Supporting Muscle Recovery with Tart Cherry Antioxidants

Marie Spano MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD

Why is muscle recovery so important? Training hard will give you results. However, if you push yourself during training, you may end up tired and with a decrease in strength in the days after you train. Muscle discomfort can interfere with movement. Your running motion may be off or it may be tough to completely bend or straighten your arm. Discomfort and changes in strength or movement can get in the way of your workouts. Let’s explore how tart cherries can help.

A Better Recovery Boost with Tart Cherries

In addition to zoning in on protein and carbohydrates after training, antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins can support recovery. Anthocyanins are potent compounds with a wide range of health-promoting properties,1-4 especially for your muscles.5 Antioxidant flavonoids including anthocyanins may benefit connective tissue by supporting tissue health, improving local circulation, and helping build a strong collagen matrix.6 Anthocyanin molecules give blueberries, raspberries, bilberries, and cherries their dark pigmentation. Tart cherries have a very high anthocyanin content.

Anthocyanins support exercise performance by promoting healthy blood flow and vascular function, supporting metabolic pathways, and inhibiting peripheral muscle fatigue.5 In a double-blind clinical trial, measurements that represent the body’s ability to use oxygen during physical performance (VO2 max) significantly increased in athletes who took 100 mg of anthocyanin daily for 6 weeks compared to a placebo.7

In addition to supporting exercise performance, anthocyanins are helpful for recovery as well. A clinical trial found tart cherry juice consumed twice per day (12 oz. per bottle) supported post-workout recovery.8 Eccentric exercise is when muscles get longer in response to a force. So, for instance, eccentric exercise includes the downward phase of a biceps curl or running downhill (hamstrings lengthen). Eccentric exercise is very effective for building strength but can also require greater focus on post-workout support of muscle recovery. In the study, the exercise-induced loss of strength following a workout was 22% with the placebo compared to only 4% with tart cherry juice.8

In a double-blind placebo-controlled trial in resistance-trained men, one group was given placebo while the other group supplemented with 480 mg CherryPURE®, a trademarked freeze dried Montmorency tart cherry skin powder, once daily for 10 days and up to 48-hours post-exercise. The men in the tart cherry group perceived less muscle discomfort in their vastus medialis and vastus lateralis (thigh muscles) than those in the placebo group. The tart cherry group also experienced smaller changes in serum creatinine, a marker of muscle damage, and total protein over time and from pre-exercise levels compared to the placebo group.9

Tart cherry juice is also beneficial for recovery from endurance training. In a randomized controlled trial, consuming tart cherry juice (355 mL) twice daily over seven days provided substantial relief in muscle discomfort after a strenuous long-distance running event compared to placebo.10 Also, marathon runners given tart cherry juice for five days before a race, on race day, and for two days after the race experienced significantly faster recovery of isometric strength and muscle function compared to a placebo group.11

In a double-blind placebo-controlled study in endurance-trained runners and triathletes, participants were given either placebo or 480 mg CherryPURE® once daily for 10 days, including race day, and up to 48-hours post-run. Soreness perception in the medial quadriceps was 34% lower pre-run in the tart cherry group compared to placebo.9,12

How does tart cherry extract differ from tart cherry juice?

The phytonutrients in CherryPURE® freeze dried Montmorency tart cherry skin powder are protected by a natural skin matrix; this natural carrier results in a product that may be closer to the bioavailability of a whole cherry. In contrast, the phytonutrients in tart cherry juice have no such protection. The importance of this natural carrier skin matrix to the phytonutrients is especially important in the context of human digestion. CherryPURE® freeze dried Montmorency tart cherry skin powder is naturally protected, which means the phytonutrients found in the powder may be more bioavailable than the phytonutrients found in tart cherry juice.

Phytopreserve Harvest Technology cools the internal temperature of the individual tart cherries from 94 degrees to 38 degrees within an hour of being picked and then frozen within 24 hours. As soon as cherries are picked from the tree, anthocyanin potency degrades quickly. Freezing captures and maintains anthocyanin levels. Thus, this “Phytopreserve Harvest Technology” ensures that CherryPURE® maximizes the phytonutrient potential of each individual cherry.

Whether you are a marathon runner or exercising to stay in shape and live a healthy life, Tart Cherry with CherryPURE® by Life Extension is an excellent addition to your post-workout regimen. Tart Cherry with CherryPURE® can support recovery of isometric strength and muscle function after exercise, making it a great part of your post-workout routine.

It’s important to regularly assess your fitness and nutrition regimen and figure out where you can make improvements. Regularly making changes to your training program can keep motivation high and ensure your body is still being challenged. However, your recovery nutrition can stay consistent as long as it is helping you stay energized and minimizes muscle discomfort. Muscle requires fuel to stay healthy and strong. Protein, carbohydrates and tart cherries are an ideal combination for maximum recovery. Before starting a new supplement, check with your registered dietitian or physician.

About the Author: Marie A. Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD,is a nutrition communications expert and one of the country’s leading sports nutritionists. She enjoys the challenge of communicating scientific information in an approachable, understandable format to a variety of audiences. Spano has appeared on NBC, ABC, Fox and CBS affiliates, and authored hundreds of magazine articles and trade publication articles, written book chapters, marketing materials and web copy on a variety of topics ranging from novel food ingredients to preventing sarcopenia. She is the lead author of the college textbook Nutrition for Sport, Exercise and Health and co-editor of the NSCA’s Guide to Exercise and Sport Nutrition (Human Kinetics Publishers). A three-sport collegiate athlete, Spano earned her master’s in nutrition from the University of Georgia and her bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro (UNCG). Spano is a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). http://www.mariespano.com/

CherryPURE® is a registered trademark of Shoreline Fruit, LLC.

References:
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  2. Nomi Y, Iwasaki-Kurashige K, Matsumoto H. Therapeutic Effects of Anthocyanins for Vision and Eye Health. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland). 2019;24(18).
  3. Winter AN, Bickford PC. Anthocyanins and Their Metabolites as Therapeutic Agents for Neurodegenerative Disease. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019;8(9).
  4. Jayarathne S, Stull AJ, Park OH, Kim JH, Thompson L, Moustaid-Moussa N. Protective Effects of Anthocyanins in Obesity-Associated Inflammation and Changes in Gut Microbiome. Molecular nutrition & food research. 2019:e1900149.
  5. Cook MD, Willems MET. Dietary Anthocyanins: A Review of the Exercise Performance Effects and Related Physiological Responses. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism. 2019;29(3):322-330.
  6. Teixeira S. Bioflavonoids: proanthocyanidins and quercetin and their potential roles in treating musculoskeletal conditions. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2002;32(7):357-363.
  7. Yarahmadi M, Askari G, Kargarfard M, et al. The effect of anthocyanin supplementation on body composition, exercise performance and muscle damage indices in athletes. International journal of preventive medicine. 2014;5(12):1594-1600.
  8. Connolly DA, McHugh MP, Padilla-Zakour OI, Carlson L, Sayers SP. Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. British journal of sports medicine. 2006;40(8):679-683; discussion 683.
  9. Levers K, Dalton R, Galvan E, et al. Effects of powdered Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on an acute bout of intense lower body strength exercise in resistance trained males. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2015;12:41.
  10. Kuehl KS, Perrier ET, Elliot DL, Chesnutt JC. Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2010;7:17.
  11. Howatson G, McHugh MP, Hill JA, et al. Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports. 2010;20(6):843-852.
  12. Levers K, Dalton R, Galvan E, et al. Effects of powdered Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on acute endurance exercise performance in aerobically trained individuals. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2016;13:22.


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