Background: The purpose of this study was to determine whether short-term supplementation of a powdered tart cherry supplement prior to and following stressful endurance exercise would affect markers of muscle damage, inflammation, oxidative stress, and/or muscle soreness.
Methods: 27 endurance-trained runners or triathlete (21.8 ± 3.9 years, 15.0 ± 6.0 % body fat, 67.4 ± 11.8 kg) men (n = 18) and women (n = 9) were matched based on average reported race pace, age, body mass, and fat free mass. Subjects were randomly assigned to ingest, in a double-blind manner, capsules containing 480 mg of a rice flour placebo (P, n = 16) or powdered tart cherries [CherryPURE®] (TC, n = 11). Subjects supplemented one time daily (480 mg/day) for 10-d, including race day, up to 48-hr post-run. Subjects completed a half-marathon run (21.1 km) under 2-hr (111.98 ± 11.9 min). Fasting blood samples and quadriceps muscle soreness ratings using an algometer with a graphic pain rating scale were taken pre-run, 60-min, 24 and 48-h post-run and analyzed by MANOVA with repeated measures.
Results: Subjects in the TC group averaged 13 % faster half-marathon race finish times (p = 0.001) and tended to have smaller deviations from predicted race pace (p = 0.091) compared to P. Attenuations in TC muscle catabolic markers were reported over time for creatinine (p = 0.047), urea/blood urea nitrogen (p = 0.048), total protein (p = 0.081), and cortisol (p = 0.016) compared to P. Despite lower antioxidant activity pre-run in TC compared to P, changes from pre-run levels revealed a linear increase in antioxidant activity at 24 and 48-h of recovery in TC that was statistically different (16-39 %) from P and pre-run levels. Inflammatory markers were 47 % lower in TC compared to P over time (p = 0.053) coupled with a significant difference between groups (p = 0.017). Soreness perception between the groups was different over time in the medial quadriceps (p = 0.035) with 34 % lower pre-run soreness in TC compared to P. Over the 48-h recovery period, P changes in medial quadriceps soreness from pre-run measures were smaller compared to TC.
Conclusion: Results revealed that short-term supplementation of Montmorency powdered tart cherries surrounding an endurance challenge attenuated markers of muscle catabolism, reduced immune and inflammatory stress, better maintained redox balance, and increased performance in aerobically trained individuals.
Keywords: Anti-inflammatory; Antioxidants; Muscle damage; Recovery.