Does tart cherry juice really help athletes?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017 - 09:00

If you had the option to consume a natural product that would help manage pain and diminish muscle damage without the side-effects of synthetically produced medications would you be interested? Tart cherry juice is increasingly gaining traction among elite athletes and recreational athletes as an aid in speeding recovery post-exertion. Most frequently high-intensity strength and endurance athletes are consuming tart cherry juice before and after exercise for its benefits to recovery.

Recent claims to fame:

  • Improves recovery – Studies show that tart cherry juice increases antioxidative capacity and reduces inflammation and lipid peroxidation which aids in the recovery of muscle function post-strenuous exercise. Faster recovery of strength has also been seen compared to other beverages.
  • Decreases pain - Cherries get their red colour from anthocyanins which have significant antioxidant properties. The amount contained within tart cherry juice shows some of the same pain managing properties as come pain medications. Anthocyanins in the cherries seem to have a reducing effect on inflammation-induced pain.
  • Reduces muscle damage – Consumption of tart cherry juice seems to decrease some of the symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage. One theory suggests that the polyphenols in the juice helps reduce oxidative damage.
  • Reduces inflammation and oxidative stress – Research currently suggests that tart cherry juice helped to decrease inflammation and oxidative stress induced by high intensity endurance and strength exercise. As mentioned above, the anthocyanins in tart cherries show anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Improves sleep – Tart cherries contain significant levels of melatonin which when released in the body as a hormone is associated with the onset of sleep. Athletes require restful sleep in order to perform at the highest levels.

While research is still in its early stages and consensus has not been reached, there is general agreement that consuming tart cherry juice is showing promise in helping with a number of post-exercise concerns. However, researchers are quick to caution that cherry juice should not be consumed as a replacement for a proper post-exertion meal or snack. The timing of tart cherry juice is still under examination but it is found that both pre and post-exercise consumption is recommended. Research does caution endurance athletes to test out their pre-exercise consumption to avoid possible gastrointestinal distress.


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Recovery. Montmorency Tart CherriesTM.

Wortman, J. News for Aging Athletes: Cherry Juice can Reduce Joint Inflammation.

Vitale, K. (2015). Tart Cherry Juice in Olympic and Paralympic Athletes. Olympic Coach, 26(3); 11-20.