The aim of this study was to determine the efficacy of tart cherry (TC) supplementation on recovery following strenuous exercise. A systematic review and meta-analysis were conducted using studies investigating TC supplementation on measures of muscle soreness, muscular strength, muscular power, creatine kinase, C-reactive protein, Interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor alpha. A literature search ending in July 2020 was conducted in three databases (SPORTDiscus, Web of Science, and PubMed). Data from 14 studies were extracted and pooled for analysis. Tart cherry supplementation had a small beneficial effect in reducing muscle soreness (effect size [ES] = -0.44, 95% confidence interval [CI] [-0.87, -0.02]). A moderate beneficial effect was observed for recovery of muscular strength (ES = -0.78, 95% CI [-1.11, -0.46]). A moderate effect was observed for muscular power (ES = -0.53, 95% CI [-0.77, -0.29]); a further subgroup analysis on this variable indicated a large effect of TC supplementation on recovery of jump height (ES = -0.82, 95% CI [-1.18, -0.45]) and a small significant effect of supplementation on sprint time (ES = -0.32, 95% CI [-0.60, -0.04]). A small effect was observed for both C-reactive protein (ES = -0.46, 95% CI [-0.93, -0.00]) and Interleukin-6 (ES = -0.35, 95% CI [-0.68, -0.02]. No significant effects were observed for creatine kinase and tumor necrosis factor alpha. These results indicate that the consumption of a TC supplement can aid aspects of recovery from strenuous exercise.
Keywords: functional foods; inflammation; montmorency cherry; muscle damage; muscle function; prunus cerasus.