Tart Cherry Juice Works Better for Runners

Submitted on December 10, 2013
The anthocyanin in cherry juice helps soothe muscle inflammation.
test slide 9

Recent research has shown that tart cherry juice may be more effective in treating inflammation than popular drugs. This is particularly of interest to athletes who commonly face sore muscles due to long and intensive endurance runs. The juice is known to reduce recovery time.

Distance runners perform repetitive foot and leg movements. They are also required to run up and down steep slopes which may strain the muscles further. Micro-tears can occur in the muscle fiber, leading to inflammation and release of free radicals. Such a condition can trigger muscle soreness and stiffness, along with fatigue and reduced endurance. As a result, athletes may take a while to recover and resume training.


Athletes often resort to pain relievers or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to treat pain. Such medications restrict the enzyme called cyclooxygenase, which in turn reduce the production of prostaglandins involved in the inflammatory response of the body.

Cyclooxygenase has two components, one of which plays a key role in inflammation. The other component is involved in the formation of prostaglandins which protect the stomach lining. Now by inhibiting the first component, NSAIDs also inhibit the others. The resulting decrease in levels of protective prostaglandins may lead to erosion of the stomach lining, bleeding and even ulcers. NSAIDs may also increase the risk of kidney failure, heart problems and stroke in the long run.

Tart Cherry Juice

A natural alternative to NSAID's can be tart cherry juice. The anti-inflammatory components in tart cherries ALSO serve to inhibit cyclooxygenase enzymes. The oxidative damage or release of free radicals caused by intensive exercise may be reversed with the help of the antioxidant phytochemicals in tart cherries. Studies have earlier shown that people who consumed cherries daily showed lowered levels of inflammatory markers in their bodies. Further research shows that subjects who drank cherry juice before and after exercise experienced lower pain levels and lesser loss of strength.

Tart cherries have other health benefits too.

  • Cherries are a valuable source of melatonin which enables us to sleep better by regulating the circadian rhythms.
  • Cherries contain high levels of antioxidants which boost immunity and protect against various diseases. They may also protect against age-related cognitive decline as well more serious cognitive problems linked to Alzheimer's disease.
  • Studies show that cherry juice may be helpful in treating other inflammatory conditions such as gout, fibromyalgia and arthritis, as well as asthma and other respiratory problems.
  • Quercetin, a powerful antioxidant in tart cherry juice, reduces “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels by inhibiting damage by free radicals.
  • Tart cherry juice contains chemicals such as limonene and ellagic acid which prevent against cell transformation which sometimes leads to cancer.

People who are beginning a new exercise regimen or getting ready for an intensive bout of training may try out tart 'ccherry juice as a safer way of managing pain and encouraging quick recovery. NSAIDs may be used in the short term in case of injuries, but chronic use should be avoided. It's always best to talk to your doctor before taking any medication or treatment.

It is helpful to note that the above-mentioned studies used drinks made from cherry extract which constituted about 45 cherries per drink. This is roughly equivalent to 95 cherries a day. Also, the subjects drank cherry juice twice a day for four days before exercise. This increased antioxidant activity in the body prior to the running bout.

You can find 100 percent tart cherry juice or concentrate in stores or even online. Keep in mind this form of therapy may not work in some and may produce results in others.


  1. Kuehl KS, Perrier ET, Elliot DL, Chesnutt JC. Efficacy of tart cherry juice in reducing muscle pain during running: a randomized control trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2010;7:17.