by Julia Sementelli
You’ve pushed yourself by running an extra mile or set a personal best for how much weight you can deadlift. Mentally you feel accomplished and alive, but physically you’re exhausted and overcome with muscle soreness. While this is a sign that you actually pushed your body past its normal capabilities, it can be annoying to feel like a slug for the rest of the day or night. Especially when you have big plans to exercise again tomorrow. You want to feel better. And fast, and tart cherry juice may be a solution.
The typical protocols for dealing with soreness are to pop a couple ibuprofen and lie on the couch watching Netflix until the pain subsides. Although these methods are effective, too much Advil can upset your stomach and cause a number of other health issues if taken too often. Enter tart cherry juice as an alternative.
What’s so great about tart cherries?
New to the scene, tart cherry juice boasts a slew of health benefits including reduced muscle soreness and improved sleep and joint pain relief. Tart cherries are packed with the flavonoids anthocyanins. Like other anthocyanin-containing foods, such as cranberries and blueberries, tart cherries contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These allow you to skip the Advil in favor of a natural alternative in mitigating your sore muscles.
“Why would tart cherries help my post-exercise regimen?”
Vigorous physical activity can cause muscle damage and thus acute inflammation. Research supports the claim that tart cherry juice does aid in reducing inflammation due to strenuous exercise. According to the results 2010 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, healthy runners consumed 355 milliliter bottles of tart cherry juice twice daily for 7 days before and during a vigorous running event. While both the group that consumed tart cherry juice and the placebo group experienced pain after the events, the tart cherry juice group experienced significantly less pain compared to the placebo group.
Another study examined the efficacy of tart cherry juice in the prevention of symptoms from occurring following exercise. A 2006 British Journal of Sports Medicine article described, a randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover design study in which 14 male college students drinking 12 fl. oz. of tart cherry juice twice a day for eight days while performing a series of arm weight lifting exercises. Researchers found that tart cherry juice drinkers experienced significantly lower losses of strength and less pain compared to placebo drinkers. The evidence linking tart cherry juice and muscle soreness prevention is strong.
What’s the magic dose?
So how much do you need to reap the benefits? Two tablespoons of tart cherry concentrate diluted with 7 ounces of water or 8-ounces of juice before and after exercise should do the trick. Add the concentrate to smoothies or sip on the solely the juice.
While tart cherry juice is not anti-inflammatory miracle cure, it may be an alternative to taking ibuprofen to relieve muscle soreness. So if you’re physically active and chronically sore, consider adding tart cherry juice to your post-exercise regimen.
Julia Sementelli is a first-year NutComm student. She is also a Boston-based registered dietitian. You can find her blogging at “Girl Verses Food.”