The Latest on Tart Cherries, Omega-3s and Beer

sarah cuff Ergogenic Aids, Food Trends, Run Recovery, Running Performance Leave a Comment

One of my favourite places to find the latest on sports nutrition research is the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (JISSN). Today I thought I’d do a quick roundup of studies published recently that either provide further confirmations on the benefits of foods I’ve been advocating for a while now; or offer a new nutritional insight in general.

1. Tart Cherries Continue to be Proven a Valuable Superfood for Runners

tartcherryjuiceA study published May 2015 looked at the influence of tart cherry juice on exercise-induced stress and upper respiratory tract symptoms following marathon running. It provides encouraging evidence that tart cherries (specifically, montmorency cherries – a variety of tart cherry) are useful in reducing the development of upper respiratory tract symptoms that are typically common post-marathon. So we can add reduction of post-run cough, sore throat, watery eyes, nasal congestion and sneezing to the growing list of benefits tart cherry juice offers runners, which already includes faster recovery, reduced muscle soreness and better sleep.

Twenty marathon runners were given either tart cherry juice mixed with apple juice twice per day to equal a total amount of 100-120 whole cherries daily. The placebo group was given a blend that tasted and looked similar to the tart cherry apple blend but lacking the phytonutrient content that makes tart cherries unique. The runners consumed their respective beverages for 5 days prior to the marathon and 2 days afterwards. Those that drank the tart cherry juice experienced zero upper respiratory tract symptoms and the authors hypothesize the usefulness of tart cherry juice in those with asthma, allergic rhinitis and exercise induced bronco constriction.

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids as an Ergogenic Aid in Athletes

Yet another reason omega-3 fatty acids are of such great value to the athlete. A study published June 2015 examined whether or not omega-3 fatty acids can act as an ergogenic aid (providing short term exercise enhancement). We already know that omega-3s are extremely important and provide strong anti-inflammatory benefits including improved ability to respond to injury, prevention of joint, tendon and ligament strains, hastened healing from injury, increased long-term improvements in strength and endurance, and improved release of growth hormone in response to sleep and exercise.

Now there is evidence that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation enhances the neuromuscular function and physical performance in well-trained athletes. Thirty male athletes were put through various strength training exercises, then half the group was given a placebo (olive oil) and the other half given an omega-3 fatty acid supplementation (which contained 5000mg omega-3s including 375mg EPA and 510mg DHA). After 21 days of supplementation, the athletes returned for retesting. Those in the omega-3 group were found to have increased muscle activation and experienced less fatigue than those who had received the olive oil placebo.

3. Beer Consumption a Plausible Rehydration Strategy for Runners

This study published June 2015beer suggests that drinking up to 660mL of beer (i.e. 2 beers) after exercising intensely in the heat and sweating considerabley doesn’t interfere with rehydration in active individuals. Sixteen physically active men ran for an average of 54 minutes in a dehydrating, hot humid environment (~35°C and 60% humidity) on two separate occasions, 3 weeks apart. Following each run they were given 2 hours to rehydrate. After one run, they rehydrated with water alone; after the second run they rehydrated with a moderate amount of beer (up to 660mL) plus water as desired – in both cases drinking voluntarily until they were no longer thirsty (every single participant voluntarily drank all of the 2 beers they were allotted).

Sufficient rehydration levels are considered attained by consuming 1.2 to 1.5 times ones weight lost in sweat (ACSM guidelines). The individuals in this study voluntarily consumed approximately 80% of their bodyweight lost in sweat in both the water alone strategy as well as the beer plus water scenario, suggesting two things. One, that beer doesn’t affect rehydration status; and two, that 2 hours is not enough time to fully rehydrate.

The study also presented findings to suggest that that moderate beer intake (up to 2 beers / 660mL) plus water does not influence the normal recovery of several indicators of physiological stress and inflammation compared with a rehydration with water alone in participants dehydrated after exercise in the heat.

That said, there is a tipping point – and tartcherryshakeit’s been shown that excessive alcohol intake floods the body with amounts of ethanol that are inflammatory and disruptive to the recovery process.

My advice? If you enjoy a post-run beer, then have your Cherry Berry Recovery Shake the minute you’re done running (to supply carbs and protein which kickstart the refilling of glycogen stores, blunt cortisol, mediate inflammation and begin muscle repair). And then turn to drinking 1-2 beers plus water to reach optimal rehydration levels.

So keep reaching for that tart cherry juice (at least ½ cup per day, double or triple that amount if you’ve got an important race approaching or require faster recovery), eat lots of omega-3 rich foods such as hemp hearts, chia seeds and wild salmon (and supplement with a high-quality omega-3 oil such as Nordic Naturals Omega-3, Ultimate Omega or Algae Omega when necessary), and go ahead and enjoy those post-runs beers if you wish.

To good eats and strong (trouble-free) running… Cheers,


Sarah J Cuff, RHN

ImagePS. Have you ever thought about running 30 miles (50km) at one time? How about running 30 miles every day for 6 days in a row? That’s exactly the challenge Tracy Killion took on to raise money for MS – and in order to run each of those 6 days as strongly as possible she hired me to create a 6-day meal plan for her. Of her plan, she said, “The menu and meals were PERFECT!!!! Your knowledge and precision kept me running strong! Each day got easier in fact! Aside from some wear and tear on my feet, my body held up really well!  I truly attribute that to EATING TO RUN! 🙂 Thanks for helping to get me to the finish line strong and healthy!” To read more on Tracy’s experiences with eating to run, click here!


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