Tart Cherry Juice for Athlete Recovery?

chocolate cherry recovery drink

Chocolate Covered Cherry Recovery Drink

Tart Cherry Juice has become quite popular in the sports nutrition arena for its benefits in sleep and exercise recovery. This recipe blends a powerful antioxidant powerhouse with another powerful recovery tool: protein

  • Prep Time 1 Minutes
  • Serves 1
  • Carbohydates/Protein 34/ 16 grams


  • 8 oz Chocolate Core Power
  • 8oz Tart Cherry Juice


  1. Add all ingredients into a cup and enjoy.


For a Twist, freeze this mixture as ice cubes and blend ingredients together to create a slushy. 

As I dug into the research for recovery from activity and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) I still feel like it’s pretty clear that it is your OVERALL diet (that of course includes foods that promote recovery) that gives you the true competitive edge. Tart Cherry Juice is not a magic bullet. HOWEVER, I also know when it comes to sport sometimes a fraction of a difference what MAKES the difference.

As someone who comes from a “food first” perspective I asked myself, “why can’t tart cherry juice (which is considered a food product and not a supplement, which means it’s regulated by the FDA) be a part of your routine”? After all, tart cherry juice IS 100% juice and an antioxidant powerhouse. 

With that being said, let’s take a closer look. 

What has the research shown?

Tart Cherry Juice has been shown to reduce recovery time in athletes by decreasing pain/muscle soreness, decreasing the time it takes to recover your strength and be ready for the next activity, and reducing overall inflammation (i.e. cellular/muscular damage). This happens related to its high anthocyanin and polyphenol content (1).  As a bonus, it has also been shown to enhance sleep by increasing melatonin levels (2,3,4)! 
Tart Cherry Juice has been around for some time and the research completed on tart cherry juice has been around since the early 2000’s.  Tart cherry juice has been tested in a variety of settings and individuals, with this post focusing mostly on the research completed on athletes. 
While most fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and phytonutrients, tart cherry juice (via the Montmorency variety)  is a popular choice due to its high concentration of anthocyanins and polyphenols in a smaller serving size than other types of produce can offer. 

How much may be effective?

This is still up for debate. As you’ll see below, the studies have a few limitations and one of them is how much and how often.

Most studies provided an intake anywhere from 8-12 ounces if using the juice form (such as Cheribundi) or 1 ounce of the concentrated form (such as Swanson)  twice a day.

As far as timing, there is a phase of “loading” prior to an event (anywhere from 4-7 days prior),  and then continuing to take a few days into recovery for about 2-4 days. There have been few studies to test the limits on timing and amount so we don’t know if we may be able to get by less of a loading/recovery period or if more days pre/post activity would be beneficial.   

What are some limitations of these studies?

As I mentioned before, there are limitations to these studies. This is something I talk about in my nutrition 101 program when it comes to research ESPECIALLY around supplements:

  1. An athlete does not fit a single mold.  There are differences in age, height, weight, sex, sport, and beyond. A lot of research conducted on the athlete population is completed using males in the range of 20-40 years old and most choose to focus only on strength or endurance sports. In this particular review, they did include a range of data including strength and endurance athletes, males and females however the age ranges were typically the same, which means no adolescent aged participants were a part of the research. This means they can’t really come to a solid consensus on what the recommendations for intake and timing are for everyone. In short, what works for a middle-aged male swimmer may not translate to you or your sport. More research is needed for more solid and personalized advice. 
  2.  When it comes to dosing another concern is overloading the body with antioxidants especially during muscle building phases. While it is beneficial to reduce inflammation in many cases, we must also remember that inflammation is also what builds muscle! To date, studies with tart cherry juice specifically did not show that it blunted muscle-building response with use. However, some studies (5,6,7,8) have shown that consuming a megadose of vitamin antioxidant supplements (via pill, not food product) resulted in blunting the muscle-building response to exercise. Again there is no conclusion as to whether or not tart cherry juice is recommended in all phases of training or if it should just be during peak in-season where recovery is the main goal.  
  3. Research is typically done for a short period of time. This means we only know how it affects you in the short term and not how well it performs over time. 

What else is important for inflammation and post-workout recovery?

Oh, I am so glad you asked!  While tart cherry juice can be a nice addition to your recovery, there are a few things that you should prioritize in your recovery process. An easy way to remember is to think of REcovery: replenish, repair, rehydrate, rest. 

1- REplenish & REpair: consume a Carbohydrate and Protein snack within a half hour (or sooner!) of activity. 

2- REhydrate whether it’s included a part of your post-workout snack (such as chocolate milk) or added to it, rehydrating is another step to get you ready for the next game or day of activity especially if you are a heavy sweater. 

3-Continue to REplenish& REpair: consume a full meal around 2 hours post-activity that includes protein, carbohydrate, color, and healthy fats! 

Adding colorful fruits and vegetables also contain inflammation-fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients and certain ones (such as dark leafy greens and beets) contain nitrates which may also improve recovery. 

Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, and mackerel contain healthy fats (omega-3’s) as well as Vitamin D. This not only fills your healthy fat needs for the day but can also help with inflammation and recovery.

4-REst. I once read that if you are getting up at 4:30am to get your work out in (or perhaps staying up past midnight in the middle of a weekend tournament) you are stepping over $100 dollar bills to pick up nickels. SLEEP IS A VALUABLE RESOURCE. Ensuring rest is a part of your recovery process cannot be overstated- it’s where your body has the “me time” to continue your recovery process; don’t skip it!  If you’re struggling to get quality sleep, this is another area tart cherry juice can assist with, as it does increase melatonin levels which may enhance your sleep. 

How should I use Tart Cherry Juice?

As I mentioned before, it’s worth giving a try. It is a food product versus a supplement, which is always something I can get behind.  Remember the research is concerned about intake with training adaptations (muscle building), so for now, use tart cherry juice when your main focus is on recovery. So perhaps you are an in-season athlete and/or someone who has peaked in training and looking to recover from activity (such as a tough practice, a game or multiple games, or a weekend tournament). See the current intake suggestions I listed above and give my recipes a try if drinking straight tart cherry juice isn’t for you!


Cherry Limeade

Create a refreshing tart cherry juice drink using the tart cherry juice concentrate.

  • Prep Time 2 Minutes
  • Serves 1 People


  • 1-2 oz. Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate
  • 1 can Sparkling Lime Water
  • Lime Wedge (optional)
  • Frozen or Fresh Cherries (optional)
  • Ice


  1. If using, place berries and lime wedge into a glass and muddle.
  2. Add in tart cherry juice and sparkling lime water.
  3. Add in ice and enjoy.

How do you enjoy tart cherry juice?

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