The tart cherry’s extraordinary effects on exercise performance and recovery will surprise most people
(NaturalHealth365) Market data indicates that the global sports nutrition and supplement market was valued at an incredible (USD) $44.43 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $85.7 billion by the time 2030 rolls around. Impressive, right? Of course, many of the most popular (low quality) supplements are not that effective or even particularly good for you, due to unhealthy ingredients.
But at least one sports “supplement” is completely natural and safe for most people: tart cherry and tart cherry juice! If you’re an active individual who cares about your health, you might be surprised to know that there are many reasons to add tart cherry into your diet – including improved exercise performance and recovery.
Get the most out of your workouts by adding tart cherry to your recovery routine, research says
In 2020, the Journal of the American College of Nutrition published the results of a systematic review and meta-analysis. For this paper, researchers compiled and analyzed the results of ten randomized controlled trials (including a total of 147 participants) that looked at the effects of tart cherry supplementation on acute exercise performance.
The researchers found that using tart cherry juice conferred a “significant benefit” to exercise performance, specifically to the endurance aspect of performance. The researchers added that their findings were consistent with prior research showing that athletes who supplement with tart cherry concentrate, either in juice or powdered form, can expect to see:
- Improved muscle function
- Reduced muscle damage
- Reduced oxidative stress and inflammation
- Decreased muscle soreness
It’s easy to see how these benefits could also improve exercise endurance. The less sore you feel, the better your muscles work, and the less damage your muscles experience as a result of your exercise, then the harder and longer you can perform and the better and more quickly you can recover, as well – just in time for the next workout session.
So, how could something as simple as tart cherry have such a beneficial effect on athletes? The researchers of the 2020 meta-analysis hypothesize that the endurance-enhancing effect of tart cherry concentrate is due to “its low glycemic index, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative capacity, and blood flow enhancing effects.”
Of course, all of us – whether we consider ourselves “athletes” or not – could benefit from these effects. But there are actually even more beneficial reasons to add tart cherries to our diets.
The benefits of tart cherries are numerous and impressive – you’ll love adding this sour-sweet treat to your weekly meal plan
Sleep is a non-negotiable when it comes to optimal athletic recovery, but it’s vital for overall well-being, too. And get this: unlike regular cherries, tart cherries contain a certain type of enzyme that helps the human body maintain levels of an amino acid called tryptophan, which helps the body make the key sleep hormone melatonin. And for the cherry on top (pun intended), tart cherries also contain melatonin, thus enhancing their sleep-boosting effects, according to the Sleep Foundation.
Tart cherry might also help support healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, according to a 2019 paper published in Nutrients – again, likely due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. And those same properties – along with the fruit’s abundance of nutrients like fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium – could also explain why research has linked tart cherry consumption to enhanced cognition, immune function, and mitochondrial health (the latter of which is a key factor in longevity and healthy aging). Another study published in Nutrients in 2021 even showed that drinking 500 mL of tart cherry juice per day for 90 days significantly decreased the levels of a biomarker associated with bone loss.
If the current evidence has anything to say about it, tart cherries are a potent champion of human health and performance. And fortunately, most people can enjoy eating tart cherries in moderation without problems. They’re great as a fresh snack or as a salad mix-in!
Just be aware that consuming too many tart cherries, especially in supplement or juice form, may lead to unintended side effects like diarrhea or constipation. And like all fruit juices, tart cherry juice does contain a relatively high amount of calories and sugar, so be mindful of how much you consume. (Most studies showing the benefits of tart cherry juice report an intake of about 8 ounces per day, which is around 130 calories and 30 grams of naturally-occurring sugars.)
Lastly, if you’re currently pregnant or are being supervised by a doctor for a medical condition, speak with your healthcare provider before supplementing with tart cherry juice, concentrate, or powder.
Sources for this article include: