Study Finds Montmorency Cherries Benefit Muscle

How Intense Workouts Benefit from Tart Cherries

Whether your sport is strength training or intense cycling, muscle tissue takes a major beating during workouts. (In fact, exercise damages muscles, and we become stronger only as the body repairs them.)

While many of us enjoy a little post workout soreness, walking around with muscle pain for days isn't exactly an enjoyable experience. Hope has arrived in the form of a pie ingredient: recent studies have reported that chowing down on Montmorency cherries can help relieve pain associated with exercise induced muscle damage supplementing. Now, Montmorency cherries aren’t your typical sweet cherry - they're tart, so you can forget eating them by the bowlful.  In fact, they were made palatable for study participants by processing them into a powdered or juice form. Let’s dive more into muscle breakdown during intense strength training and what the research brings to the table.

Muscle at Work

Montmorency cherries
Montmorency Cherries Improve Muscle Tissue. Steve Bonini/Getty Images

 Intense strength training workouts place heavy loads upon the muscle being worked.  These loads produce a stress response that includes muscle damage, breakdown and inflammation, and the body even releases the kinds of protein and chemicals into our bloodstream that are typically found in people with cardiovascular problems, having invasive surgery, or experiencing disease.

The extreme muscle soreness we feel is caused by receptors in our muscle being sensitive to the chemicals and by-products released during muscle breakdown.  The purpose of the study was to examine if short-term consumption of tart cherry powder would reduce muscle soreness and strength loss while improving muscle damage and inflammation.  Sports science is directing more research toward reducing inflammation with phytochemical (antioxidant) fruits like tart cherry because of the debate surrounding NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) which, while previously used for muscle soreness and inflammation, are being increasingly linked to heart attack and stroke.

Study Stats

Montmorency cherries
Tart Cherries Preserves Muscle and Decreases Inflammation. Cultura RM/Corey Jenkins/Getty Images

 The research subjects were healthy, strength-trained men in their twenties.  They had to be involved in a weight training program for at least 6-months and have the ability to perform a standard barbell back squat of 1.5 times their bodyweight.  The study criterion was random, double-blind and placebo-controlled, meaning the men were separated into two groups that consumed either tart cherry powder or a placebo made of rice flour.  They began taking the tart cherry powder or placebo seven days prior to their challenge: Each male completed 10 sets of 10 reps at 70% of their one-rep max. (That's the maximum amount of weight they can lift at one time.)  Understand that these men were put through heavy testing! 

Research Results

Montmorency cherries
Montmorency Cherries Decrease Muscle Soreness. Adel Hegedus/Getty Images

The tart cherry supplements contained 480 mg of freeze dried Montmorency tart cherry skin powder, and the participants kept consuming it for two days after their workout. The results indicated tart cherry supplementation reduced muscle soreness around the heaviest loaded muscle region of the thighs, which is a muscle group that experiences some of the worst post-workout soreness. So, preliminary findings are positive and show tart cherry powder effective to decrease muscle soreness and breakdown! Another study published by Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise also indicated Montmorency cherry juice improved muscle recovery and strength after intense weight training, and further research was published in the Nutrients Journal and on high-intensity cyclists using Montmorency cherries.  Reduced muscular stress and inflammation were indicated, which is why scores of companies are selling tart cherries in supplement form.

Sources:

Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, Effects of powdered Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on an acute bout of intense lower body strength exercise in resistance trained males, Kyle Levers et al., 11/16/15

Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Montmorency cherry juice reduces muscle damage caused by intensive strength exercise, Bowtell JL et al., 8/11

Sports Performance and Nutrition, Montmorency Cherries Reduce the Oxidative Stress and Inflammatory Responses to Repeated Days High-Intensity Stochastic Cycling, Phillip G. Bell et al., 2/14

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