By TAP Integrative

Muscle damage can occur after exercise, especially when the exercise involves muscles that aren’t accustomed to being exercised. This phenomenon is called exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD), and it leads to soreness, loss of strength, and leakage of intracellular proteins into the bloodstream. The inflammation that occurs as a result of this exercise-induced damage can then cause even further harm to the muscles.

One natural way of supporting muscles in their recovery from exercise is by using antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Cherries, which contain the pigment anthocyanin and other phenolic compounds, may provide just those benefits. Much research has been conducted to determine how tart cherries can affect EIMD.

In 2015, the journal Nutrición Hospitalaria published a review that looked at studies conducted on tart cherries’ use in attenuating EIMD. To identify articles on the topic, these authors performed a search in the PubMed database. After reviewing the results of those studies, the authors concluded that consuming tart cherries daily improves EIMD symptoms after bouts of intense exercise, leading to faster exercise recovery. The reason? The anthocyanins and other phenols in tart cherries combat inflammation and free radical damage, both of which contribute to EIMD. Of note, the anthocyanins in tart cherries scavenge nitric oxide (NO) which is a free radical produced by macrophages that, when present in high concentrations, causes vasodilation and membrane damage. The anthocyanins also inhibit cyclooxygenase (COX) activity and reduce TNF-a production.

In all the studies showing accelerated recovery, the form of tart cherry used was Montmorency tart cherry (Prunus cerasus L.) juice. The authors note that more research is needed to determine the optimal dosage and timing of ingestion of the tart cherry juice.

Other research-backed ways of preventing or relieving EIMD include increasing the temperature of the muscles, performing maximal isometric contractions, improving flexibility, and undergoing therapeutic massage.


Rabello de Lima LC, de Oliveira Assumpção C, Prestes J, Denadai BS. Consumption of cherries as a strategy to attenuate exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammation in humans. Nutr Hosp. 2015;32(5):1885-1893.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.