Tag Archives: hydration

Exercise recovery is just a bowl of cherries

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

The delicious spring weather has just been so perfect these days, allowing me to push myself to run faster while juggling 3 balls, as well as slowly improving my 4 ball joggling. All this speed means more strain on my muscles and connective tissues, so I am always on the lookout for something or other to maximize my recovery. Juggling while running for an hour or more can produce a lot of inflammation throughout the body, which can damage muscle tissue and hinder the body’s innate healing response. All else being equal, a joggler is likely more inflammed and worn out than a mere runner so we need to be a little more careful to ensure proper recovery.

I’ll assume we all know to get enough water before, during, and after a workout, as well as refueling with carbs and protein within 30 minutes after exercise. I usually drink a lot of fruit juice after long runs, along with some nuts or protein powder or will simply have a meal if its meal time. I’ve long believed that the phytochemicals in various fruit and vegetable juices can assist in recovery, due to their ability to protect tissues from inflammatory processes and free radicals. This is partially due to their antioxidant effects, but as I’ve said in previous posts, a lot more is going on. So to me, recovery has long been more than simply getting macro-nutrients, electrolytes, and proper hydration.

Which brings us to cherry juice. Some interesting studies on cherry juice suggest it may help speed recovery from both marathon running and strength training. According to the School of Psychology and Sport Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, in their study, the Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running:

The cherry juice appears to provide a viable means to aid recovery following strenuous exercise by increasing total antioxidative capacity, reducing inflammation, lipid peroxidation and so aiding in the recovery of muscle function.

This sounds good enough to the point that I may drink cherry juice more often after workouts. Now I realize it’s good to be skeptical and cherry juice may not work for everyone, and maybe the study is flawed, but this is just cherry juice, so there is little risk involved. I’m also very curious to see if it will do anything for me. Even if it doesn’t, I love tartness.

Here’s a study on Montmorency cherries from the Sports and Exercise Science Research Centre, London South Bank University, London, United Kingdom, Montmorency cherry juice reduces muscle damage caused by intensive strength exercise:

Montmorency cherries contain high levels of polyphenolic compounds including flavonoids and anthocyanins possessing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. We investigated whether the effects of intensive unilateral leg exercise on oxidative damage and muscle function were attenuated by consumption of a Montmorency cherry juice concentrate using a crossover experimental design.

CONCLUSIONS:

Montmorency cherry juice consumption improved the recovery of isometric muscle strength after intensive exercise perhaps owing to the attenuation of the oxidative damage induced by the damaging exercise.

Now that’s some juice! This isn’t very surprising, since we all know fruit has a lot of health-promoting compounds. These flavonoids occur in many different fruits, so it is possible that you can get similar benefits from eating or drinking other fruits. For example, peaches and plums are very closely related to cherries, so they may have similar benefits. Blueberries are also loaded with potent flavonoids, though they are not related to cherries.

So grab some fruit or fruit juice after a long strenuous workout, especially the dark colorful ones like cherries or blueberries. Also make sure you get enough protein(I often eat a lot of almonds after workouts) and water. Faster, more complete recovery means being able to exercise on a more consistent basis. Outside of exercise recovery, go easy on sugary fruit juices. They’re okay after exercise because that’s when your muscles need to replenish their glucose.

Do it right, and exercise can be a bowl of cherries.

Caffeine free living

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Caffeine-free living isn’t very common in the western world, so a lot of people are surprised to learn I never drink coffee or any caffeinated beverages. Some people claim they can’t function without it – the very definition of addiction. In fact, caffeine addiction is the only socially approved chemical addiction throughout the world, with the exception of nicotine in increasingly fewer places. Several cups of coffee throughout the day is considered de rigueur at many jobs.

One of the reasons I don’t consume caffeine is because I do not like the idea of becoming addicted to any chemicals, even if caffeine isn’t all that dangerous at normal doses. Another reason is that instead of relying on caffeine to help stimulate me in the morning, I’d rather make sure I get enough sleep. Caffeine may help you overcome morning grogginess, but it can’t undo the damage caused by lack of sleep.

Instead of caffeine, I put a lot of red pepper on my breakfast, or I take it by the spoon. And/or I do some quick exercises while listening to music. Red pepper can be very stimulating, but unlike caffeine it isn’t addictive and doesn’t lead to withdrawal. Simply drinking water to rehydrate after so many hours of sleep also helps. Eating healthy, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep are all you need for optimal energy.

As much as I don’t like caffeine, I won’t deny that it appears to be beneficial for some forms of exercise. According to the Laboratory of Pharmacology, Faculty of medicine, University of Sfax, Tunisia that did a study on the Effects of morning caffeine’ ingestion on mood States, simple reaction time, and short-term maximal performance on elite judoists.:

In conclusion, the results of this study suggest that morning caffeine ingestion has ergogenic properties with the potential to benefit performance, increase anxiety and vigor, and decrease the simple reaction time.

I still wouldn’t want to use it after reading this. There are many other studies out there showing how caffeine is beneficial for exercise.

One of the biggest negatives of caffeine consumption is that it appears to promote fibrocystic breasts in women. The J Natl Cancer Inst., in the study, Caffeine consumption and fibrocystic breast disease: a case-control epidemiologic study.:

In a hospital-based case-control study that included 634 women with fibrocystic breast disease and 1,066 comparison women in Connecticut, the occurrence of fibrocystic breast disease was positively associated with average daily consumption of caffeine. Women who consumed 31-250 mg of caffeine/day had a 1.5-fold increase in the odds of disease, whereas women who drank over 500 mg/day had a 2.3-fold increase in the odds. The association with caffeine consumption was especially high among women with atypical lobular hyperplasia and with sclerosing adenosis with concomitant papillomatosis or papillary hyperplasia, both of which have been associated with an increased breast cancer risk. The association was specific to fibrocystic breast disease in that there was no association of caffeine consumption with fibroadenoma or other forms of benign breast disease.

According to the Mayo Clinic, fibrocysts in the breasts don’t increase the risk of cancer, but they do make it harder to detect cancer.

I posted the above studies on caffeine just to see what the science says about caffeine use. They are not a recommendation to take up coffee drinking or caffeine use if you are not already doing it. While it does improve athletic performance in many people, this doesn’t mean you absolutely must use it to become a better athlete. Even amphetamines improve athletic performance, but would you want to run the risk of amphetamine addiction, or suffer side effects, just so you can run a little faster or longer?

So while I am aware of the science of caffeine and its potential benefits, I choose not to use it. I am not being “ridiculous” or “foolish” for abstaining from caffeine. And for the record, I am not a Mormon or a member of a religious sect that forbids coffee or caffeine consumption.

Caffeine may not be a hard drug, but it isn’t harmless either.