Tart Cherry Juice Benefits for Runners

After hearing it mentioned by several registered dieticians I have interviewed like Megan Robinson and Amy Stephens, I finally took notice of tart cherry juice benefits for runners. They had mentioned drinking tart cherry juice as part of their marathon taper plan—to increase carb intake and reduce inflammation.

There are many benefits of tart cherry juice for runners.

But how could tart cherry juice have benefits for runners? It has so much sugar! I decided to investigate and dive into the research. After all, as runners, we are always looking for ways to improve performance and reduce recovery time. What if the answer is as simple as drinking a glass of delicious tart cherry juice? After doing research, I have decided that tart cherry juice is a must for most runners.

In this article, I answer:

  • What is tart cherry juice?
  • Is tart cherry juice good for runners, and why?
  • Should you be concerned about the sugar in tart cherry juice?
  • The benefits of tart cherry juice for runners
  • A guide to tart cherry juice for runners

So, let’s roll!

Related: How to Taper for a Marathon

What is tart cherry juice? 

Tart cherry juice is juice from the Montmorency cherry. Montmorency cherries have a tart and sour flavor, and a bright red color even after harvesting. 

Montmorency cherries are different from black cherries, another popular cherry variety that has a sweet taste, and a dark red color. Black cherries are the ones that you will find most commonly in the produce section of your grocery store. 

Both Montmorency (tart) cherries and black cherries are full of antioxidants and have health benefits, however, tart cherries have health benefits specific to runners.

Related: The Top 12 Supplements for Runners

Is cherry juice good for running?

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Yes, tart cherry juice is good for running. By adding tart cherry juice to your diet you may experience an improvement in performance, better sleep, and less pain and stiffness after a race or workout. 

Does tart cherry juice help runners?

Yes, tart cherry juice will help runners. Runners who add tart cherry juice to their diet may notice enhanced athletic performance and faster muscle recovery after a hard workout or an endurance event. 

Why is cherry juice good for runners?

Some endurance athletes use NSAIDs during competition to prevent or reduce pain, which carries the risk of adverse effects. Tart cherries, rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, may have a protective effect to reduce muscle damage and pain during strenuous exercise. Thus, reducing the need for these medications. 

Related: How to Tell if a Supplement is Good Quality?

4 Benefits of Tart Cherry Juice for Runners

  1. Reduced Inflammation

Consuming tart cherry juice can help to reduce inflammation in your joints and make it easier and less painful to train. Tart cherries contain a large quantity of anthocyanin, an antioxidant that is similar to what you find in non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications or NSAIDs. 

Adding tart cherry juice to your diet can reduce your need for medications and make training more enjoyable. In fact, in this study London Marathon runners were given either tart cherry juice or a placebo in the five days prior to the race and for 48 hours after the race. The participants who received the tart cherry juice had better isometric muscle recovery and significantly less inflammation than the placebo group after the marathon. 

  1. Strengthened Immunity

As you probably know, training hard, and the race itself can take a toll on your immune system. You may find yourself feeling unwell or catching a cold or other viral illness afterward because your immune system is suppressed from all of the activity. 

Consuming tart cherry juice in the days prior to and following a race can help to boost your immune system by reducing oxidative stress, and preventing you from getting sick. Tart cherry juice contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant known to boost the immune system. Copper, vitamin C, and melatonin are also prominent in tart cherry juice and have immune-boosting qualities. 

(Combine tart cherry juice with Previnex Immune HEALTH supplement for a super robust immune system. Save 15% with code TMR15.

Related: Healthy Habits to Avoid Getting Sick

  1. Decreased Muscle Pain

Endurance exercises like running can cause micro-tears in your muscle tissue on a cellular level. These tiny tears can cause discomfort during and after your workout and may take days to stop completely. One of the benefits of tart cherry juice is decreased muscle pain.

Tart cherry juice benefits include helping recovery and performance.

In this study, researchers found that runners in the Oregon Hood to Coast race (running over two mountains with plenty of opportunities for muscle damage) participants who consumed cherry juice prior to and for 48 hours after the race had less pain than the participants who were given the placebo. This research found that drinking tart cherry juice after running a marathon helped boost recovery.

Related: 9 Steps to Return to Running After Injury

  1. Better Sleep

As an athlete, you know that good quality sleep is an important part of the recovery and training process. Tart cherry juice can help you sleep better and get the quality of sleep you need to train, recover, and perform your best. 

