As athletes, there is really no way of avoiding the aches and pains we feel after a tough workout or race. Unfortunately, a fairly common practice is to pop a couple ibuprofen, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) before a race or particularly intense workout session to reduce muscle and joint soreness both during and after exercise. Many studies have shown that this practice is at best ineffective, and at worst a cause of gastrointestinal distress and possible bleeding. While NSAIDs don’t prevent the usual muscle breakdown and damage from occurring, they do reduce the body’s perception of the damage, possibly masking warning signs signalling the onset of an injury.
After reading several articles about the anti-inflammatory properties of tart cherry juice and the powerful anthocyanins contained within I decided to try it out during racing season. It certainly was not a hardship as the cherries used in the juice are the same ones found in real cherry pie (not the canned filling crap!), and it tastes awesome. Just like pie without all the added sugar. I don’t remember exactly how long it took me to notice the effects, but it was not long, and it was very noticeable. Muscle soreness in the days following races and intense training sessions has virtually disappeared. Even the soreness I feel after a significant episode of muscle cramping fades much faster than the several days it used to take while I diligently massaged the offending muscle trying to make it feel normal again. There is also growing evidence that tart cherries can improve your sleep due to high levels of melatonin.
The downside is that it is not particularly easy to find. Every grocery store seems to offer black cherry juice, but not tart or montmorency cherry juice. After months of stocking up at Whole Foods every time I had a work trip to the US, I finally found a local company that actually makes a product which is far superior to anything I’ve found in my travels down south. Black River Juice Company in Mississauga makes the best tasting cherry juice I’ve tasted, and as a bonus its made from local Ontario cherries, and not concentrate. I stumbled across it in a small health food store in Milton, but I contacted the company and they informed me that their products are also sold in Longos, Highland Farms, as well as smaller health food stores. Better tasting, and more affordable than ibuprofen, and without any risk of unpleasant GI tract bleeding! Try it out and train harder, go longer, recover faster and feel better!