Meta-analysis finds tart cherry juice effective exercise recovery aid

By Danielle Masterson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / Milly777
Getty Images / Milly777

Related tags: muscle recovery, tart cherry, exercise recovery

Research suggests tart cherry juice enhances recovery and attenuates symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD), likely a result of the potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the cherry. Now, a new meta-analysis that documents the recovery benefits of tart cherry juice is adding support to the growing research.

A recent meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism​ found that tart cherry supplementation has a significant effect on improving the recovery of muscle strength and reducing reported muscle soreness after exercise.   

The supplementation referenced is in the form of Montmorency tart cherry juice, powder or tablets. 

The recent study is similar to an earlier meta-analysis​ that also found that tart cherry juice products helped improve exercise performance.  

Methodology

Dr. Jessica Hill at St Mary’s University and Professor Glyn Howatson and colleagues at Northumbria University — both England-based universities,  consolidated results of 14 recovery studies on tart cherries that included multiple measurements such as muscle strength, muscle soreness, and muscle power. Several blood biomarkers of exercise-induced muscle damage were also measured: C-reactive protein, creatine kinase, Interleukin 6 and tumour necrosis factor alpha.

The 14 previously published studies had sample sizes ranging from 10 to 54 participants and included 223 male and 71 female study participants with an average age of 26 years old.

Tart cherry supplementation included one to two servings per day during the length of the study ranging from 7-16 days, including pre-exercise, day of, and post-exercise.  All of the studies used American-grown Montmorency tart cherry juice, concentrate, powder or supplements.

“In previous studies, we have found tart cherries to have significant benefits on recovery after strenuous exercise involving runners, cyclists and team sports players.  However, there are some inconsistencies in the scientific literature, and therefore we wanted to clarify the effectiveness and identify the factors most affected by tart cherry supplementation,”​ said Howatson.

Key findings

The systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that tart cherry products consumed before and after strenuous exercise resulted in:

  • A significant effect on recovery of muscle strength and muscle power, and a smaller benefit on reported muscle soreness.
  • A subgroup analysis identified by exercise type across 3 studies (94 study participants at different time points) showed a significant effect of tart cherry supplementation on recovery of jump height, and a significant but smaller effect on sprint speed.
  • For the inflammatory biomarkers, a significant effect was observed for inflammation markers of C-reactive protein and Interleukin 6; but no significant effects were observed for creatine kinase.

“The results of this systematic review and meta-analysis indicate that supplementation with TC can aid the recovery of muscle function and attenuate soreness following strenuous exercise,” ​the authors concluded.

“Even though the exact mechanisms are yet to be fully understood, our findings provide support that tart cherries can aid the recovery of muscle function and reduce reported soreness following strenuous exercise,”​ Howatson said. 

More research needed to explain variations 

“Although the overall picture shows a generally positive response, the variations in the response to tart cherries in some published studies are likely due to the differences in study design, dietary control, the study participants and the type of exercise,” ​Howatson said. “For instance, tart cherry products seem to be more beneficial for exercise that is more metabolically challenging.”

The authors suggest more research is needed to determine the impact of tart cherries on oxidative stress and inflammation to understand the possible mechanisms.

Source: International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism

Online ahead of print, 2021

“Tart Cherry Supplementation and Recovery From Strenuous

Exercise: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”

Authors: J. Hill et al.

Sports and Active Nutrition Summit event

NutraIngredients-USA's Sports and Active Nutrition Summit 2021 is going on right now.  Next weeks segment focuses specifically on Recovery.  For more information on the event, see below.

Jan 28 - Feb 25, 2021   -   Four Online Events

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  • The Changing Retail Landscape for Sports & Active Nutrition - Jan 28
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