Back in my former life I was a sports dietitian.

Ok, I still am, but most days it doesn’t feel like that. I spend more of my time writing and chasing after a wild 13 month old than I do training clients. I’m ok with that {for now}, but when I get a chance to merge the worlds of sports nutrition and writing I get extra excited. Call me lame, I don’t care.

Today’s sports nutrition topic is… tart cherry juice!

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One of the most important –and overlooked- elements of training is muscle recovery. You have to adequately recover before you can move on to your next training session and expect to make improvements in your performance. It may seem boring, but proper recovery isn’t as hard to achieve as you might think. And when I say “training”, I don’t mean you have to be some elite athlete- this applies to anybody looking to maximize their workouts, even if you do those workouts in the corner of your living room in what little spare time you have.

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Back to muscle recovery. Most of the time we turn to protein for recovery after a workout. The amino acids that form protein help rebuild and repair the microscopic tears that occur in muscle tissue during training. It should be noted that carbohydrate after a workout is also important as it helps replenish lost glycogen stores. {Here’s some more about protein in exercise recovery from Active.com.}

But we’re not talking about protein today. You likely already know a bit about protein, but do you know about tart cherry juice? It seems like an odd thing to associate with sports training or working out {usually juice is just a source of empty calories}, but research has shown some beneficial effects of using tart cherry juice to add with muscle recovery.

Some theories?

– The antioxidants in tart cherry juice {specifically from Montmorency cherries} may reduce damage from oxidative stress caused by intense exercise.

– Tart cherry juice contains polyphenolic compounds, such as flavonoids and anthocyanins, that reduce inflammation.

– The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in tart cherry juice can reduce the symptoms associated with intense exercise, including pain and loss of strength.

If you’re interested in research-y type things, you can read more:

Cheribundi, a company that makes tart cherry juice, sent me some samples to try a few months. While I’m not training for anything big right now, I do maximize my limited workout time by doing short, high intensity strength training. Most of the time it leaves me sore and feeling the burn for a couple days. {Which is good, but makes the next workout harder.}

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I decided to give the cherry juice a try by including it in my post workout routine. My assessment? I’m less sore these days. But let’s be honest: I’m not a scientific study. I can’t tell you whether it’s the cherry juice, the post-workout protein intake, improvement in muscle strength from being consistent, or any other number of factors. I can tell you it tastes good though! The ginger and chocolate flavors are fun, but I’ve yet to try those. I prefer the original cherry juice, because if you’re drinking it for recovery, why skimp? {The
“skinny” version cuts the tartness with stevia as opposed to apple juice.} I don’t love that the bottle clearly states “Not From Concentrate”, but they’re only referring to the cherries- the apple juice is from concentrate. It’s needed for the flavor though- the word “tart” isn’t emphasized for nothing!

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{Cheribundi makes a whey protein tart cherry juice which may be the best of both worlds: protein + antioxidants. I didn’t test this one since I can’t eat whey {a dairy protein} right now.}

I’d love to hear from you: have you tried tart cherry juice as part of your post workout routine? Do you think it helps/doesn’t help?