The fairly small study involved twenty participants, with half drinking montmorency cherry juice and half receiving placebo. Both groups drank their designated drinks twice a day for five days leading up to the marathon, and then two days after. Several markers were looked at during this time, including those that assess muscle damage including creatine kinase, lactate dehydrogenase, muscle soreness and isometric strength. Of these, the only difference between groups was that of isometric strength, which recovered much faster in the cherry juice group. They also looked at markers that assess inflammation such as interleukin-6, C-reactive protein and uric acid which were all lower in the cherry juice group. Lastly, they also looked at the beneficial effect the cherry juice had on oxidative stress, which in combination with the lower levels of inflammation is what the researchers speculate is responsible for the faster increase in muscle strength. Anyone who has run a marathon knows how demanding they are, and how long it takes to recover from one (I have a friend who claims he took weeks to feel normal again), so something like this can be an excellent aid.
But that’s not to say that bodybuilders and power-performance athletes can’t take advantage of this concept. As soon as I saw this study I was reminded of a similar study from 2006 that looked at the effect of cherry juice on muscle damage, only this study did not look at aerobic endurance work, but arm curls. This study also noted a reduction in muscle soreness, suggesting the benefit of cherry juice for recovery between workouts.
As nice as it would be for researchers to look further into the benefits of cherry juice for athletes, the chances are slim. The researchers want to look into the potential for the juice to help sufferers of arthritis and fibromyalgia and any other diseases where inflammation becomes debilitating.
Source: Howatson G, McHugh MP, Hill JA, Brouner J, Jewell AP, van Someren KA, Shave RE, Howatson SA. Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2009 Oct 21.