Runners will sit in a bathtub full of ice, drink protein shakes loaded with kale, and do lots of other unpleasant things to stay healthy and recover quickly. But, did you know there’s a tasty way to ease muscle pain and boost recovery after intense exercise? Research suggests that tart cherries can help reduce inflammation and begin the healing process.
The 7-Day Tart Cherry Juice Challenge
This past week, I took the 7-Day Tart Cherry Challenge by drinking 8 oz. of tart cherry juice two times a day for seven days in a row. I wanted to see if tart cherries could treat my muscle soreness and running pains as well as (if not better than) more traditional approaches like icing and over-the-counter pain relievers. I continued to run, stretch and exercise as always. The only change was the introduction of tart cherry juice in place of icing and ibuprofen.
Following the guidelines of the challenge was really simple. I had an 8 oz. glass of unsweetened tart cherry juice in the morning and another before bed. I’ve found that tart cherries are also great for improving sleep quality. And, as you probably know, a good night’s sleep is essential to muscle recovery and growth.
Eating Tart Cherries
There are many ways to enjoy Montmorency (tart) cherries. You can find them in juice or concentrate form. You can buy them frozen. Or, you can find them dried. For this challenge, I drank tart cherry juice. But, I have also enjoyed frozen tart cherries in smoothies and used dried cherries in place of cranberries in my homemade energy bars.
Since 8 oz. of tart cherry juice is the equivalent of 100 tart cherries, it’s a great way to get the nutrients you need quickly and easily. You could also take just 2 tablespoons of tart cherry concentrate as a shot. Just be sure you’re drinking 100% natural tart cherry juice.
Are they sour? Well, yes they are a little sour. You’ll notice it on the back of your tongue, but it’s not unpleasant. In fact, I felt good about myself knowing that I was eating a healthy, natural, organic fruit.
Research on Tart Cherries for Recovery
A growing number of elite athletes and everyday runners are drinking tart cherry juice for its recovery benefits. Researchers have found that tart cherry juice may help reduce strength loss and aid recovery after extensive exercise. In one study, cyclists drinking cherry juice before and after their workouts experienced less inflammation and oxidative stress than their peers who drank another beverage.
It’s important to note that all the studies done on tart cherries and muscle recovery have been done with athletes that consume tart cherry juice in the days before, as well as the day of, and after their workouts or races. Tart cherry juice is both a “precovery” and recovery method for athletes.
The 7-Day Tart Cherry Recovery Challenge Results
I can’t tell you that tart cherry juice transformed my 44 year-old body into that of a 24 year-old, but I can tell you that it made a big difference. In particular, I have struggled with plantars faciitis. Runners often experience a stubborn pain under the heel of the foot caused by inflammation and micro-tears in the plantar fascia, a thick fibrous band of tissue that runs from the base of the heel to the toes.
Recommended treatments include routine icing, stretching of the calf muscles, taking anti-inflammatories, and rolling a tennis ball under the arch of the foot. I’d been doing these things for several weeks to no avail. But, after 3 or 4 days of drinking tart cherry juice, I noticed the pain had subsided considerably. More so than it had when I followed conventional methods for treatment.
One of the greatest joys of drinking tart cherry juice is knowing that it’s a natural remedy. I don’t like to take any kind of medication unless I have to. I think we over-medicate as a culture, and I like to keep things simple when it comes to my biochemistry.
Cherry Marketing Institute is a client of Saltmarsh Running.