Many approaches have been used to try and stave off muscle pain and damage after exercise, but few have been effective, say the authors.
Fourteen volunteers were asked to either drink fresh cherry juice blended with commercial apple juice twice a day for three days before exercise and for four days afterwards, or to drink a dummy mixture containing no cherry juice.
The blend comprised 12 oz of liquid, equivalent to the juice from 50 to 60 cherries. The fruit contains many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents.
The exercise was classified as "eccentric," which refers to contractions in which the muscle is lengthened, such as in hill walking or weight lifting, or any type of exercise not previously done before.
In this instance, the volunteers flexed and tensed one arm 20 times.
Muscle tenderness, motion, and strength were assessed on each of the days before and after exercise, using standard pieces of equipment designed for the purpose. And the volunteers rated their own muscle soreness on a scale of 1 to 10.
The whole process was repeated all over again two weeks later, with those who had taken the dummy mixture taking the cherry juice blend instead, and vice versa. The other arm was also used.
There was a significant difference in the degree of muscle strength loss between those drinking the cherry juice blend and those taking the dummy mixture.
This fell by 22 percentage points in those drinking the dummy mixture, but only by 4 percentage points in those drinking cherry juice. Muscle strength even improved slightly after 96 hours in those drinking cherry juice.
The degree of soreness differed little between the two groups, but the average pain score was significantly less in those drinking cherry juice.
Average pain scores came in at 3.2 for those drinking the dummy mixture and 2.4 for those drinking cherry juice.
Pain also peaked at 24 hours for those drinking cherry juice, but continued to increase for those on the dummy mixture for the subsequent 48 hours.