Montmorency tart cherry juice has received a lot of attention over the past few years. Numerous studies have shown promising benefits of tart cherry juice in clinical and exercise populations. Tart cherries naturally contain high levels of a variety of antioxidants including anthocyanins and quercetin. Compared to other foods with anthocyanins, tart cherries far exceed concentration levels as well as their overall antioxidant effectiveness (Bell et al., 2014). On a daily basis, the body is constantly interacting with a variety of substances and air pollutants that produce free radicals. Oxidative stress can occur when too many free radicals build up in the body, which has been linked to numerous conditions, including inflammatory diseases. Antioxidants decrease oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals and terminating them before cell damage occurs. Because of the high levels of antioxidants and potential anti-inflammatory benefits, researchers have looked into tart cherry juice use as a recovery aid for athletes.
Mild exercise-induced inflammation can be a positive effect for muscle adaptation, however, there are certain scenarios where recovery time is the main concern for an athlete’s performance. These situations can include repetitive competitions, tournaments, multiple daily practices, and high-volume training. Studies suggest tart cherry juice may improve recovery in athletes by reducing oxidative stress and muscle soreness, inhibiting exercise-induced inflammation, and improving recovery of muscle function (Bell et al, 2014). Additionally, research has shown similar anti-inflammatory mechanisms in tart cherry juice as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and may be a natural alternative for managing inflammation (Bondesen et al., 2004). Lastly, melatonin, a hormone naturally found in tart cherries and important for normal sleep and wake cycles, may help achieve optimal recovery by improving sleep efficacy (Howatson et al., 2012).
Although no definitive dosing suggestions have been confirmed, it has been established that a loading phase of 3-5 days before event is needed to see the benefits of cherry juice (Bell et al., 2014). Studies also suggest consuming 30 milliliters of concentrated Montmorency tart cherries juice, which is equal to about 50-60 cherries, once in the morning and one time in the evening. Athletes should continue with this dosing until pain and muscle soreness subsides. For practical applications, most concentrated tart cherry juice products are diluted with apple juice or water and will list the amount of cherries per serving on the label. For most juices on the market, this dose is typically around 8 fluid ounces. Even though dosing suggestions are still being determined, no negative side effects have been reported with any dosing strategies from research.
Montmorency tart cherry juice contains high levels of antioxidants and has shown promising benefits in athletes who are restricted for recovery time. A concentrated dosage twice a day leading up to a strenuous exercise or event has been shown to reduce soreness and recovery time. When buying tart cherry juice, make sure that the product contains Montmorency tart cherries for enhanced recovery response. While research has been promising so far, further research is needed to understand the mechanisms and optimal dosing strategies.
Brett Singer MS,RD,CSSD,LD is a Sports Dietitian with Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute. To set up a nutrition consult with a Sports Dietitian, please call the Human Performance Scheduling Line at 713-897-7912 or by contacting Brett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Brett can be found on Twitter at @bsinger10.
Bell, P.G., McHugh, M.P., Stevenson, & E., Howatson, G. (2014). The role of cherries in exercise and health. Scand J Med Sci Sports, 24: 477-490. doi: 10.111/sms.12085
Bondesen, B.A., Mills, S.T., Kegley, K.M., & Pavlath, G.K. (2004). The COX-2 pathway is essential during early stages of skeletal muscle regeneration. Am J Cell Physiol, 287: C475-C483.
Howatson, G., & Jeukendrup, A. (2016). How to use tart cherry juice. Retrieved from: http://www.mysportscience.com/single-post/2016/11/06/How-to-use-tart-cherry-juice
Schumacher, H.R., Pullman-Mooar, S.W., Gupta, S.R., Dinella, J.E., Kim, R., & McHugh, M. (2011). Double blind cross-over study of the efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. Arthritis Rheum, 63: S425-S426.