Recovery tip #1 is to get adequate fluid, carbohydrates, and protein following exercise. If you participate in races frequently or otherwise need a speedy recovery, tart cherries are a great addition to your recovery regimen. Loaded with anthocyanins and antioxidants, tart cherries might just help you get back to 100% a bit more rapidly.
Intense exercise unleashes a cascade of events in muscle tissue causing cell damage, oxidative stress, and inflammation. These events result in impaired muscle function, such as reduced strength, and may contribute to soreness in the days after intense exercise. This damage serves as the stimulus for muscle to rebuild itself a bit stronger.
But when athletes drink tart cherry juice, there are fewer signs of muscle damage, fewer cell damaging ‘free radicals,’ and less inflammation in the following days (in a test tube, tart cherry was as effective as ibuprofen). Coupled with reductions in soreness and pain, strength tends to return a bit more rapidly.
Shoot for 8oz twice a day for 4-7 days pre-race, race day, and 2 days post-race. Although drinking it every day sounds good, be careful: physiological adaptations from training making you stronger and/or faster are likely dependent on some of these pathways. Only use when quick recovery is needed, such as if you’re racing on consecutive weekends or didn’t taper for your race appropriately (as is all too common).
Tart cherry juice is readily available at local grocery stores for roughly the same cost per serving as orange juice!