Why Cherries can Make You a Stronger Runner

sarah cuff Food for Runners, Fruit 10 Comments

Don’t tell my husband, but I bought a big beautiful bag of organic sweet red cherries for nearly $20. They were perfect. Heavenly. Divine. We thoroughly enjoyed them (but if he sees the price he might change his mind, ha).

Okay, I totally splurged. But I have a good reason! Not only do they taste absolutely delicious because they are in season right now, they are loaded with anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and anticancer compounds such as quercetin, ellagic acid and perillyl alcohol. Plus, a 2010 study showed tart cherries reduced muscle pain and inflammation in runners due to their high anthocyanin content.


Shoot. You’ll notice I just said ‘tart cherries’. My expensive cherries were the more commonly found fresh black cherries, otherwise called sweet cherries. It’s true that all cherry varieties offer health benefits, but it is true that the tart ones are far superior. The study mentioned above used the Montmorency tart cherry, which is what you want to look for when searching out cherry juice.

So let’s break it down – the reasons you, as a runner, want to be including cherries in your diet:

1. Muscle Recovery

The tart cherry is packed just full of anti-inflammatory compounds, most predominantly anthocyanins (which give the cherries their bright red colour). These compounds have been shown to help speed muscle recovery following a tough run. They work by helping the body to relieve inflammation and allow the healing process to take place. On top of enhanced muscle recovery, anthocyanins have also been shown to help lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, and colon cancer.

2. Reduce Pain

Both sweet and tart cherries have high levels of antioxidants although each type has higher levels of different ones. Regardless of the differences, both varieties have been shown to successfully block cell mechanisms that result in painful and damaging amounts of inflammation. Which means you don’t hurt as much following that long run or hard track workout.

3. Sleep

Tart cherries have been shown to support a healthy sleep cycle. In one study, cherry juice was given to people with sleep problems and it helped them stay asleep and sleep longer. Good sleep is extremely important for athletes (studies suggest athletes require 10 hours of sleep per night!!), so if you have any problems with insomnia, this just might help. Not only do the cherries control inflammation, they also contain significant amounts of melatonin. Combined, the net effect is a gentle sleep aide.

The study that showed the benefits for runners had them drinking 10.5 ounces of tart cherry juice twice per day. Here’s a great and amazingly tasty recovery smoothie using tart cherry juice:

  • eden tart cherry juice1 cup (8 ounces) tart cherry juice (personally, my favourite brand is Eden, they use Montmorency cherries)
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 8 frozen strawberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1 scoop greens powder
  • 1/2 scoop unflavoured whey isolate or hemp protein/seeds

Blend on high until smooth… And enjoy!

Do you use tart cherry juice? Or buy expensive cherries? 😉 Let me know in the comments below!

Happy running 🙂


Sarah J Cuff, RHN

PS. Check out this week’s Runner of the Week here. We get an inside look at how long-time runner Barbara Ann Kisiloski fuels her running and why she is convinced eating to run is the way to go. Click here to read more…

Comments 10

  1. We are big time cherry eaters when they are in season. As soon as I get home with a big bag, I get out the pitter, a bowl, and a shallow freezer safe container. I pit them all and put half in a bowl for snacking and the other half in the freezer for smoothies or- as the season grinds to a halt- baked goods for coming months.

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  2. I feel like I always overspend on cherries, but it’s worth it. Here in OR, we also get Ranier cherries which I just absolutely love (of course they are generally even pricier than the standard variety!). But they are beautiful and delicious.

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      Yes, so worth it, I couldn’t agree more! Besides, the season is short-lived right, so it’s just temporary overspending, right 😉 Mmmm, I think OR must send some up to BC, pretty sure I’ve had those before!

  3. It’s actually a nice and helpful piece of info. I’m
    happy that you shared this useful info with us. Please stay us up to date like this.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  4. I’ve never tried tart cherry juice, but I will now! As to the 10 hours sleep for athletes, I’ll have to work on that. . . 🙂

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      Hi Julie… You will love tart cherry juice, I’m sure – I think I might be addicted 😉

      As for 10 hours of sleep, I can attest to the fact that 4 hours of sleep does not work well at all, 6 hours of sleep isn’t much better!! I’m with you, I have yet to get a good solid 10 hours of sleep per night but judging how insanely a loss of just 2 hours affected me, I can only imagine how great an additional 2 hours might be!!

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      I’m so with you Wendy!! And I think hubby is too – while I was away this weekend, he went to the market all by himself and bought a huge bag of cherries (and lots of other amazing farm fresh foods)!! Love this season 🙂

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