Add tart cherries to your diet to improve sleep and recover faster after intense training. Tart cherries are proving to be a wonder food. In addition to curing insomnia and decreasing muscle pain after strenuous running they have been shown to decrease oxidative stress and lower chronic inflammation due to their high antioxidant content. Tart cherries also have a very low glycemic response, meaning they can support insulin sensitivity and optimal body composition.
The new study found that drinking two 8-ounce servings of tart cherry juice (one in the morning and one in the evening before bed) improved sleep in adults with insomnia. Some individuals in the group had significant sleep improvements. The magnitude of improvements in sleep was found to be greater than all reported studies on valerian, an herb that has reported calming effects, and on most studies of melatonin supplementation.
Tart cherry juice also improves recovery after high-intensity running in both marathoners and half-marathoners. Two studies tested the effect of drinking tart cherry juice on local muscle inflammation and muscle pain after a running competition and found that it decreased ratings of pain and biomarkers of local inflammation. Researchers suggest that drinking or eating tart cherries can aid in the recovery of muscle function and possibly improving subsequent performance.
This evidence can be applied to strength and power athletes as well—less inflammation and faster recovery of muscle function is critical to get the most out of your training. And of course a greater volume or more intense training can lead to better competitive performance. Remember tart cherries produce a low glycemic response when consumed, and they can improve sleep, a key component of maintaining a lean body composition.
You can eat tart cherries, add them to other foods—get frozen ones when fresh are out of season—and add them to oatmeal to lower the glycemic response, or drink tart cherry juice. Another option is to try my Antioxidant Supreme
that contains Barbados Cherry, a tart cherry variety, and get a potent antioxidant blend.
Pigeon, W., Carr, Michelle, Gorman, C., Perlis, M. Effects of a Tart Cherry Juice Beverage on the Sleep of Older Adults with Insomnia: A Pilot Study. Journal of Medicinal Food. June 2010. 13(3), 579-583.
Howatson, G., McHugh, M., et al. Influence of Tart Cherry Juice on Indices of Recovery Following Marathon Running. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. December 2010. 29(6), 843-852.
Kuehl, K., Perrier, E., Elliot, D., Chesnutt, J. Efficacy of Tart Cherry Juice in Reducing Muscle =Pain During Running: a Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. May 2010. 7(17).