This article was written by Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS
Traditional Post-exercise Recovery
There are many factors that can influence an athlete’s success: for example, strength and conditioning, sport specific training, nutrition, rest and recovery all play important roles. However, the least well-known but arguably most important aspect is recovery. Athletes who routinely push their physical limits but don’t fully recover can experience lingering soreness, inflammation, fatigue, poor performance and an increased risk of developing injuries. Therefore, proper management of recovery can lead to improved training and more importantly, enhanced performance potential.
Most athletes are unaware of how the body produces elevated blood markers of post-exercise muscle damage, inflammation and oxidative stress — these are the terrible triad that will inhibit recovery. Likewise, there persists a popular misconception that damaging exercise is necessary, as in a “no pain no gain” approach to training. However, research has shown that mitigating muscle damage actually leads to greater gains over time. So, while strength coaches work hard to build and train muscles, it stands to reason that similar attention should be given to attenuating the root cause of so many chronic overuse injuries through improved recovery.
PRE covery – Speeding the Recovery Process
Until recently post-exercise recovery focused primarily on hydration, replenishment of energy (protein + carbohydrates) and treatment of muscle damage symptoms. But a company called CherryPharm from Geneva, NY has challenged traditional thinking with an all-natural tart cherry juice that when taken PRE exercise has been clinically shown to reduce post-exercise muscle damage, inflammation and oxidative stress concurrently, thereby protecting the body and speeding recovery. Independent university and hospital research on the CherryPharm product have led to multiple published, peer-reviewed, scientific journals along with a growing list of elite athletes and teams now incorporating the juice into their daily regimens.
While all fruits and vegetables are nutritionally beneficial, tart cherries contain unique anti-inflammatory anthocyanins that are non-selective cyclooxygenase (Cox-1 and Cox-2) inhibitors as well as other antioxidants and bio-active compounds. Research has shown that consuming 45 cherries per day reduces systemic markers of inflammation including C-Reactive Protein (CRP). However, typically harsh food processing conditions often destroy the beneficial compounds found in fruit like tart cherries. To ensure efficacy of their product, CherryPharm has worked with food scientists at Cornell University to create an innovative juice extraction and pouring technique to retain maximum cherry phyto-nutrients. Each minimally processed 8 oz bottle is made from whole fruit — not from concentrate — and is the equivalent of 50 whole cherries.
This concept of PRECOVERY is exciting because it demonstrates that a nutritional intervention can actually prevent inflammation before it begins and impact how the body responds to exercise. It also highlights the benefits of consuming nutrient-rich whole foods such as minimally processed CherryPharm tart cherry juice as part of the recovery process that can lead to improved training and optimal performance.