As endurance athletes with a mind towards pushing our limits in training as we reach for the next ambitious goal, the occasional ache and pain comes with the territory. But instead of reaching for a bottle of Aleve or Advil after your next tough training or race day, there’s a more natural route towards taking the edge off that exercise-induced ache we all know so well.
Tart cherry juice has myriad benefits for your health in general, as well as being useful for promoting recovery from a hard day of exercise. Montmorency cherries are a food super rich in anti-oxidants and this have beneficial anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation is linked to numerous ailments including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer's. Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods, such as tart cherries, as well as abstaining from inflammation producing foods—like fried foods, refined carbohydrates, soda, and red meat—can be a major positive step towards overall health.
The anti-inflammatory benefits of tart cherries are so great that studies have shown that drinking tart cherry juice before, during or after exercise can significantly reduce the amount of muscle damage associated with that exercise, thus reducing after-activity soreness. One study had runners participating in a long-distance relay race follow a protocol of drinking either tart cherry juice or a placebo to test the juice’s ability to reduce muscle soreness. Runners who consumed the tart cherry juice saw reduced muscle soreness compared to the control group, and expressed more willingness to use cherry juice for future events. Another study examining the recovery benefits of tart cherry juice in semi-professional soccer players found that tart cherry juice improved numerous aspects of recovery from exercise, including self-reported muscle soreness, muscle inflammation tests, and performance on tests of muscles strength, and speed and agility drills.
Finally, another important aspect for both general health and well-being, and recovery and adaptation to training is getting a good night’s sleep. A lot of athletes can struggle to get restful sleep, especially during periods of high training volume. Luckily tart cherry juice can help here as well! In addition to anti-inflammatory properties, tart cherries also contain melatonin, a hormone that helps in sleep regulation. Studies have found that tart cherry juice can be useful in helping promote good sleep, both by improving time to sleep and sleep quality. For more on sleep, stay tuned for next month’s newsletter.
So consider packing some cherry juice in your race bag for your next event, and possibly introducing it into your diet on a more regular basis. Hopefully you’ll bounce back from your next event that much quicker, so you can start training for your next big goal.