Recovery has become a buzz word in the world of performance nutrition. Being able to help an athlete recover effectively wards off injury and illness, improves performance the next day and assists with favorable body composition changes. However, there is so much confusion about what should be eaten in that post-workout time (meaning ideally in the first 30 minutes after a workout). One relatively new player in the post-workout world is making a huge splash: tart cherry juice. Collegiate programs have used this secret weapon for years to help athletes recover. Here's how you can get in on the action.
Tart cherry juice has a huge amount of positive research to support its use for decreasing inflammation in the muscle. This is because cherries contain a class of vitamins and other nutrients called antioxidants. When in juice form, the athlete can ingest a large number of antioxidants in a short period of time. This helps those muscles repair after a hard workout and buffers up the immune system daily.
Many athletes simply add 100 percent tart cherry juice or cherry juice concentrate to their post-workout beverages to reap the benefits. However, some athletes will drink the juice or concentrate up to 2 times a day for general inflammation relief. Typically this applies to athletes training a high number of miles or time, such as ultra-distance triathletes.
As mentioned above, drink 4-6 ounces of juice immediately following a workout and up to one other time each day (if applicable). If using the concentrate, mix 2 tablespoons right into your post-workout drink, mix into smoothies or reconstitute with water to drink one to two times a day. My favorite is to mix the concentrate into low-fat chocolate milk — delicious! While you could probably substitute fresh or dried cherries for a benefit, there isn't as much research for these forms.
There is no one brand that shines over another, the key is to find a brand available in your area that is 100 percent tart cherry juice (no other berries or juices mixed in). You can also easily find concentrate available online.
Kate is the owner of RDKate Sports Nutrition Consulting, based out of Naperville, Illinois, where she offers expertise in sports nutrition, eating disorders/disordered eating, intuitive eating and weight management for sport. Katie holds a master’s degree in nutrition with an emphasis in exercise physiology. She is both a registered dietitian and one of only 550 RDs in the United States to be board-certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. As a runner, triathlete, snowboarder and rock climber, Katie understands the physical and mental challenges of being a top athlete. Katie has previously consulted with NCAA Division I and Division III, NFL and NBA athletes; she truly brings both her knowledge and experience to the table as sports dietitian. Katie is available for individual consulting, team talks and group seminars. Visit her website at RDKate.com; from there you can navigate to her weekly blog, Eat to Compete, and connect with her on Twitter or Facebook. Contact her directly at YourRDKate@gmail.com.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.