probably ready to start supplementing with tart cherries.
Although it’s possible to get the recommended dosage by eating tart cherries, we’ve found it far easier to consume them in a concentrated juice. Drink 500 ml daily (around 16 ounces total) split into 2 servings, once in the morning and the other about two hours before bedtime.
- Connolly DA, McHugh MP, Padilla-Zakour OI, Carlson L, Sayers Sp. “Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage.” Br J Sports Med. 2006;40(8):679-683; discussion 683.
- Bowtell JL, Sumners DP, Dyer A, Fox P, Mileva KN. “Montmorency cherry juice reduces muscle damage caused by intensive strength exercise.” Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43(8):1544-1551.
- Pigeon WR, Carr M, Gorman C, Perlis ML. “Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study.” J Med Food. 2010;13(3):579-583.
- Galland, M. (n.d.). “Cherries for Health: Better Than Aspirin?” Retrieved September 26, 2015.