Cherries are known for their antioxidant properties and vitamin content but over the last decade, professional athletes have started to use them in their nutrition programmes.
Premiership football teams, top rugby union teams and professional cyclists are among those to have exploited the potential benefits, as well as NFL and NBA stars across the Atlantic.
That’s because scientific research has emerged showing that consuming the Montmorency tart cherry in juice, powder or tablet form can improve recovery.
Making the Montmorency cherry - the most common cherry found in the United States but a little less common in the UK - a regular feature in the diet has been shown to reduce muscle soreness, assist in recovery from injury, and positively influence performance in resistance and power exercises.
And now, a comprehensive research paper released by Northumbria University and St Mary’s University released in February 2021 reviewed 14 studies in a bid to reveal a fuller picture of the impact cherries can have in sport.
They concluded that supplementing with Montmorency tart cherries once or twice per day does have a beneficial effect on the recovery of muscular strength and on muscle soreness after exercise.
Those findings, coupled with evidence that the red fruit can improve sleep quality and immunity too, will serve as positive reinforcement for all athletes who have incorporated cherries into their diet.
Professor Glyn Howatson, a lead author on the study, said: “In previous studies, we found tart cherries to have significant benefits on recovery after strenuous exercise involving runners, cyclists and team sports players. However, there are some inconsistencies in the scientific literature, and therefore we wanted to clarify the effectiveness and identify the factors most affected by tart cherry supplementation.
“Although the overall picture shows a positive response, the variations in the response to tart cherries in some published studies are likely due to the differences in study design, dietary control, the study participants and the type of exercise. For instance, tart cherry products seem to be more beneficial for exercise that is more metabolically challenging.”
While Montmorency tart cherries, which have been used in almost all of the studies, aren’t always easy to find fresh in the UK, they are widely available dried, as concentrated juices, or in tablet form.