Friday, April 22, 2011

Red Sox nutritionist says cherries are great for marathon runners

Marathon runners are always looking for new and improved ways to prepare for and recover from their training and races. While it’s a bit too late to change things around for Monday’s Boston Marathon, Tara Mardigan,the nutritionist for the Boston Red Sox and Harvard Athletics, has some advice for future training: cherries. While it sounds so simple, Mardigan says that cherries can make a real difference in training and recovery, and took the time to answer a few questions about what
makes cherries so special.

1. How did you come up with and put together this Red Recovery Plan idea?
Sports dietitian Leslie Bonci, created the Red Recovery Routine to help athletes manage and minimize their pain – no matter what their fitness level. I along with other dietitians around the country have teamed up with the Cherry Marketing Institute to share this tool with athletes and active adults like many who will be running next week’s Boston Marathon.

2. Why cherries? What's so special about them?
A growing body of science suggests that red foods such as tart cherries contain powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. But what’s unique about cherries is that they contain specific antioxidants called anthocyanins that have been shown to relieve the pain associated with inflammation, which can have significant impact on relieving muscle and joint soreness more quickly and effectively. These properties are also seen in grapes and raspberries.

3. What differences have runners experienced when using this plan around workouts and races?
In a recent study from the UK, 10 trained athletes were given 1 ounce of an antioxidant-packed tart cherry juice concentrate twice daily for seven days prior to and two days after an intense round of strength training.  The athletes’ recovery after the cherry juice concentrate was significantly faster compared to when they drank juice without the same phytonutrient content of cherry juice.  After drinking cherry juice, athletes returned to 91 percent of normal muscle force at 24 hours. Researchers suggest that the powerful antioxidant compounds in cherry juice likely decreased oxidative damage to the athletes’ muscles – the damage that normally occurs when muscles are worked to their max – allowing the muscles to recover more quickly.
4. Instead of consuming these cherry drinks, can runners simply eat cherries and get the same benefit?
Yes, tart cherries are available year-round in dried, frozen, juice and juice concentrate forms. You can add them to salads, smoothies, breakfast cereals and many of your favorite dishes. For more ideas you can check out the recipe section at

5. Would you recommend that runners eat cherries (or consume a cherry drink) every day?
Adding cherries to your daily diet plan can be a great way to add antioxidants to your plate and they may even help with your body’s immunity and risk factors against heart disease. Cherries are also a great source of essential nutrients. They contain vitamin A (beta carotene) and they also contain fiber.

6. In your experience, what has this plan done for marathon runners, the day of and day after their race?
On the day of the race, cherry juice can help keep you fueled, reduce inflammation in the muscles and joints and keep you hydrated better than some sports drinks.  Marathon runners who use the tool and incorporate cherries into their diet may experience a quicker recovery time from muscle soreness post-race. By consuming anti-inflammatory foods such as cherries, green tea, spinach, salmon and sweet potatoes runners better their chances to minimize pain even before they lace up.

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