Athletes know that supplementing their diets with protein shakes, bars and vitamins can help with recovery after hard workouts and games. Tart cherry supplements may help athletes recover more quickly. Research has shown the benefits for muscle recovery of certain anti-inflammatory fruits and fruit juices such as pineapples, blueberries and cherries.
Now a tart cherry powder supplement has shown similar benefits. The question is, how effective is the supplement, and should athletes start incorporating it into their diets? A recent study tested this new supplement. Read on to learn whether it's right for you.
Due to the success of recent clinical supplementation with cherries, particularly tart cherry whole fruit, a new exercise-based research study has been undertaken to prove its beneficial effects. The purpose of the study was to examine whether short-term ingestion of a powdered tart cherry supplement before and after intense resistance-based exercise reduces muscle soreness, strength loss, muscle damage, inflammation and oxidative stress.
This study tested 23 healthy, resistance-trained men, 21 to 23 years old, with body fat percentages of 14 to 20 percent. They were matched up based on relative maximal Back Squat strength, age, body weight and fat-free mass. They were then randomly assigned to ingest capsules containing a placebo or powdered tart cherries. Participants supplemented one time daily (480 mg/day) for 10 days, including the day of exercise, testing up to 48 hours post-exercise. Subjects performed 10 sets of 10 repetitions at 70% of their 1-RM on the Back Squat.
Results showed that the perception of muscle soreness in the vastus medialis and the vastus lateralis (two muscles in the quads) were lower in the individuals who ingested the tart cherry supplement over time compared to subjects who took the placebo. Compared to pre-lift, the tart cherry group experienced significant reductions in vastus medialis soreness up to 48 hours post-lift and significant reductions in vastus lateralis soreness at 24 hours post-lift compared to the placebo group.
The tart cherry group changes in serum creatinine and total protein were lower over time and smaller from pre-lift levels over time compared to the placebo group. No significant supplementation effects were observed for serum inflammatory or anti-inflammatory markers. None of the free radical production, lipid peroxidation, or antioxidant capacity markers (NT, TBARS, TAS, SOD) demonstrated significant changes with supplementation. Changes in the tart cherry group subjects' whole blood lymphocyte counts from pre-lift were greater compared to the placebo group, but the tart cherry group lymphocyte counts returned to pre-lift values quicker than the placebo group.
The results of this study suggest that short-term supplementation of Montmorency powdered tart cherries surrounding a single bout of resistance exercise appears to be effective at reducing muscle soreness, strength loss during recovery, and markers of muscle catabolism in resistance trained individuals.
However, due to the inconclusive oxidative damage and inflammatory evidence, mechanisms of short-term powdered tart cherry and other related phytochemical-containing nutritional supplements surrounding bouts of high intensity, anaerobic and resistance exercise need to be further investigated. Additional examination of powdered tart cherry supplementation with other forms of exercise that are known to promote a more pronounced effect on inflammation and oxidative stress, such as endurance exercise, is also needed.
Nevertheless, the initial effectiveness in reducing perceptions of muscle soreness and markers of muscle catabolism in resistance-trained men demonstrates that powdered tart cherry supplementation provides similar benefits as tart cherry juice or concentrates following acute bouts of lower-body strength-based exercise.
Overall, past studies have shown that antioxidant-rich fruits such as cherries are effective in reducing muscle soreness and aiding recovery. Whether from supplementation, juices, or whole foods, tart cherries are an excellent alternative to anit-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen for reducing inflammation and helping athletes bounce back quicker for their next workout or game.
Levers, Kyle. (2015). "Effects of powdered Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on an acute bout of intense lower body strength exercise in resistance trained males," Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Retrieved from http://www.jissn.com/content/12/1/41.
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