5 Best Tart Cherry Supplements for Athletes

two cherries on a stem
fresh cherry

Why should you consider using tart cherry supplements?

Before we can find the best tart cherry supplements, let’s learn about tart cherries. Tart cherries are small, sour cherries packed with polyphenols. Polyphenols are plant compounds that have antioxidant or anti-inflammatory actions in our cells. They are typically located in the skin of fruits and vegetables and attribute to their color. The polyphenols most abundant in tart cherries are anthocyanins, responsible for giving tart cherries their bright red color. Research has shown that after consuming tart cherries, their polyphenols become available in the bloodstream, leading to increased levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in the blood. 

With higher levels of antioxidants in the bloodstream, they can fight oxidative damage, the potential benefits of which are less muscle soreness and joint pain. And as one of the pleasant side effects of tart cherry, they also promote better sleep. For these reasons, tart cherries are sought after by athletes as a natural supplement with the potential to combat oxidative stress brought on by exercise, travel, and lack of sleep.

What should you look for when adding tart cherries to your routine? 

1. Montmorency cherry. First, there are many different kinds of cherries, but the Montmorency tart cherry, or prunus cerasus, has been best researched in exercise. These are slightly different than sweet cherries and may have unique anthocyanins. The Montmorency cherries are also rich in melatonin, which can promote more restful sleep. It’s likely that your supplement already contains the Montmorency because they are readily available in the US (Michigan!) and inexpensive but do a quick check anyway.

2. Added sugar. The tart cherry is simply that: tart. To avoid the taste, many athletes prefer a supplement form of the tart cherry, whether as a juice, powder, or capsule. Often a juice or chew will have a lot of added sugar to cut the taste of the sour cherry. Look for cherry products that are sweetened naturally, often with fruit juices or unsweetened. 

3. Dosage – The most studied dose of cherry juice contains about 50-60 tart cherries, so look for something similar to ensure you get the maximum health benefits. The research suggests that the best products are from fresh frozen cherries, but you’ll also get anti-inflammatory properties in tart cherry juice from concentrate.

4. Storage Container – The phenolic compounds begin to degrade in heat and exposure to light, so look for dark or opaque containers, and consider storing your supplement in a cool, dark place or the fridge.

Which is the best tart cherry supplement for you?

This list contains some of the best tart cherry supplements on the market. These come in various forms, and the best for you will depend on your needs and use. 

Cheribundi $$$

Cheribundi is one of the originals in the tart cherry juice game. It comes in a variety of forms. Get the Pure if you want a no-sugar-added drink, the Original if you need a little sweet to cut the tart taste (they use apple juice as a sweetener), and the Pure concentrate if you need something that takes up less space and weight. Finally, their Sleep version has unique combinations of melatonin, valerian, and tart cherry juice to work as a sleep aid. Cheribundi is sold in cases of twelve or twenty-four bottles with costs as low as $1.95 a serving.

HumanN $$ ($35 for 30 servings) 

Grab these tart cherry chewables if you are looking for an NSF-Sport dietary supplement. These vegetarian capsules pack a punch with 500mg of tart cherry extract plus added vitamin c to maximize the antioxidant properties. Plus, they are portable, especially for plane travel. These cost $35 for a 30-day supply but you’ll save with a larger bottle or a subscription.

RW Knudson $$

This tart cherry juice is the most accessible and affordable on our list. Easy to grab at most major grocery stores, so you can get your antioxidants no matter where you are. However, it is a bulk container that needs to be refrigerated after opening. This one will cost you about seven bucks a bottle, making it roughly $1.75 per serving.

Dynamic Health $$

This unsweetened tart cherry concentrate means you need a small amount. It’s ideal for someone who hates the sour taste and can’t stomach a full eight ounces of tart cherry juice! Or for anyone who needs the ease of an Amazon delivery. A downside is that it needs to be put in the fridge after opening to maintain freshness, making it less practical for travel. Dynamic Health is typically about $30 for 32 ounces.

Life Extension $  

If you prefer tart cherry capsules, look no further than Life Extension, which packs its antioxidant activity as a tart cherry powder into vegetarian capsules. Life Extension is about $21 per bottle with 60 capsules, making it about thirty-five cents a serving.

Final Thoughts

No matter which supplement you choose, tart cherry can reduce chronic inflammation and promote muscle recovery and sleep quality. And the great thing is that it is a natural product accessible to athletes at all levels. For best results, athletes should consider cherry juice as a “prehab” and consume it three days before exercise or activity. More questions? Read more about nutrition and recovery here.

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“Precovery” versus recovery: Understanding the role of cherry juice in exercise recovery
Antioxidant Polyphenols from Tart Cherries
Effects of powdered Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on acute endurance exercise performance in aerobically trained individuals
Effects of Functional Phenolics Dietary Supplementation on Athletes’ Performance and Recovery: A Review

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