Tart cherries are rich in anthocyanins and phytochemicals that have been linked by previous research to improved post-workout recovery, which in turn leads to improved athletic performance. In the past, this study showed that strength athletes who consumed tart cherry supplement experienced better recovery from intensive strength training, compared to when they took a fruit juice control beverage. A more recent In a study of the effect of tart cherry juice on recovery and next day performance in well-trained Water Polo players the focus was on the benefits of tart cherries specifically for water-based athletes. The results were a little different.
According to the research, tart cherries may not be as effective in water as they are on land.
Nine male water polo athletes participated in the study. They were given either a placebo supplement or tart cherry juice for six days. The researchers subjected them to water-based performance tests before, during, and after the six-day supplementation period. They also collected blood samples before the test, on days one, six, and seven, six days after the test period ended. The blood samples were analyzed for uric acid, C-reactive proteins, interleukin-6, and F2-isoprostane levels—all markers of inflammation.
Throughout the testing period, the athletes kept a daily diet documenting their delayed onset muscle soreness and total quality of recovery, measuring their perception of recovery. On the final day of testing, the athletes played a fatiguing simulated team game.
For both control (placebo) and experimental (cherry juice) groups, interleukin-6 and C-reactive proteins rose significantly in the days following their simulated game. On the other hand, F2-isoprostane levels decreased on the final day of the testing period, while uric acid levels remained unchanged. None of the recovery or performance measures utilized during the test showed any significant differences.
Why is that? Why would tart cherry juice, which has proven so effective for reducing land-based muscle stress prove ineffective with water-based sports?
The researchers have a theory: “The lack of difference observed in the blood markers between groups may reflect the intermittent, non-weight bearing demands of Water Polo, with such activity possibly unable to create a substantial inflammatory response or oxidative stress (over 7 days) to impede performance; thereby negating any potential beneficial effects associated with tart cherry juice supplementation.”
Fascinating. The fact that there is no weight-bearing demand placed on the muscles with water-based sports could indicate a lower inflammatory response in the muscles. Even with fatiguing activities, the water-based sports don’t impede performance enough to require the anthocyanin and phytochemical benefits of tart cherry juice. According to the study, “cherry juice supplementation may not be necessary for water-based non-weight bearing intermittent sports.”