Tart cherry appears to diminish exercise-induced muscle damage and facilitate recovery.
The tart cherry carries an abundant supply of ingredients that can promote health and well-being. It may have such potential post-workout benefits as:
- Reduced muscle damage. The numerous antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in tart cherry may protect muscles from exercise-induced damage.
- Improved muscle recovery. Tart cherry seems to speed up the recovery of muscle function.
Native to most of Europe and Southwest Asia, the tart cherry, also commonly referred to as sour cherry, refers to the fruit of the Prunus cerasus tree. It consists of several varieties, including:
- the dark-red Morello cherry
- the lighter-red Amarelle cherry
- the Montmorency cherry
- the Balaton cherry
Although tart cherry is best known as a recipe ingredient, it is also growing in popularity as a dietary supplement. Indeed, tart cherries are bursting with health-benefiting compounds such as anthocyanins, flavonoids and isoflavonoids, and phenolic compounds. Some of the benefits of tart cherry receiving increasing attention in medical research include:
How Tart Cherry Might Help Post Workout Formulas
Increasing the availability of oxygen
Tart cherry’s anthocyanin content may play a role in improving athletic performance by increasing peak oxygen availability, which is especially relevant for muscles undergoing strenuous work.2
Tart cherries contain phenolic and antioxidant compounds (one of the highest per-milligram concentrations among all plants) that are known to combat oxidative stress. This is particularly relevant for exercise since it can greatly increase the production of reactive oxygen species. 3 4 5
Some compounds in tart cherries have demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity through the inhibition of cycloxygenase (COX) enzymes. In particular, the flavonoids and isoflavonoids genistein and kampferol have been shown to stop COX-1 from triggering inflammatory pathways.6 In addition, the anthocyanin cyanidin-3-O-glucoside was shown to block both the COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes.7
Tart Cherry Post-Workout Benefits & Uses
Tart cherry is growing in popularity as a post-workout supplement meant to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage and thus reduce pain, soreness, and speed recovery, especially among bodybuilders.
And unlike many pre and post-workout supplements, tart cherry actually has a significant amount of research evidence to back its effectiveness. Indeed, as one recent review paper of multiple studies on tart cherry summarizes: “daily consumption of tart cherries may attenuate inflammatory and oxidative responses to EIMD [exercise-induced muscle damage], leading to faster recovery after exercise bouts.”8
Animal research has demonstrated the potential of tart cherry to promote exercise recovery through:
- Diminishing muscle damage induced by exercise in horses11
- Promoting antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity in mice12
Clinical research consistently demonstrates that tart cherries appear to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage.
In this investigation, 10 well-trained, fasting male athletes consumed either 60 ml of tart cherry juice concentrate, CherryActive® (CA), or a fruit concentrate (FC) every day for 7 days before and 2 days after performing 2 trials of 10 sets of 10 single-leg knee extensions. The maximum voluntary contractions (MVC) were shown to be significantly faster in the tart cherry group than in the fruit concentrate group. In addition, the resulting increase in one of the markers of muscle damage, protein carbonyls (PC), was lower in the tart cherry than the fruit concentrate group.
- The researchers concluded that “Montmorency cherry juice consumption improved the recovery of isometric muscle strength after intensive exercise.”13
In this randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled crossover investigation, 14 women with fibromyalgia took either a placebo juice or 10.5 ounces (oz) of a tart cherry juice standardized to at least 600 mg of phenolic compounds and 40 mg of anthocyanins daily for 10 days. The tart cherry group was observed to have better strength maintenance and improvements in overall pain. A subset of participants experienced significant improvements in overall pain after ingesting tart cherry juice.
- The researchers concluded that “ingestion of tart cherry juice demonstrated marginal benefits in maintaining muscle strength but did not affect local muscle tenderness after eccentric stress. A subset of participants…had a significant reduction in overall pain.”14
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation, 23 resistance-trained men were given a placebo or 480 mg of tart cherry powder (CherryPURE®) daily for 10 days before completing ten sets of ten repetitions of back squats, and for 2 days after. The tart cherry group reported reduced muscle soreness in several muscles. In addition, markers of muscle damage—creatinine, bilirubin, AST, and ALT—were lower in the tart cherry group than placebo.
- The researchers concluded that “short-term supplementation of Montmorency powdered tart cherries surrounding a single bout of resistance exercise, appears to be an effective dietary supplement to attenuate muscle soreness, strength decrement during recovery, and markers of muscle catabolism in resistance trained individuals.”15
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation, 27 endurance-trained athletes were given a placebo or 480 mg of tart cherry powder (CherryPURE®) every day for 10 days before running a half-marathon, and for 2 days after. The tart cherry group was able to complete the half-marathon an average 13% faster than the placebo group, and also had attenuated markers of muscle breakdown—creatinine, urea/blood urea nitrogen, total protein, and cortisol—as well as an increase in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Reported quadriceps muscle soreness was also lower in the tart cherry group.
- The researchers concluded that “short-term supplementation of Montmorency powdered tart cherries surrounding an endurance challenge attenuated markers of muscle catabolism, reduced immune and inflammatory stress, better maintained redox balance, and increased performance in aerobically trained individuals.”16
In this randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover investigation, 14 male college students consumed 12 fluid ounces (fl oz) of either a placebo drink or a cherry juice blend 2 times a day for eight days. A series of elbow flexions were performed by participants on day 4. The tart cherry group demonstrated significantly less strength loss and pain compared to the placebo.
