Food & Beverage Perspectives
Tart Cherry Juice Boosts Athletic Performance, Helps Recovery

Tart Cherry Juice Boosts Athletic Performance, Helps Recovery

<p>A new study published in the journal Nutrients supports previous research showing similar results for athletes performing marathon running, high-intensity strength training, cycling and metabolic exercise. The new findings suggest Montmorency tart cherry juice may benefit athletes involved in prolonged, repeat sprint activity, such as soccer, rugby and lacrosse.</p>

Montmorency tart cherries have been shown on numerous occasions to be of benefit in exercise recovery, which have been proposed to be as a result of the high concentrations of phytochemicals, and in particular, the flavanoids anthocyanins.

Now, a new study published in the journal Nutrients supports previous research showing similar results for athletes performing marathon running, high-intensity strength training, cycling and metabolic exercise. The new findings suggest Montmorency tart cherry juice may benefit athletes involved in prolonged, repeat sprint activity, such as soccer, rugby and lacrosse.

For they study researchers at Northumbria University in the UK investigated the effect of Montmorency cherries on recovery indices following a protocol designed to replicate the physiological demands of prolonged intermittent sprint activity such as those seen in field based sports. It was hypothesized that Montmorency cherry supplementation would attenuate post-exercise inflammatory and oxidative stress responses, and aid the return of functional performance.

Study participants included 16 semi-professional male soccer players aged 21 to 29 years who were randomly assigned to either a Montmorency tart cherry concentrate group or a placebo control group. Montmorency group participants consumed about 1 ounce of a commercially available Montmorency tart cherry juice concentrate mixed with 100 mL of water twice per day for seven consecutive days—for four days prior to the simulated trial and for three days after the trial. Following the same schedule, placebo group participants consumed a calorie-matched fruit cordial with less than 5 percent fruit mixed with water and maltodextrin. The 30 mL dosage of Montmorency tart cherry juice concentrate contained a total anthocyanin content of 73.5 mg, or the equivalent of about 90 whole Montmorency tart cherries.

Participants were instructed to consume a low polyphenolic diet for 48 hours prior to beginning each Montmorency or placebo supplementation routine and throughout the seven-day consumption period. Food diaries were used to assess compliance, which helped researchers more accurately measure the efficacy of the phenolic-rich compounds in the Montmorency tart cherry concentration intervention.

Montmorency tart cherry juice, compared to a placebo, was found to maintain greater functional performance, impact a key marker of inflammation and decrease self-reported muscle soreness among study participants following prolonged activity that mirrors the demands of field-based sports. While additional research is needed, the authors suggest the dampening of the post-exercise inflammatory processes may be responsible.

Across every performance measure, including maximal voluntary isometric contraction, countermovement jump height, 20 m sprint time, knee extensors, 5-0-5 agility, the Montmorency group showed better performance than the placebo group. Additionally, the Montmorency group showed significantly lower levels of Interleukin-6, a marker for inflammation, particularly immediately post-trial. Ratings for muscle soreness (DOMS) were significantly lower in the Montmorency group across the 72-hour post-trial period. No significant effects in muscle damage or oxidative stress were observed in either the Montmorency group or the placebo group.

Exercise can trigger inflammation response in both the muscles and joints. Inflammatory signaling molecules called cytokines acting systemically and in muscle tissue can impact muscle damage and regeneration. The goal here is management, avoiding a prolonged inflammatory state that can lead to more extensive tissue damage and scarring. Several anti-inflammatory ingredients have been making ground in the sports market for specific benefits to muscles and, in some cases, joints. Read Steve Myers’ article Innovative Sports Ingredients to learn more.

Looking for the latest on innovative ingredients trending in the sports category? Join us for the Emerging Sports Ingredients panel discussion on Friday, Oct. 7, at SupplySide West 2016.

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