Astute Nerd Herders may notice that I’m having a major romance with the new Beachbody Performance (BBP) line of supplements, mostly because
the nutty professor lookalikes Beachbody’s R&D team allowed me to play lab rat with their formulations for months leading up the launch, causing my cycling performance to explode.
But I’ve never been one to simply “drink the Kool-Aid” when it comes to supplements. (Admittedly, evoking the Jamestown Massacre when discussing my employer’s beverage products probably isn’t the savviest job security move. I can, however, assure you that potassium cyanide is not an ingredient in any of the BBP sups. I mean, I’m, like, 99.9% sure.)
Anyway, I’m not content just to take sups on blind faith, so I’ve been breaking down the line into its individual components to really see how it all works, much to the consternation of the R&D staff, who now spend countless hours being asked “Why? Why? Why?” by this skinny, overgrown 4-year-old and wishing they’d put that potassium cyanide in the early formulation they fed me after all.
My most recent investigation has been into tart cherry extract (Montmorency cherries, if you’re keeping score), which you’ll find in Recharge, the BBP bedtime casein supplement. It’s pretty neat stuff, largely for the anti-inflammatory properties that have been backed by several studies. Back in 2010, a study out of Newcastle, England showed that tart cherry juice reduced muscle damage, inflammation, and oxidative stress in runners when consumed for five days leading up to a marathon. And a new study out of London shows it may also reduce upper respiratory tract infections in runners post-marathon.
Currently, most athletes look to rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to fight inflammation. While naps and icepacks will always have a place close to my heart (and my knees), ibuprofen and other NSAIDs freak me out a little considering the growing list of issues they’ve been linked to, including heart attacks and strokes. NSAIDs have their place for pain management, but when it comes to exercise-induced inflammation, researchers are looking for healthier, more natural alternatives and tart cherry tops the list.
Another cool thing about tart cherry is that it contains melatonin, a hormone in humans that regulates sleep cycles and promotes restfulness. A number of studies have shown tart cherry to positively impact melatonin levels and/or sleep quality.
You’ll notice that I’m not playing my usual “tear the research apart” game. The reason for this is that
I work for a company that sells the stuff when you look at the PubMed links above, for every study, there are five more studies listed on the right backing it up.
Most of the research shows results with 12 to 16 ounces of juice daily. While that’s fine for athletes, especially endurance athletes constantly looking to restore glycogen, it’s a crap-load of unregulated sugar for most people, especially if they’re trying to lose weight. With this in mind, if you really want to experiment with isolated tart cherry (as opposed to having it in a broader supplement like Recharge), you might consider an extract in pill form. But if you to take the tasty beverage route, just be careful of processing, especially if it’s from concentrate, because heating can destroy the phytonutrient anthocyanins within which are thought to be where all that anti-inflammation is coming from. (Trader Joe’s sells tart cherry juice that’s not from concentrate.)
I do not, however, recommend cherry Kool-Aid under any circumstance.