But tart cherries, AKA sour or Montmorency cherries, can have an astounding knack for dialing down the pain athletes feel after a long-distance run, heavy weightlifting and other strenuous activity.
You aren’t likely to find them by their “sweeter” siblings in the produce cooler. The juice is extracted to be used in drinks (be sure you buy one with little to no added sugar) or the fruit is turned into a powder for capsules, typically without their natural calorie or sugar content.
Recommendations on the amount you should consume for optimum results vary, but a good middle ground to start at is 6 ounces of juice before and after a workout. Alternatively, you can try 1 ounce of juice concentrate mixed into another drink twice a day or take a 500-miligram capsule once a day.
WHY THEY HELP
Tart cherries are especially rich with anthocyanin, a red or purple plant pigment that comes from the flavonoid family of antioxidants and gives them their sour taste. They’re also bursting with polyphenols, potassium and other nutrients.
Oregon Health and Science University, which has conducted multiple studies on this fruit, has said it contains the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food.”
This means it counteracts painful muscle inflammation in the days after a butt-kicking workout. Ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) can carry some risks.
The university found that runners participating in a 200-mile relay race who drank 12 ounces of tart cherry juice twice daily for a week before the race and on race day reported significantly lower post-race muscle soreness than those given a placebo cherry drink.
Numerous other studies have had athletes drink anywhere from 1 to 12 ounces of the juice or take supplements before and after a workout. Most, but not all, found evidence of tart cherries’ effectiveness against muscle soreness.