I soon found training at 50 was no easy task. In fact, the training was crushing me. I had to reduce my workouts by 2/3 and it soon became clear that I was in need of nutrient dense foods to come to the rescue. Specifically, I needed to increase my flexibility, protect my joints, and recover from intense training.
After researching and testing various nutrient dense foods, one that I have experienced amazing results with is the tart cherry! Tart cherries do much more than help with gout; those sweet little tarts pack a punch of nutrition for the athlete.
Why tart cherry juice for athletes?
HEALTHY JOINTS (or JOINT PAIN) - As we age, our ligaments, cartilages and muscles lose their elastic properties. I often quote my friend who was a professional baseball player for 13 years, “You’re only as strong as you are flexible.” Most injuries occur in the connective tissue, so healthy and flexible joints is a must. Tart cherries deliver nutrients our joints need to stay lubricated and smooth. They also flush out the uric acid which makes them stiff and painful.
Tart cherries contain two powerful compounds, anthocyanins and biolflavonoids. Both of these compounds slow down the enzymes Cyclo-oxygenase-1 and -2, which helps relieve and prevent arthritis and gout.
HIGH IN ANTIOXIDENTS (or SLOWS CELLULAR AGING)
Oxidative stress is death to muscles. The accumulated oxidative damage in your muscle leads to 3 detrimental changes:
Loss of mitochondria. Mitochondria is the energy chamber of your cell. The consequences include, a lower threshold for exercise and accelerated aging.
Lose your fast muscle nerves. Your muscle becomes like an engine without the ignition. It means a loss of capacity for intense physical exercise.
Lose you fast muscle fibers. Fast muscle fibers generate 3x more energy than slow fibers. They are key to keeping your physique strong and metabolic rate intact. The deterioration of fast muscle fibers causes our muscles to waste.
Tart cherries are a rich source of antioxidents. They rank 14 out of the top 50, on the OREC scale, which may help to slow aging.
CONTAINS MELATONIN. Dr. Mercola calls melatonin the “Superhero of the night”. Melatonin helps us get to sleep faster and stay asleep. It balances our body’s natural circadian rhythms so that our sleep is more restful. This is important because our body heals at night. We literally get stronger as we sleep. The ability to recover is one of the most neglected aspects of training
REDUCES INFLAMMATION - There is a known relationship between inflammation and muscle growth. Acute inflammation after exercise allows for repair and we make strength gains. However, the inflammatory response must be actively terminated when no longer needed, in order to prevent unnecessary “bystander” damage to tissues. Chronic low-grade inflammation on the other hand has the opposite affect on the body. It is catabolic, meaning it causes our muscles to atrophy. Tart cherries contain, anthocyanin, which helps stave off inflammation.
How did tart cherry concentrate work for me?
I began taking ½ to 1 teaspoon tart cherry concentrate at bedtime. At first, I noticed that I slept very soundly, and some of the swelling in my finger joints was noticeably reduced. Other than that, I didn’t notice anything measurable for about three weeks.
Then came an excellent opportunity to test my flexibility. I take Krav Maga martial arts with my son. After 6 months of training, my round kick was still pitiful. There just aren’t many movements in civilian life that replicate the round kick… maybe none.
I could do any punch or kick at full force, except the round kick. I would have to cautiously rotate and kick the pad in an uncoordinated motion.
This time, we partnered up for round kick practice. My first kick was intentionally very soft, but felt amazingly controlled and coordinated. I gave more power on my second, a little more on the third, and decided to go full force on my fourth. I gave full force for another ten. After several sets, I had done 60-75 full force round kicks! It was quite entertaining to be knocking back a sturdy 15 yr old, and hear my son say, “That’s my mom!”
Later, I began to thoughtfully process, what had changed. What did I do different, that I could make that kind of progress? Ahhh…. the only thing that had changed was the tart cherry concentrate.
I have a saying at my gym. “It’s easy to train hard. It’s hard to train smart.” Crushing yourself at the gym leads to injuries. Other things lead to injury as well, like not giving your body the building blocks it needs for recovery and strength.
Tart cherries don’t ship well, so the most cost effective approach may be a tart cherry concentrate. You can find it on the web, or a local health food store should be able to get it for you. Be sure to look for organic, un-pasteurized and no added sugars or high fructose corn syrup. Also, look for a non-GMO label. While cherries are non-GMO, many additives in prepared foods are.
As my coach, Jeff Martone, says, “Train hard. Train safe.”
Owner of True Grit Kettlebell Gym
Tactical Athlete Certified Instructor
CrossFit Kettlebell Certified