Cherries decrease strength loss and muscle pain

Benefits of a bowl of cherries

US researchers have come up with practical and tasty way to keep the symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage at bay.

 They found that volunteers who consumed up to 120 tart cherries a day in the form of a juice blend suffered significantly less strength loss and muscle pain after eccentric exercise than those drinking a similar-tasting inactive juice (placebo).

Fourteen male college students drank 12 fl oz of either the cherry juice blend or the placebo drink twice a day for eight consecutive days. On the fourth day they performed a bout of 2×20 maximum eccentric elbow flexion contractions. Isometric elbow flexion strength, pain, muscle tenderness and range of motion were recorded before and for four days after the exercise.

The protocol was repeated two weeks later with subjects who had had the placebo first time round now taking the cherry juice, and vice versa.

After analysing both sets of results, the researchers found that:

  • Strength loss over the four days after exercise averaged 22% with the placebo but only 4% with the cherry juice;
  • Pain in the elbow flexors peaked at 24 hours in the cherry juice trial and then declined, whereas it continued to increase in the placebo trial to peak at 48 hours;
  • Loss of range of motion and muscle tenderness was similar in both trials.

Numerous antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents have been found in tart cherries, and eating them has been shown to reduce blood concentrations of inflammatory markers in healthy men and women. The researchers comment: ‘These results have important practical applications for athletes, as performance after damaging exercise bouts is primarily affected by strength loss and pain. In addition to being an efficacious treatment for minimising symptoms of exercise induced muscle damage, consumption of cherry juice is much more convenient than many of the treatments that have been presented in the literature.’

Br J Sports Med 2006; 40:679-683

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