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How Cherries Can Improve Your Workout

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Whether you're looking to run the Houston Marathon next January or just get back to the gym before swimsuit season, new research suggests that incorporating a tiny, little, red fruit into your workout routine could prove highly beneficial.

Aside from being associated with lowering uric acid related to gout, alleviating the symptoms of fibromyalgia, establishing healthy sleep patterns (cherries are a rich source of melatonin), and containing at least 17 antioxidants to boost immune function, cherries have long been thought to contain nutrients that support healthy muscles and joints. Recently scientists at the Sports and Exercise Science Research Center at London South Bank University decided to test this theory by studying the effects of cherries on athletes.

Ten trained athletes were given one ounce of tart cherry juice concentrate (CherryActive) twice daily for seven days prior to and two days after an intense round of strength training - and then the process was repeated without the cherry supplement. What they found? The cherry concentrate significantly improved recovery time after workouts. A press release on the subject stated, "Athletes returned to 90 percent of normal muscle force at 24 hours, compared to only 85 percent of normal at the same time point without cherry juice - a significant difference that could affect an athlete's next bout of performance. Researchers suggest that the powerful antioxidant compounds in cherry juice likely decreased oxidative damage to the athletes' muscles - the damage that normally occurs when muscles are worked to their max - allowing the muscles to recover more quickly."

Great. Sounds delish. Everything but the "intense round of strength training," right? Well, apparently cherry juice is great for slackers too, having shown benefits for those of us with diets lacking in fruit and vegetables (which is, let's face it, is most of us). In 2008 London's Daily Mail reported that a single glass of cherry juice contained the nutrient equivalent of 23 servings of fruit and vegetables. However, the study also revealed that all cherries are not created equal. The Montmorency Tart Cherry used in the study (grown in the US) had five times the antioxidant levels of the variety normal found on shelves in the UK.

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