Have you heard the chatter about tart cherry products for athletes and are curious to learn more? Wondering if you should take tart cherry juice vs the capsules? I got you!
In this blog, we will cover what tart cherries are, the forms it comes in, and how they can benefit you as an athlete.
What is Tart Cherry Juice?
Over the past couple of years, tart cherry juice has been said to be an athlete’s secret weapon. These cherries (known as Montmorency cherries) tend to be sourer and can be found frozen, dried, or fresh.
For athletes, tart cherries are most commonly found in capsule, juice, concentrate, and sport gummy form. Tart cherry has many health benefits, especially for athletes! In this blog, you will learn how tart cherry can be beneficial in addition to a strong fueling foundation
How Do Tart Cherry Products Help Athletes?
Tart cherries have many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that can benefit an athlete’s muscle strength, recovery, sleep, and injury recovery.
Whether you are a long-distance runner or a powerlifter, you rely on your muscles during your workout. Tart cherry will allow your body to manage the amount of stress that your muscles feel every day. This allows your muscles to recover faster and push more weight in the gym. Pairing a glass of this tart cherry juice with a good source of protein after training can improve your muscle growth.
After a workout, your muscles start the recovery process to help your body repair and prepare for the next training. Post-practice swelling and inflammation are typical for an athlete. With proper recovery, this leads to a return to practice quickly!
Adding tart cherry juice to your post-practice recovery routine will lead to less inflammation. It can decrease muscle pain similar to over-the-counter pain relievers, like ibuprofen. With recovery being just as important as the workout, tart cherry juice can take away that post-practice pain and get you back to training faster.
Sleep is an athlete’s best friend. Like all areas of nutrition, sleep recommendations are very individualized to the athlete. Athletes that I work with have found success with a minimum of 8-10 hours of sleep every night.
Research shows that tart cherries help you get to sleep quicker and have a better night’s rest.
Tart cherry juice can help you achieve this by helping your body stimulate melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your biological clock and assists you with sleeping through the night.
Should Athletes Take Tart Cherry Juice?
Yes! Tart cherry juice has many benefits for athletes. Athletes who have added this into their day-to-day have experienced less pain, fast recovery, and a decrease in inflammation biomarkers. Including tart cherry in your diet schedule can help your performance and put you on top of your game.
What types of Tart Cherry Juice Products are Available?
This is the most widely available product on the market right now and a good product to start with. Grabbing a glass of juice out of your fridge helps hydrate and add a dosage of antioxidants.
Recommended Daily Dosage: 1 bottle
Drinking a glass of cherry juice not your thing? The concentrate product could be right for you. This provides a “lower volume” option but the same dosage of tart cherries.
Recommended Daily Dosage: 2 tbsp of concentrate
Recommended Product: Tart Cherry Concentrate
Are you on the road a lot and don’t want to carry a big bag of liquid? I recommend tart cherry capsules! They are easy to throw in your bag and TSA-friendly!
Recommended Daily Dosage: 1 capsule per day (500 mg)
Recommended Product: Now Tart Cherry Capsules
If you are not a fan of pills, gummies are a great alternative to getting all the nutrients from these cherries. Not all gummies are made equal though! Make sure to check the nutrient facts on the back to get the right dosage.
Recommended Daily Dosage: 2 cherry gummies per day with at least 480 mg of tart cherry
Recommended Product: Gatorade Gummies Cherry Recovery (30-day supply)
How Much Should You Take?
This greatly depends on which form of this nutrient you put into your body. The most common types are fresh, frozen, dried, and juiced capsules or gummies.
- 1-2 cups of fresh or frozen tart cherries per day
- ¼ cup of dried tart cherries per day
- 16 oz of tart cherry juice per day
- 1 serving of capsules equaling 480 mg of tart cherry
- 1 serving of gummies equaling 480 mg of tart cherry
I recommend incorporating 1 of these options into your fueling plan each day.
Tart Cherry Juice vs. Capsules?
In quality products, both tart cherry juice and tart cherry capsules will produce similar results.
The biggest difference between tart cherry juice vs capsules is the amount of sugar/liquid/energy that products contain.
The capsules may be better for athletes working on weight maintenance or managing energy consumption. I also recommend the capsules for athletes who have busy travel schedules and need a recovery product on the road.
Additionally, capsules may be a better option for those athletes who do not like the taste of tart cherries.
Athletes should choose the juice if they are trying to gain weight/lean mass, increase energy availability, or struggle to meet their energy needs. Liquid energy is a great way to help meet energy needs and weight targets. Tart cherry juice provides both the extra energy needed and all of the benefits of tart cherries.
In the end, it all comes down to what is best for you and your goals! Totally up to you!
When Should You Take Tart Cherry Juice?
I recommend taking your tart cherry juice product one hour before bed on your training and practice days. Since a large dosage of cherries is extremely anti-inflammatory, consuming them immediately after training can blunt the exercise response preventing you from getting the maximal benefits from training. Taking tart cherry juice at night allows your body to get a dosage of anti-inflammatory goodness before bed in addition to maximizing your strength benefits.
Bonus! Tart cherry juice also helps produce natural melatonin in the body and has shown a positive effect on sleep, helping your body recover throughout the night.
After a game, your goal should be inflammation management. Especially if you have a quick turnaround (less than 24 hours) between games. With a small recovery window, you want to decrease the body’s inflammation as soon as possible. Adding in a tart cherry juice product immediately after your game can help accomplish this. I recommend taking it after your last game of the day.
Don’t take it between games on the same day. You might get sleepy!
Decreasing inflammation is an important part of the rehabilitation and recovery process. Incorporating a tart cherry juice product daily during an injury can help decrease inflammation, increase muscle strength, and lower soreness.
I recommend having one tart cherry juice product each night 1 hour before bed.
I don’t like Tart Cherry Juice. What else should I drink?
Compared to many other foods, tart cherries contain more phytonutrients and provide superior anti-inflammatory benefits. But that doesn’t mean other foods cannot provide recovery and health benefits to athletes!
In my anti-inflammatory foods list for athletes blog, I provide a list of anti-inflammatory foods that athletes in the Performance Fueling Club love.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Dark leafy greens
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
I recommend consuming 2-3 servings of anti-inflammatory foods a day to help manage the inflammation load from your practice, training, and games. Tart cherry juice can serve as one of them!
Tart cherries are a great addition to an athlete’s fueling plan. They can speed up your muscle growth, and help with an injury. As a result, your performance will increase in practice and games!
Remember! Tart cherry juice helps regulate your sleep cycle by increasing melatonin in the body. Because of this, it is important to avoid tar cherry products before a big game. You don’t want to be falling asleep on the field!
For best results, incorporate your products after your final training/game of the day. I recommend taking them 1 hour before bed.
There are many ways to incorporate tart cherry juice into your diet! Each form of tart cherry is beneficial to athletes and it’s important to figure out which product is best for you.
Cherries aren’t the only products that contain recovery benefits. Eating a variety of anti-inflammatory foods will provide muscle recovery and rehab benefits.
If you want to learn more about proper recovery, consider working with a sports dietitian to build out an individualized plan. Taking time to optimize your nutrition off the field improves your training and performance!
If you are ready to meet your goals, apply for sports nutrition coaching today!