Scientists from the University of Saskatchewan reported that ingestion of concentrates of tart cherry – or Montmorency cherries (Prunus cerasus) – for seven days to 1.5 hours prior to exercise led to a “significant improvement in endurance performance”.
Commenting on the potential mechanism(s) of action, the scientists noted that this is probably linked to several pathways, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of tart cherry polyphenols, and by boosting muscle oxygenation during exercise via the nitric oxide (NO) pathway. NO is a potent vasodilator.
“Recent studies found that the tart cherry supplementation increased muscle oxygenation during exercise probably via: (1) the nitric oxide (NO) pathway by increasing NO bioavailability through inhibiting nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate oxidase; and (2) cyanidin-3-glucoside (an anthocyanin high in tart cherries)-induced decrease in the expression of inducible NO synthase and increase in endothelial NO synthase expression,” they wrote in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
While the new analysis is reportedly the first to evaluate tart cherry concentrate’s effect on endurance performance, a 2017 literature review in Current Sports Medicine Reports (Vitale et al., Vol. 16, pp. 230-239) concluded that, “for an athlete who has already peaked in training and looking to improve recovery and faster return to competition, TC may be beneficial.”
In an additional commentary in the same journal, Shawn Hueglin, senior dietitian for the United States Olympic Committee, stated that he has provided tart cherry concentrates to Olympic level athletes.
“There seems to be a strong benefit on muscle soreness and sleep for athletes,” he wrote. “Furthermore, the antioxidants and carbohydrate content may be additionally beneficial for certain athletes. The concentrate is a useful and convenient formulation in preparation for and during international competitions as it is easily transported in luggage and can be provided on the road to a team in any environment. Many athletes “felt” a strong benefit of consistently drinking the juice.”
The new meta-analysis pooled data from ten studies (totaling 127 men and 20 women). Individually, not all of the studies reported a benefit, but when the data was pooled together the scientists observed a significant improvement in endurance performance.
In addition, no dose-dependent response was observed by the scientists.
“Clearly, studies are warranted to find an optimal supplementation strategy,” they added.
Source: Journal of the American College of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1080/07315724.2020.1713246
“Effect of Tart Cherry Concentrate on Endurance Exercise Performance: A Meta-analysis”
Authors: R. Gao & P.D. Chilibeck