Tis the Season for Fresh Tart Cherry Juice

Tis the Season for Fresh Tart Cherry Juice
Spring blossoms on tart cherry trees

About two weeks ago, bright white blossoms began to appear on the Montmorency cherry trees in our backyard. My thought? Fresh tart cherry juice, cherry flavored kombucha, and cherry cobbler would soon be served at our house.

The fruit of these cherry tree tastes wonderful. More importantly, however, is that its mouth puckering liquid heals and strengthens us through its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant compounds.

Incorporating tart cherry juice as part of a healthy eating pattern can be a great way to add variety into an individual’s diet.

Sikako Minagawa, MS, RDN, Peak Performance Sports Nutrition, LLC

Related post: What Masters Athletes Need To Know About Nutrition

What Does the Science Say?

On February 20, 2020, the Cherry Marketing Institute issued a press release titled “New Meta-Analysis: Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate Found to Help Improve Endurance Exercise Performance”.

In the report cited in the release, meta-analysis was used to evaluate results from ten separate studies all about the role of tart cherry juice on performance in endurance exercise. The ten studies each involved randomized controlled trials.

To clarify, meta-analysis is a common research method involving statistical analysis of the combined results of multiple scientific studies that address the same question.

According to the press release, co-author Philip Chilibeck, PhD, professor in the College of Kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan concluded:

“The results of this meta-analysis found that tart cherries did help improve performance, and we gained greater insight into the potential mechanism responsible for this benefit.

Other findings of the study were:

  • Timing: Tart cherry concentrate is effective when taken for 7 days to up to 1.5 hours before exercise.
  • Fitness level: The least trained athletes showed the lowest improvement from consuming tart cherry juice.
  • Dose: The daily consumption of anthocyanins (compounds with anti-oxidant properties) by study participants ranged from 66 to 2,760 mg. The study did not identify an optimal relationship between the amount of tart cherry concentrate consumed and performance, however.
  • Mechanism: Improvements in performance are most likely related to the low glycemic index, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and blood flow enhancing effects of tart cherry concentrate.

How Can Triathletes Most Benefit from Tart Cherry Juice?

Many are gearing up for early season virtual and live triathlons. Cherry juice has the greatest benefit for those who are deep into their training plan.

In an article for USA Triathlon, registered dietician Beth Schutt wrote:

“It is readily agreed upon, though, that prior to racing and directly after racing, tart cherry is most useful.  For the athlete who is deep into racing season and in a cycle of race, recover, repeat, tart cherry should be on the menu consistently.”

In contrast, there appears to be less benefit when beginning to train and during the base building phase. This is consistent with one finding of the study mentioned above.

On the other hand, getting further into the season means that tart cherry juice will become more important for recovery and performance of athletes.

Benefits Beyond Sports Performance

There may also be value in consuming tart cherry juice beyond that directly related to training and competition. According to registered dietician Sakiko Minagawa:

“In addition to sports performance, research suggests other benefits for older adults. Tart cherry juice may help reduce cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure and LDL cholesterol this group.”

Looking for Tart Cherry Juice?

Not sure where to purchase tart cherry juice or its other forms (powder, juice concentrate)? One source is Swanson Vitamins. Please note that Senior Triathletes is an affiliate of this business. This means I will earn a small commission on any purchases from this company if you use this link.

Leave Your Questions and Comments Below

What is your go-to food or drink for post exercise recovery?

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