by Damon Armani Labrada Nutrition Research & Development Team
So you just finished your jiu jitsu training session and you noticed your elbow is clearly trying to tell you something isn’t right and you think back to that arm bar that you fought against maybe a little too long. Many common joint injuries result in swelling, pain and inflammation sometimes lasting for weeks and the connective tissue (ligaments and tendons) heal from the tearing that occurred. Sometimes this tearing is very small and sometimes it is catastrophic. In either event, inflammation plays a role as it is part of the healing process. While not always as effective as drugs, many natural “anti-inflammatory” nutrients can support the body’s ability to repair damage from unavoidable connective tissue trauma. Such ingredients typically don’t have the same nasty side effects of classic “anti-inflammatory” drugs such as prolonged bleeding, kidney problems and especially increased risk of stomach ulcers.
One ingredient, which recently has gained national attention, is Tart Cherry extract. It has been found to be rich in phenolic compounds, most notably anthocyanins that exhibit strong anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. What’s also great about tart cherries is the reduction in pain and strength loss related to all the torquing and twisting of the muscles. The pain following training is due to the exercise-induced muscle damage and tends to increase relative to the age of the participant.
Recently I had taken two capsules of Labrada’s new Tart Cherry (containing 1200mg of CherryPure™ which is the equivalent of approximately 80 cherries) before a grappling session and the next morning noticed pain and swelling in my ankle. I took a few more capsules and then limped around forgetting to apply any ice that day. The next morning I woke up and couldn’t believe it when I saw the swelling and pain had already noticeably been reduced! Keep in mind I’m in my late 40’s and have noticed over the years that training injuries take longer and longer to recuperate from. So the product can work both as a great “preventive” as well as a “rehabilitation enhancer.”
After seeing for myself how quickly and powerfully it worked I decided to do a bit more research and found out that it also helps combat “chronic inflammation” which can be invisible and typically associated with age-related physical declines in muscle strength and muscle wasting. I can tell you I’m not interested in accelerating either of those processes especially when grappling with 20 and 30 year olds!
Studies prove Tart Cherry reduces muscle damage
One study I came across showed how athletes taking 1 oz of cherry juice concentrate recovered faster compared to a placebo group that drank juice without the same phytonutrient content of cherry juice. The group using cherry juice concentrate was able to return to 90% of their muscle force at 24 hours compared to only 85% without the cherry juice. Research suggests that it is the unique antioxidant compounds in cherry juice that decreased oxidative damage to the muscles that typically occurs when they are worked to their max (like when you are on the mat) . So the muscles recuperate more quickly which cuts down on the soreness and allows you to get back on the mat more quickly.
Tart cherry may improve sleep quality
How many times have you had trouble getting to sleep after an intense grappling session? Well tart cherries just happen to be one of the few rich food sources of the sleep hormone melatonin. A study completed in young-middle age adults for 7 days showed increases in melatonin levels, sleep duration and sleep quality.
So, in addition to being a natural anti-inflammatory that helps relieve muscle soreness and gout pain, tart cherry also helps control chronic inflammation that accelerates aging and several age-related diseases. By boosting your melatonin levels it also helps you sleep better. And most importantly, it assists with the body’s rehabilitative efforts in relation to acute or chronic training injuries.
Editors Note: Tart Cherry can be ordered from Labrada.com by clicking www.labrada.com/tartcherry
 Damon Armani is a consultant to the sports nutrition industry and is a member of the Labrada Research & Development team. Having been an avid weight trainer for over 30 years, he has competed in power lifting and is a 3 time Collegiate Martial Arts Champion. He continues to research novel compounds and assist in designing cutting edge formulas for his clients.
 Bowtell JL, Sumners DP, Dyer A, Fox P, Mileva KN. Montmorency cherry juice reduces muscle damage caused by intensive strength exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43:1544-1551.
 Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, Middleton B, McHugh MP, Ellis J. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. European journal of nutrition. Oct 30 2011