Tart cherry juice helps you sleep because it contains tryptophan, a naturally occurring form of melatonin, a chemical that your brain needs for great sleep. How much tart cherry juice helps you sleep? Drink one ounce of concentrated tart cherry juice diluted with 5 to 6 ounces of water half an hour before bedtime and sleep like a baby! 

Related: The Importance of Sleep for Running Injury Prevention

Additional Health Benefits of Tart Cherry Juice for Athletes & Others

Tart cherry juice is not just for runners and endurance athletes. It has a myriad of other health benefits that are good for everyone.

  • Tart cherry juice has been shown to reduce blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels as you can see in this study. 
  • Tart cherry juice can lower blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics and even stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin.
  • Additionally, tart cherry juice can improve memory, and promote brain health. 
  • Tart cherry juice also contains several cancer-fighting compounds that limit cancer cell reproduction. There are ongoing studies to see if the addition of tart cherry juice to the diet can treat and even prevent colon cancer. 

Related: How I Stopped Being an Injury Prone Runner

How much tart cherry juice to drink a day?

The amount of tart cherry juice that you should drink per day will depend on the cherry juice that you are drinking. If you are drinking tart cherry juice concentrate, you typically combine one ounce of the concentrate with 5 to 6 ounces of water. Drink this twice a day.

If the cherry juice is not concentrated, the serving size is typically eight to twelve ounces of tart cherry juice twice per day. You can also take the tart cherry juice in supplement form, in this case, follow the recommended serving size on the supplements. 

Related: How to Get Faster as a Master’s Runner

How often should I drink tart cherry juice?

You can drink tart cherry juice every day if you want to. Some people prefer to only use it in the five to seven days leading up to a race, and during the recovery period after the race is over, two to three days.  

Others choose to have tart cherry juice daily either in juice or supplement form. There are many health benefits to tart cherry juice outside of those for runners and athletes and it is perfectly safe to take it daily. 

Related: Can Taking Collagen Prevent Injuries?

Is tart cherry juice high in sugar? (and should that be a concern)

Tart cherry juice has lots of sugar but also lots of benefits for runners.

When choosing your tart cherry juice you do need to check the sugar content in your brand. Because tart cherry juice is sour and tart, many brands add sugar to make it sweeter and more palatable. 

If you are watching sugar intake, hidden sugars like those in juices and other beverages, can wreak havoc with your nutrition plan. Be sure to check the sugar content before you buy it. You can find tart cherry juice with no added sugars, so just make sure to read your labels. 

Tart Cherry Juice for Runners Guide

If you want to add tart cherry juice to your training routine there are a few different ways that you can do so. Most of the studies that have been done with tart cherry juice have had the participants drink it. 

If you are using tart cherry juice concentrate, use one ounce of cherry juice to five to six ounces of water and drink it twice per day. If you are using diluted tart cherry juice, drink one eight-ounce bottle twice per day. Many athletes prefer the eight-ounce bottles for convenience, as you can just grab one and go.

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If you don’t like the taste of tart cherries you can still get the benefits of this amazing fruit by taking them in capsule or gummy form. You can also add tart cherry juice to a smoothie or protein drink to mask the sour flavor.

It doesn’t matter what time of day you take tart cherry juice, just take it when it is convenient for you. However, you may want to take some shortly before bedtime for more restful sleep. 

If you don’t plan to take tart cherry juice as part of your daily routine, you should begin taking it 5 to 7 days before a race. Continue to take it for at least 48 to 72 hours after the event to promote the healing and regeneration of your muscles and cells. 

Related: 18 Healthy Meal Ideas for Runners

Tart Cherry Juice Warnings

Tart cherry juice is generally considered safe for everyone. However, if you have a health condition like diabetes, you will need to check the sugar content of the tart cherry juice before consuming it. You may also need to monitor your blood sugar more frequently when introducing tart cherry juice to your diet, particularly if you are on medications or insulin to lower your blood sugar. 

You may also have some issues with the sour taste if you have a sensitive stomach. If this is a problem for you, you may find that tart cherry capsules are the better choice for you. You reap the benefits of the tart cherries regardless of how you consume them, be it juice, capsules, or in whole fruit form. 

If you are looking to improve your endurance, shorten your recovery time, or prevent inflammation as a runner or endurance athlete then you should definitely consider adding tart cherry juice to your diet or supplements.

There are many benefits to this wonderful fruit and its juice, and scientists and physicians are continuing to study it to see how it might best be used for runners and others. 

If you want guidance with your running goals, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:

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