NEW YORK — Drinking a glass of cherry juice after exercising may help ease those aching muscles, hint results of a small study.
Researchers have identified a number of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in tart cherries but studies evaluating the fruit’s effectiveness in alleviating symptoms of inflammatory conditions have yielded mixed results. One study, however, showed that men and women who eat 45 cherries a day have lower levels of inflammatory markers in their blood.
Dr. Declan A. J. Connolly, of the University of Vermont, and colleagues investigated whether cherry juice taken before and after a bout of exercise can reduce the symptoms of muscle damage.
They had 14 male college students drink 12 ounces of a blend of fresh cherry juice and apple juice or a “placebo” black cherry Kool-aid drink twice a day for eight days. On the fourth day, the men participated in several rounds of elbow exercises.
Two weeks later, the men drank the alternate drink over the same time period before again participating in exercise. Following both rounds of exercise, the men underwent various measurements of muscle strength and pain.
The investigators found that, overall, the men experienced much less pain and retained more muscle strength after exercising while drinking the cherry juice blend than they did while drinking the Kool-aid drink.
For example, the degree of muscle strength loss fell by 22 percentage points in those drinking the dummy mixture but only by 4 percentage points in those drinking cherry juice. Muscle strength even improved slightly after 96 hours in those drinking cherry juice.
The degree of soreness differed little between the two groups, but the average pain score was significantly lower after consumption of cherry juice.
In light of the findings, Connolly suggests that men and women, particularly those with “chronic, nagging pain,” might try supplementing their diet with cherry juice.
Cherry juice contains many of the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties “that many commercial drugs contain… (but) from a natural source,” said Connolly.
SOURCE: British Journal of Sports Medicine