It’s long been said that montmorency cherry supplementation can help aid athletic recovery, but I must admit, my natural reaction was to assume it was rubbish. I’m rather cynical and my usual response is to assume that claims like this are usually based on a successful marketing campaign rather than scientific evidence. With this is mind, I was both surprised and intrigued when I learnt at the London Marathon Medicine conference that the evidence base for cherry supplementation was actually very strong. Since then, I’ve been researching the evidence to find out more about how they can improve recovery and performance to share with you on the blog.
Why are montmorency cherries thought to aid recovery?
Tart cherries contain high concentrations of a flavanoid called anthocyanin, which is known to be high in antioxidants and have anti- inflammatory properties, working in a similar way to non- steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen. With this in mind, it was speculated that supplementation with tart cherries could help inflammatory conditions and aid recovery from intensive exercise which causes muscle inflammation and damage.
What do the studies show?
I looked at a variety of studies which explored the use of supplementation on different types of athletic activity, including marathon running, endurance cycling and high intensity sprint work.
- Marathon Running
Obviously, this marathon running was the area I was most interested in and I was keen to find out whether adding cherry supplementation could help reduce my risk of injury and improve my recovery times. A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports looked at various different markers of recovery following a marathon and whether tart cherry supplementation improved these. The runners either took a placebo or cherry juice for 5 days before the marathon, on the day of the race and for 2 days afterwards. The study looked at several markers of muscle damage, and inflammation, before and after the race. These included blood tests for signs of muscle damage (creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase) as well as blood tests for signs of inflammation (CRP, uric acid and Il-6). They also assessed isometric strength and muscle soreness. Both isometric strength and inflammation were reduced in the cherry juice group, showing that cherry juice can help recovery following strenuous exercise.
- Intermittent Sprint Activity
Another study published in 2016 looked at the effects of supplementation on markers of recovery following prolonged, intermittent sprint activity. A group of semi- professional football players were divided into two equal groups, given either cherry supplementation or placebo for 8 days. On day 5 they performed the Loughborough Intermittent Shuttle Test. Again, they looked at various markers of muscle soreness and inflammation at several intervals after the test, including the blood tests mentioned above, as well as markers of agility, isometric strength and muscles soreness. The study showed that muscles soreness and agility were improved in the cherry group as well as some of the markers of inflammation.
It was hard to know how much detail to go into on the blog, but from the studies I read, I concluded that taking a regular cherry supplementation can definitely improve muscles soreness and inflammation and, therefore, improving recovery from intense exercise.
How much do you need to take?
All of the studies that I looked at suggested taking 30mL twice daily.
How often do you need to take it?
The studies only looked at short periods of use so I’m going to have to speculate on its longer term use! I think given that it helps with both endurance and sprint activity, it’s the perfect supplement to compliment a marathon training programme, and I’d take it daily throughout a marathon schedule.
Am I going to use it?
Yes! I’m definitely going to give it a go…I’m actually using it at the moment to help me recover from my C-section. I figured if it helps muscles soreness and inflammation it would be a useful recovery aid, and may get me off the painkillers a bit quicker!
If you’d like more information on the studies, then here are the references. It’s hard to know how much detail to go into on the blog….
Bell P.G., Walshe I.H., Davison G.W., Stevenson E., Howatson G. Montmorency cherries reduce the oxidative stress and inflammatory responses to repeated days high-intensity stochastic cycling. Nutrients. 2014;6:829–843. doi: 10.3390/nu6020829.
Howatson G., McHugh M.P., Hill J.A., Brouner J., Jewell A.P., Van Someren K.A., Shave R.E., Howatson S.A. Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running. Scand. J. Med. Sci. Sports. 2010;20:843–852. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.01005.x.
Connolly D.A.J., McHugh M.P., Padilla-Zakour O.I. Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. Br. J. Sports Med. 2006;40:679–683. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2005.025429.
Bell P., Stevenson E., Davison G., Howatson G., The Effects of Montmorency Tart Cherry Concentrate Supplementation on Recovery Following Prolonged, Intermittent Exercise. Nutrients 2016; 8(7): 441.