- The researchers concluded that “these data show efficacy for this cherry juice in decreasing some of the symptoms of exercise induced muscle damage.”17
In this investigation, 20 runners were given either a placebo or tart cherry juice every day for 5 days before, the day of, and for 2 days after a marathon. The tart cherry group recovered muscular function significantly faster than the placebo. The tart cherry group was also reported to have reduced inflammation, 10% greater total antioxidant status, and decreased oxidative stress compared to the placebo.
- The researchers concluded that “cherry juice appears to provide a viable means to aid recovery following strenuous exercise by increasing total antioxidative capacity, reducing inflammation, lipid peroxidation and so aiding in the recovery of muscle function.”18
In this randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled investigation, 54 runners ingested 355 ml bottles of either a placebo or tart cherry juice 2 times a day for 7 days before a relay. Though both groups reported increased pain after running, the tart cherry group had a significantly lower pain increase when compared to the placebo group. Those in the tart cherry group also claimed higher satisfaction with their pain reduction and accordingly demonstrated an elevated willingness to drink the juice in the future.
- The researchers concluded that “the administration of tart cherry juice for eight days reduced symptoms of exercise-induced muscle pain among runners participating in a vigorous endurance event.”19
Dosage for Post-Workout
- Successful clinical research trials have used doses of 400 – 1200 mg or 60 – 480 ml of tart cherry
- Typical supplements provide from 400 – 615.5 mg of tart cherry (or 12 oz of a juice and water mix) standardized to approximately 20% anthocyanins
- Tart cherry extract in tablet or capsule form
- Tart cherry juice
Supplements in Review Says
- Tart cherry 400 mg (or juice) as part of a post workout formula.
Tart cherry may help diminish exercise-induced muscle damage. Given the large volume of positive research findings, we recommend including tart cherry in post-workout formulas to speed muscle recovery.
Start with 400 mg of tart cherry extract. Be it in pill or juice form, we suggest incorporating 400 mg of tart cherry extract (or juice) into post workout formulas.
- Burkhardt S, et al. Detection and quantification of the antioxidant melatonin in Montmorency and Balaton tart cherries (Prunus cerasus). J Agric Food Chem. 2001;49:4898-902. ↩
- Yarahmadi M, et al. The effect of anthocyanin supplementation on body composition, exercise performance and muscle damage indices in athletes. Int J Prev Med. 2014 Dec;5(12):1594-600. ↩
- Khoo GM, et al. Bioactivity and total phenolic content of 34 sour cherry cultivars. J Food Composition & Analysis. 2011;24:772-6. ↩
- Blomhoff R. Antioxidants and oxidative stress. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2004 Jun 17;124(12):1643-5. ↩
- Damar I, et al. Antioxidant capacity and anthocyanin profile of sour cherry (Prunus cerasus L.) juice. Food Chem. 2012 Dec 15;135(4):2910-4. ↩
- Wang H, et al. Cyclooxygenase active bioflavonoids from Balaton tart cherry and their structure activity relationships. Phytomedicine. 2000 Mar;7(1):15-9. ↩
- Reddy MK, et al. Relative inhibition of lipid peroxidation, cyclooxygenase enzymes, and human tumor cell proliferation by natural food colors. J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Nov 16;53(23):9268-73. ↩
- Coelho Rabello Lima L et al. Consumption of cherries as a strategy to attenuate exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammation in humans. Nutr Hosp. 2015 Nov 1;32(5):1885-93. ↩
- Reuter A, et al. A critical assessment of allergen component-based in vitro diagnosis in cherry allergy across Europe. Clin Exp Allergy. 2006 Jun;36(6):815-23. ↩
- Ballmer-Weber BK, et al. Component-resolved diagnosis with recombinant allergens in patients with cherry allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2002;110:167-73. ↩
- Ducharme NG, et al. Effect of a tart cherry juice blend on exercise-induced muscle damage in horses. Am J Vet Res. 2009;70:758-63. ↩
- Sarić A, et al. Improved antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential in mice consuming sour cherry juice (Prunus Cerasus cv. Maraska). Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2009;64:231-7. ↩
- Bowtell JL, et al. Montmorency cherry juice reduces muscle damage caused by intensive strength exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43:1544-51. ↩
- Elliott DL, et al. Using an eccentric exercise-testing protocol to assess the beneficial effects of tart cherry juice in fibromyalgia patients. Integrative Medicine. 2010;9(6):24-9. ↩
- Levers K, et al. Effects of powdered Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on an acute bout of intense lower body strength exercise in resistance trained males. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Nov 16;12:41. ↩
- Levers K, et al. Effects of powdered Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on acute endurance exercise performance in aerobically trained individuals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016 May 26;13:22. ↩
- Connolly DA, et al. Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. Br J Sports Med. 2006;40:679-83. ↩
- Howatson G, et al. Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010;20:843-52. ↩
- Kuehl KS, et al. Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010;7:17. ↩
- Halvorsen BL, et al. A systematic screening of total antioxidants in dietary plants. J Nutr. 2002 Mar;132(3):461-71. ↩