Add tart cherries to your diet to improve sleep and recover faster after intense training. Tart cherries are proving to be a wonder food. In addition to curing insomnia and decreasing muscle pain after strenuous running, they have been shown to decrease oxidative stress and lower chronic inflammation due to their high antioxidant content. Tart cherries also have a very low glycemic response, meaning they can support insulin sensitivity.
The new study found that drinking two 8-ounce servings of tart cherry juice (one in the morning and one in the evening before bed) improved sleep in adults with insomnia. Some individuals in the group had significant sleep improvements. The magnitude of improvements in sleep was found to be greater than all reported studies on valerian, an herb that has reported calming effects, and on most studies of melatonin supplementation.
Tart cherry juice also improves recovery after high-intensity running in both marathoners and half-marathoners. Two studies tested the effect of drinking tart cherry juice on local muscle inflammation and muscle pain after a running competition and found that it decreased ratings of pain and biomarkers of local inflammation. Researchers suggest that drinking or eating tart cherries can aid in the recovery of muscle function and possibly improve subsequent performance.
This evidence can be applied to strength and power athletes as well—less inflammation and faster recovery of muscle function is critical to get the most out of your training. And of course a greater volume or more intense workouts can lead to better competitive performance.
You can eat tart cherries, add them to other foods, such as oatmeal, to lower the glycemic response. Another option is to drink tart cherry juice—just make sure that it is actually cherry juice and that there is no added sugar.