Physical benefits and perceptual effects can impact recovery in relation to exercise-induced muscle damage (Peake et al., 2016). Training and performance could be implicated up to three days after muscle-damaging exercise due to muscle soreness reaching its peak up to 48 hours after exercise (Keane et al., 2015). Tart cherry-juice (TCJ) has been used by a range of athlete’s and decreased muscle damage and pain indicators compared to a placebo and it is proposed that it could be an alternative to NSAIDs, without the side effects (Volpe, 2014). Antioxidant containing foods are recommended instead of supplements to avoid taking doses above the physiological range. Additionally, anthocyanins, quercetin, vitamin C, E and beta-carotene in TCJ have anti-inflammatory effects as well as the antioxidants.
In a review of the TCJ and muscle damage research five studies showed lower increase in inflammatory markers in the cherry supplement condition compared to placebo (Bell et al., 2014, 2015, 2016; Howatson et al., 2010; Levers et al., 2016) and four studies present reduced oxidative stress caused by cherry consumption compared to placebo (Bell et al., 2014; Bowtell et al., 2011; Howatson et al., 2010; Levers et al., 2016).
Most of the studies show some improvement in muscle recovery with TCJ supplementation compared to a placebo. Some improvements where through an attenuated inflammatory response, whereas others were a better recovery of counter-movement jump (CMJ) or delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The implication this could have for athletes is an improvement in training post muscle-damaging events and could have a practical effect to reduce pain and improve function, even without changing their post-exercise oxidative stress. Long-term effects should be studied in future research and more studies using similar protocols for better comparison within endurance or eccentric intermittent exercise is required.
Gut modulatory effect of tart cherries as part of a balanced and healthy diet (Mayta-Apaza et al., 2018). Other fruit-derived polypheonols have shown to be beneficial to gut health and have a prebiotic effect, such as, grape pomace phenolic extract. Grape pomace phenolic extract significantly increased biomass of Lactobacillus acidophilus in vitro. Tart cherries have high levels of anthocyanins. Research has shown that foods high in anthocyanins promote growth of healthy anaerobic bacteria populations such as, Bifidobacterium. Anthocyanins can inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Further well-designed human clinical trials are required as it is still not confirmed what the exact mechanism of action is (Igwe et al., 2019).