When new studies are published that reinforce what I’ve been recommending for a while, I must admit I always get excited… Especially when the roundup involves tart cherry. You and I both know there’s no one singular magic formula for recovering faster and feeling less pain post-run… But if there WAS, I swear it’d be tart cherry juice. I’ve seen it labelled as nothing but a fad, but I’ve got a feeling it’s here to stay. Let’s start with it then, shall we?!
This study, published November 2015 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, adds to the 50+ studies already showing tart cherry to be an effective method of reducing post-workout muscle soreness as well as preventing loss of muscular strength after a tough workout.
The study took 23 physically fit men (yes, I know, only men lol) and utilizing a random double-blind method, 12 received a placebo while the remaining 11 received 480mg CherryPURE® daily for 10 days prior to testing. On the day of testing, participants performed ten sets of back squats lifting a weight equal to 70% of their one rep max. Fasting blood samples, isokinetic MVCs and quadriceps muscle soreness rates were taken just prior to the squats exercise and an hour after the squats as well 24-hours and 48-hours post test.
Researchers found that those who took the tart cherry experienced lower levels of muscle soreness, lost less strength during recovery and experienced less muscle damage than those who had received the placebo.
The capsule of tart cherry powder that the participants took daily is equal to 2 ounces of tart cherry juice concentrate, also equal to 16 ounces (2 cups) of pure tart cherry juice.
Based on this and previous studies, I recommend drinking 1 to 2 cups of tart cherry juice daily (or 1 to 2 ounces of tart cherry juice concentrate) particularly when in heavy training mode or when you have an event you wish to recover from quickly.
I’ll be the first to point out that tart cherry is not inexpensive – however as a whole food that has so far been shown only to have strong positive effects on recovery and inflammation reduction with no negative side effects, I would (and personally do) prioritize it over any sports supplement (such as protein powders, glutamine, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, fish oils, bcaa’s, etc – all of which are also often pricey).
This study, published August 2015 examined the role of vitamin D in sports nutrition and specifically looked at if it can be used as an ergogenic aid to optimize athletic performance.
Researchers hypothesized that vitamin D in amounts greater than normal (4000-5000 IU per day in combination with 50-1000 mcg/day of vitamins K1 and K2) might boost muscular power and function, decrease recovery time, and increase testosterone production. Since all three could potentially have a positive effect on athletic performance, why not maintain higher levels of vitamin D? As it turns out, many of us (56% of athletes) are vitamin D deficient.
This study summarized that vitamin D3 does indeed have potential ergogenic effects on the human metabolic system which can lead to physiological enhancements. However, it cautions the athlete to know their current vitamin D levels, as both deficiency (defined as 12.5 to 50 mnol/L) and excess (more than 125 nmol/L) can have negative side effects, including potential of increased mortality (rather ominous for something that’s supposed to be helping us to run faster!). Therefore, before going out and blindly supplementing with vitamin D, it’s imperative to have ones serum levels checked and then maintain an optimum level of 75 to 100 nmol/L as well as ensure other essential nutrients, especially vitamin K, are being consumed. It’s this balance of nutrient intake and maintenance of optimal levels that is the key to health and performance.
Before turning to supplements, I recommend getting outside on sunny days (without sunscreen, because sunscreen blocks the synthesis of vitamin D) for at least 10-30 minutes midday for optimal health and performance. This is the most natural and effective way to boost your body’s vitamin D levels and receive the countless benefits of having plentiful amounts of vitamin D in the body (plus you don’t need to get your serum levels tested before doing so – it’s nearly impossible to overdoes on vitamin D from the sunshine). Our body stores vitamin D, so for those that live in regions that have seasons with little sunlight, get outside as much as possible in the sunny months to build your vitamin D stores for the winter months.
This study, published October 2015, looked at the ergogenic benefits of Turkish coffee, which is known to be stronger than most coffee. Caffeine is known to create a glycogen sparing effect (increases fatty acid oxidation) through stimulation of the central nervous system. It also increases subjective feelings of energy.
Researchers took 20 active individuals who were regular coffee drinkers (10 males and 10 females) in their 20’s and gave them either Turkish coffee or decaffeinated Turkish coffee (at a rate of 3mg per kg body weight) in a randomized, double-blind, cross-over design. The participants run a 5km time trial one hour after ingesting the coffee or decaf coffee.
Results showed that those who drank the fully caffeinated Turkish coffee had significantly better reaction time and increased subjective feelings of energy. In those deemed ‘responders’ (which was 60% of participants), significantly faster times in the 5km time trial were noted (5% faster).
This study is in agreement with previous studies – that ingesting coffee (specially, caffeine at a rate of 3mg caffeine per kg of bodyweight) 1 hour before exercise will increase energy and focus as well as performance in ‘responders’. For a 150lb athlete, that looks like a triple shot espresso.
So drink up the tart cherry juice, soak up the sunshine every chance you get and utilize coffee before key workouts and races!
To deliciously healthy food and stronger faster running… Cheers,
Sarah J Cuff, RHN
PS. Check out this inspiring story of Tracy Riggins, who came to see me because she needed to stabilize her blood sugar levels and she’d been struggling to keep her iron levels up, plus she’d been dealing with stomach issues while running, as well as chronic knee pain! The first thing Tracy noticed upon putting her Eat2Run plan into action was that she was no longer starving for each meal – just ready to eat – which she found amazing. She then went on to run 3 x 10K races with no stomach problems whatsoever. She literally could not believe how great her stomach felt during the races AND the lack of knee pain afterwards. She also ended up with a huge personal best in the 10K! Click here to read more about the difference ‘eating 2 run’ has made in Tracy’s running and life!