The health benefits of tart cherry juice are many including helping to reduce joint pain and facilitating a good night’s sleep!
Last fall I decided to transition from exercising for general fitness into training as a professional athlete. Kettlebell is a Russian sport that requires a feat of strength as well as endurance. Actually, after seeing the training schedule, it took me three months to get the nerve to begin.
I soon found training at age 50 was no easy task. In fact, the training was crushing me.
I had to reduce my workouts by 2/3 and it soon became clear that I was in need of nutrient dense foods to come to the rescue. Specifically, I needed to increase my flexibility, protect my joints, and recover faster from intense training.
After training for seven months, I had tried multiple programming variations, but was very frustrated with my progress. My nutritionist even advised me to go back to general fitness, because of the intensity of the training.
After researching and testing various nutrient dense foods, I found that I experienced amazing results with tart cherry juice.
Tart cherry juice is known for helping with gout and painful joints in general, but it does much more than that! Those sweet little tarts pack a punch of nutrition for the athlete too!
Why Tart Cherry Juice for Athletes?
Healthy joints aided by tart cherry juice
As we age, our ligaments, cartilages and muscles lose their elastic properties. I often quote my friend who was a professional baseball player for 13 years, “You’re only as strong as you are flexible.”
Most injuries occur in the connective tissue, so healthy and flexible joints is a must. Tart cherry juice delivers nutrients our joints need to stay lubricated and smooth. They also flush out the uric acid which makes them stiff and painful.
Tart cherries contain two powerful compounds, anthocyanins and biolflavonoids. Both of these compounds slow down the enzymes Cyclo-oxygenase-1 and -2, which helps relieve and prevent arthritis and gout.
Tart cherry juice is very high in antioxidants (slows aging)
Oxidative stress is death to muscles. The accumulated oxidative damage in your muscle leads to 3 detrimental changes:
- Loss of mitochondria. Mitochondria is the energy chamber of your cell. The consequences include a lower threshold for exercise and accelerated aging.
- Loss of fast muscle nerves. Your muscle becomes like an engine without the ignition. It means a loss of capacity for intense physical exercise.
- Loss of fast muscle fibers. Fast muscle fibers generate 3x more energy than slow fibers. They are key to keeping your physique strong and metabolic rate intact. The deterioration of fast muscle fibers causes our muscles to waste.
Tart cherry juice is a rich source of antioxidents. In fact, tart cherry juice has the highest ORAC antioxidant level of tested fruits and vegetables.
Tart cherry juice contains melatonin to help improve sleep
Dr. Mercola calls melatonin the “Superhero of the night”. Melatonin helps us get to sleep faster and stay asleep. It balances our body’s natural circadian rhythms so that our sleep is more restful. This is important because our body heals at night. We literally get stronger as we sleep. The ability to recover is one of the most neglected aspects of training.
Good quality sleep is so critical to health and often undervalued as a foundational necessity for everything else biological. Can you imagine how much all other health and fitness challenges would improve or even completely resolve if a shot of tart cherry juice each evening just improved sleep alone?
Tart cherry juice reduces inflammation
There is a known relationship between inflammation and muscle growth. Acute inflammation after exercise allows for repair and we make strength gains. However, the inflammatory response must be actively terminated when no longer needed, in order to prevent unnecessary “bystander” damage to tissues. Chronic low-grade inflammation on the other hand has the opposite affect on the body. It is catabolic, meaning it causes our muscles to atrophy. Tart cherry juice contains anthocyanin, which helps stave off inflammation.
How Did Tart Cherry Juice Work for Me?
I began taking ½ to 1 teaspoon tart cherry juice as a concentrate at bedtime. At first, I noticed that I slept very soundly, and some of the swelling in my finger joints was noticeably reduced. Other than that, I didn’t notice anything measurable for about three weeks.
Then came an excellent opportunity to test my flexibility. I take Krav Maga martial arts with my son. After 6 months of training, my round kick was still pitiful. There just aren’t many movements in civilian life that replicate the round kick… maybe none.
I could do any punch or kick at full force, except the round kick. I would have to cautiously rotate and kick the pad in an uncoordinated motion.
This time, we partnered up for round kick practice. My first kick was intentionally very soft, but felt amazingly controlled and coordinated. I gave more power on my second, a little more on the third, and decided to go full force on my fourth. I gave full force for another ten. After several sets, I had done 60-75 full force round kicks! It was quite entertaining to be knocking back a sturdy 15 yr old, and hear my son say, “That’s my mom!”
Later, I began to thoughtfully process, what had changed. What did I do different, that I could make that kind of progress? Ahhh…. the only thing that had changed was the tart cherry juice concentrate.
I have a saying at my gym. “It’s easy to train hard. It’s hard to train smart.” Crushing yourself at the gym leads to injuries. Other things lead to injury as well, like not giving your body the building blocks it needs for recovery and strength.
How to Source the Best Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherries don’t ship well, so the most cost effective approach may be a tart cherry juice concentrate like what I use.
You can find tart cherry juice concentrate online (sources), or a local health food store should be able to order it for you.
Quality tart cherry juice is organic, unpasteurized (raw) with no added sugars, additives or high fructose corn syrup!
Also, look for a nonGMO label. While tart cherries themselves are nonGMO, many additives in prepared foods are, hence the recommendation to opt for the purest and most unrefined tart cherry juice possible.
As my coach, Jeff Martone, says, “Train hard. Train safe.”