Symmetry Blog

Reducing DOMS with Tart Cherry Juice

Symmetry Physio - Sunday, April 30, 2017

Jess Rothwell, Symmetry Dietitian. Latest article from the SDA Newsletter.

Reducing DOMS with Tart Cherry Juice 

Repair and recovery from training and racing are critical for athletes. With respect to an athlete's nutritional goals, food preferences and/or intolerances, it is well known that training adaptations and subsequent performance outcomes are optimised through carbohydrates periodization and appropriate protein and fat intake. We also know that reducing the severity of exercise-induced or delayed onset muscle soreness, damage or inflammation can also be assisted with functional foods and their respective phytonutrients, such as beetroot, turmeric and fish oil.

Tart Cherry Juice has also been touted as one of these superfoods - more specifically, Montmorency Tart Cherries due to its phenolic compounds (found within Group B of the AIS Sports Supplement Framework).

Originating from the Montmorency Valley, north of Paris in France, the quality and yield is determined by the specific climatic conditions and their 'tartness' due to the malic acid and reduced sugar content compared to sweet varieties.

Bing cherries have also proven effective in reducing circulating concentrations of inflammatory markers in healthy adults, however current thoughts are that Montmorency cherries are more valuable in overall phytonutrient content. In addition to anthocyanins, tart cherries also provide a natural source of sugar, melatonin, vitamins C and E, and potassium.

Proposed Mechanism 

Further research to determine the exact bioactive compounds and mechanism behind their actions is needed however, the apparent hero for protection against oxidative stress, following acute or strenuous periods of exercise, is anthocyanins (quercetin) due to their robust anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

As mentioned, research in this are is emerging. However, it has been hypothesised that is may be the ability of the anthocyanins forming Cyanidin DNA complexes in activating many other antioxidant response genes that reduces oxidative damage. Another possible explanation is the inhibition of inflammatory pathways due to the abundance of phytochemicals within tart cherries. Put simply, the phenolic compounds result in potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory actions when consumed in concentrated dosages. Specifically targeting reactive oxidative species, a product of the mechanical (extensive myofibrillar disruption) or metabolic stress and inflammatory response (leukocytes) following exercises such as specific weight training or long distances running.

Tart Cherry Juice & Athletes 

Although only small studies of short duration have been predominately conducted in land-based endurance sports or resistance trained athletes, results of consuming tart cherry juice or powdered supplements seem promising.                                                                                                  

Various protocols have been tested and some of the benefits include a reduction in delayed onset muscle soreness, associated pain and circulating inflammatory markers. Research has also revealed improvements in sleep (due to the melatonin content), attenuation of strength losses, improved pulmonary inflammation and reduced perceived pain during or following exercise. 

Interestingly, a recent study investigation tart cherry juice supplementation in water polo athletes found no significant reductions in inflammation markers or oxidative stress. The authors concluded that the intermittent and non-weight-bearing demands of water polo do not create significant oxidative stress on the body to reap any benefit from tart cherry juice.

Potential Benefits for Strength & Resistance Training 

In resistance trained males, studies have shown using Montmorency tart cherries in either blended, juice concentrate or powdered supplements form to be beneficial. Improvements in Isometric muscle strength recovery and reduced protein degradation following knee extension exercise have been reported as well as decreased soreness and improved strength in athletes undertaking upper body eccentric exercise.                                                                                                                                                                                       

Potential Benefits for Endurance Runners & Cyclists: 

Research of runners competing in an endurance event after consumption of tart cherry juice found exercise-induced muscle pain was significantly reduced compared to placebo. Studies of inflammatory markers (CRP, IL-6 and Uric Acid) in experienced runners who drank tart cherry juice daily for 5 days before the day of and 2 days after a marathon had significantly improved strength recovery and reductions in CRP, IL-6 and Uric Acid as compared to placebo. Similar effects have been observed in well-trained cyclists performing high-intensity stochastic tests, resulting in no strength alterations and reduced inflammatory markers compared to placebo.      

Based on the limited evidence available to date, athletes more likely to benefit from supplementing with Montmorency Tart Cherries include:

  • Long distance runners (including trail and marathon)
  • Cyclists
  • Athletes in peak periods of strength & conditioning work - especially eccentric work

Where can athletes purchase? 

Cherry Active Australia is the most common source and has the benefit of being Informed Sport tested (                                                                 

Other brands are available, however some age blends and contain added food acids or are processed with sugar, lowering concentrations of phenolic and anthocyanins. Tart cherry juice concentrate is the most superior in terms of phytochemical content when comparing dried, canned, frozen or powders.

By Jess Rothwell, Provisional Sports Dietician

For a list of references used in writing of this article, please email Ali at HQ (knowledge@sports

Source: SDA, Sports Dieticians Australian, Newsletter #152 / APR

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