In the supplement world, there are many fads that come and go. Special ingredients in products that make claims to accelerate recovery or lessen the soreness from training are on every canister. Athletes are looking for every edge they can gain to recover more quickly from each session and can fall victim to many of these claims spending hundreds of dollars on supplements. Even food directly from nature can fall into this type of speculation. So, can you recover faster with tart cherry?
Tart Cherry is one ingredient found in many recovery drinks, powders, and capsules claiming to improve recovery and reduce soreness. So how do you know that you can trust this claim? Research does show benefits of tart cherries for optimizing recovery in both endurance and strength athletes.
Let’s look at the research and facts on how to properly use tart cherry for optimal recovery to get the best bang for your buck.
What is Tart Cherry?
Tart cherries have many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory polyphenol compounds. Polyphenol compounds are reducing agents found in foods such as nuts, seeds, brightly colored berries, olive oil, and red cabbage. These compounds, along with other important reducing agents such as vitamin c and vitamin e, protect the body’s tissues against oxidative stress. Athletes have A LOT of oxidative stress. Too much oxidative stress in the body can lead to chronic inflammation. With any amount of increased inflammation, especially chronic, athletes can count on soreness and fatigue in training regimens. More seriously, oxidative stress can lead to cell breakdown and DNA damage, leading to chronic disease.
How to Use Tart Cherry Properly
One study found that tart cherry may not be beneficial during the build/adaptative phase of training. In periods of training and competition where recovery is the goal, tart cherry may be beneficial (Vitale, Hueglin, Broad, 2017). So, in times of multiple day competitions, back-to-back training sessions, and high-intensity training cycles, tart cherry can be beneficial in the recovery process.
Tart Cherry in Resistance Exercise
In a study done on resistance athletes, tart cherry was shown to reduce oxidative stress and markers of muscle and cardiac damage following intense resistance exercise. Also of note, tart cherry showed a prevention in reduction of strength following an intense exercise protocol, indicating a potential reduction in central fatigue. (Hooper, Orange, Gruber, Darakjian, Conway, Hausenblas, 2021). Many other studies also indicate tart cherry can be beneficial in both endurance and resistance/power athletes.
When to Use Tart Cherry for Optimal Recovery
Overall, most studies are suggesting use of tart cherry as 8 to 12 oz (1 oz if concentrate form) twice a day, 4-to-5-day loading phase before the event, and 2 to 3 days after to promote recovery. Athletes who have already peaked in training and are looking to improve recovery, tart cherry may be a beneficial tool to incorporate into their recovery routines.
Tarty Cherry & Sleep
Often tart cherry is associated with sleep due to its naturally occurring tryptophan and melatonin. Tryptophan helps the body produce melatonin so by ingesting tart cherry before bed, athletes may find they are able to fall asleep faster and experience better quality sleep. The National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements reports no safety concerns with drinking up to 16 ounces of tart cherry or 480mg in capsules once per day for up to two weeks. When drinking before bed, be cautious not to select a high-sugar tart cherry product to reduce the risk of increased blood sugar and energy before bed (Losso, Finley, Karki, Liu, Prudente, Tipton, YU, Greenway, 2018)
Do I Need High Calorie Content Tart Cherry?
Tart cherry comes in many forms, powder, capsule, and liquid. The study mentioned earlier on reducing central fatigue also showed that tart cherry with minimal calories were equally beneficial to tart cherry with high calorie content. Athletes can feel free to select the method of ingesting tart cherry that best meets their individual needs.
Talk to Your Provider First
Any time you consider adding a new supplement to your routine, it is best to talk with a professional to ensure you will not have any interactions with other supplements and medications you may be ingesting. Individuals on blood thinners, cholesterol lowering drugs, and anti-inflammatory medications may experience interactions with tart cherry. If you use any of these, check with your provider before ingesting tart cherry.
What Tart Cherry Products are Best?
Cherribundi offers a variety of products for recovery, immunity, and sleep in convenient ready to drink packaging. Athletes can even opt for the Cherribundi with protein for an improved recovery effect.
OIAM offers tart cherry capsules as part of the build your own packs or in the pre-built packs. An athlete favorite is the SORE AF packs that combine tart cherry with additional anti-inflammatory recovery capsules. For athletes looking for NSF sport-safe options, all of OIAM’s products are NSF for Sport certified.
Vega Sport Rest & Repair is a powdered nighttime recovery drink to help support recovery and sleep with the addition of tart cherry to the ingredient lineup. The entire Vega Sport line is also NSF for Sport certified.
Sports Research Tart Cherry offered in a liquid softgel with 800mg of tart cherry fruit complex.
Conclusion on Tart Cherry
Adding tart cherry to your routine may be beneficial if you’ve reached peak training and are looking for recovery day-to-day, between workouts, or prior-to and after competition.
Losso, J. N., Finley, J. W., Karki, N., Liu, A. G., Prudente, A., Tipton, R., Yu, Y., & Greenway, F. L. (2018). Pilot Study of the Tart Cherry Juice for the Treatment of Insomnia and Investigation of Mechanisms. American Journal of Therapeutics, 25(2), e194–e201.
Vitale, K., Hueglin, S., Broad, E. (2017). Tart Cherry Juice in Athletes: A Literature Review and Commentary. Curr Sports Med, July/August; 16(4): 230-239.
Hooper, D., Orange, T., Gruber, M., Darakjian, A., Conway, K., Hausenblas, H. (2021). Broad Spectrum, Polyphenol Supplementation from Tart Cherry Extract on Markers of Recovery from Intense Resistance Exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, June 14;18(1):47.