Tart cherry juice is known for reducing strength loss and improving muscle recovery after intensive exercise, and now researchers have found that it also helps in improving exercise performance. The meta-analysis, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, revealed that tart cherries improved endurance exercise performance among study participants.
"The recovery benefits of tart cherry concentrate are well researched, yet evidence on performance enhancement is scarce and results have been mixed," said study co-author Philip Chilibeck from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. "The results of this meta-analysis found that tart cherries did help improve performance, and we gained greater insight into the potential mechanism responsible for this benefit," Chilibeck added.
New meta-analysis examined 10 previously published studies
This new meta-analysis examined 10 previously published studies on tart cherries and exercise recovery. The sample sizes ranged from 8-27, and the average ages of study participants ranged from 18.6 to 34.6 years. Most of the participants were endurance-trained individuals, including cyclists, runners and triathletes. The 10 studies totalled 127 males and 20 females.
To qualify, studies were required to be randomised controlled trials conducted in a healthy adult population and use a placebo as a comparison for tart cherry supplementation (including tart cherry juice, tart cherry concentrate, tart cherry powder and tart cherry powder capsules). Nine of the 10 studies involved longer-term tart cherry consumption (around two to seven days prior to exercise) and one involved same-day supplementation.
Tart cherry dosages varied across studies
Tart cherry dosages varied across studies and included 200 to 500 mg/day in capsule or powder form, 60 to 90 mL/day of tart cherry juice concentrate diluted with 100 to 510 mL water and 300 to 473mL/day of tart cherry juice. The total amount of anthocyanins consumed daily ranged from 66 to 2,760 mg.
Pooled results across these 10 studies indicated a significant improvement in endurance performance with tart cherry concentrate, with two of the 10 studies reporting significant performance-enhancing effects on their own. The meta-analysis concluded that tart cherry concentrate in juice or powdered form significantly improved endurance exercise performance when consumed for seven days to 1.5 hours before cycling, swimming or running.