I am a believer in taking supplements and that they can provide a benefit for runners. The problem is that you never know if the supplements that you read about or take actually have any real benefit or if it’s just a really good marketing campaign. There are two popular items that people have been taking for years that have grown in popularity. Both have decent scientific data that supports the benefits that taking these supplements. They are tart cherry juice and beet juice powder.
Tart Cherry Juice
Many people think of your standard Bing or Rainier cherries which are considered sweet cherries. While some varieties are tarter than others, sweet cherries are enjoyed fresh. Tart cherries on the other hand are often consumed dried, frozen, or juiced. The tart cherry is native to Asia and Europe, but are now grown in the USA as well. Be careful when buying tart cherry juice because they tend to add quite a bit of sugar to many of the juices out there, so look for an unsweetened version. Most of the juices are also made up mostly of another type of juice like apple juice to make the taste more palatable. Why add tart cherry juice to your daily nutrition plan though?
Tart cherry juice is rich in many nutrients. In one 8-ounce (240 ml) serving, you contains the following (1):
Carbs: 28 grams
Fiber: 5 grams
Protein: 2 grams
Fat: 1 Gram
Vitamin A: 62% of the RDI
Vitamin C: 40% of the RDI
Manganese: 14% of the RDI
Potassium: 12% of the RDI
Copper: 12% of the RDI
Vitamin K: 7% of the RDI
Plus smaller amounts of B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, omega-3 and omega-6 fats, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds.
(RDI = Recommended Daily Intake)
Some of the main benefits that come from consuming tart cherry juice include in increase in strength and reduction in muscle soreness. One study followed long distance runners who drank either 24 ounces (710 ml) of tart cherry juice or a placebo in the week leading up to a race. The runners who consumed the tart cherry juice experienced three times less pain during and after the race compared to those runners who consumed the placebo (2).
Other studies have shown that runners who were given 16 ounces (480 ml) of tart cherry juice in the days leading up to and immediately following a marathon experienced lass muscle damage, soreness, and inflammation. Those same runners also recovered faster (3)
Tart cherry juice is high in melatonin, which is the hormone that is responsible for sleep, so it may help to improve your sleep quality. It has also been known to reduce the symptoms of Arthritis and Gout, but it really depends on the person from the reviews that I’ve read. Some people have great success while others don’t see a reduction in symptoms.
Because tart cherry juice is high in antioxidants, it may help promote brain health as well as improve verbal fluency and memory in people with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s (4). Increasing your consumption of antioxidants has been known to help protect against cancer, reduce blood pressure, aid in weight loss, and reduce pain caused by nerve damage. There are even reports that it may improve your immune system.
So how much tart cherry juice should you consume and what is the best form to take? It appears like many of the studies were of individuals who consumed 16 ounces of tart cherry juice a day (two daily 8-ounce servings), which is equivalent to about 200 tart cherries. People who use tart cherry juice powder used about 480 mg per day. Many people experienced results after 7-10 days. I started feeling results within about 4 days.
Note: While tart cherry juice is safe for most people, it does have high amounts of sorbitol, a type of sugar alcohol that may cause stomach pain or diarrhea for some people. It also contains quercetin (a plant compound) that may interact with certain medications, particularly blood thinners (5). If you are taking medications, please consult your doctor before adding large amounts of tart cherry juice to your diet.
I have been using Cheribundi Tart Cherry Juice from Costco. They come in a pack of three 32-ounce bottles (that is 12 servings) for under $10. It contains Tart Cherry Juice, water, and apple juice concentrate and tastes great. If you take two servings a day, that package will last 6 days. There is no added sugar, but there is 28 grams of natural sugar per 8-ounce serving.
After doing some research, I found another option, which I will be trying next. Amazon has a Tart Cherry Concentrate from Sports Research that has 60 soft gel pills for $19.95 (free shipping with Amazon Prime). Each pill contains 800 mg of tart cherries and the directions say to take 1-2 per day. Because each pill is equivalent to almost 4 cups of juice, I think one pill per day should be sufficient and should therefore last two months. It has 685 customer reviews on Amazon and received a rating of 4.5 of 5 stars, which is really good. It’s also an Amazon’s Choice product.
Beet Juice Powder
Another popular item that runners have been adding to their diets is beet juice (or raw beets). Taking beets has been known to help increase overall endurance. In fact, Runners World wrote an article about taking beet juice in May of 2013 called “Beet Juice: How Much and When?”
According to the article, when you consume beets, you are increasing your nitrate intake. Some of the nitrates end up in your saliva, which is how it’s converted to nitric oxide by your body. Peak levels of Nitric Oxide are achieved 2-3 hours after ingestion and are back to normal levels after about 12-hours according to one study.
The increase in Nitric Oxide means that your body may require less energy to do the same amount of work (increasing your VO2 Max or the amount of oxygen your body can utilize during intense exercise). An example is that you may be able to maintain a faster pace for a longer amount of time. The amount of time you are able to perform at elevated levels increases as well, so you can basically run longer and faster by increasing the amount of Nitric Oxide in your body (or VO2 Max). Consuming beet juice is also known to reduce the recovery time after intense training or racing too.
I have been taking Pure Clean Powder from Pure Clean Performance for over a year now and can say that I have seen results. It is Cold-Pressed Organic Beet Juice Powder. There are no added sweeteners, flavors, fillers, or artificial ingredients. Just premium-variety beets grown in high-nitrate soil. The beets are carefully prepared using a low –temperature drying process, which protects both the nutrient value and results in a better taste. I like this brand because it is a pure product and contains 50% more beet powder than the leading competitor, so you get a better product and a better value. I get my Pure Clean Powder from Amazon in a 300 gram jar (30-servings) for $38.95 (free shipping with Prime). You can see a product review I did in 2016 of Pure Clean Powder (click here).
I have been taking a combination of beet juice powder and tart cherry juice and have notice a difference in not only my performance, but my recovery as well. While results may vary per individual, I feel that adding these supplements to my diet has and will help me perform better and recover stronger in my running adventures. I would love to hear your thoughts or results with these supplements. Do you have any other supplements that you swear by? What are your favorite brands? Leave a comment and let other readers know what else they should try.
Disclosure: I am not a doctor or scientist. All of my information has been gathered from articles (which have been linked). Please consult a doctor before taking these supplements to make sure that they are right for you.