That's the bottom line from a study published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Researchers included Declan Connolly, PhD, of the University of Vermont's Human Performance Laboratory.
The study looked at 14 male college students who were given one of two drinks over a period of several days: tart cherry juice mixed with apple juice, or a cherry-flavored soft drink lacking cherry juice (placebo). Researchers compared their scores on various tests, including muscle strength and muscle pain.
The cherry juice blend was supplied by Cherrypharm, Inc., which funded the study. The journal notes that the researchers each have 2.5% equity in Cherrypharm, Inc.
At the study's start, students were given baseline tests of arm strength, muscle pain, muscle tenderness, and range of motion.
Then, researchers told them to drink one bottle of their assigned beverage in the morning and one in the evening for the next eight days.
Muscle Strength, Muscle Pain
On the fourth day, the students took a test of their arm strength. They flexed and extended one arm 20 times on a resistance machine, repeating the set after a three-minute break.
For the next four days, they kept drinking their assigned beverage.
Every day during this period, the students rated their muscle pain on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being extreme pain. They also took tests of muscle tenderness, range of motion, and strength loss in the arm being studied.
After the first eight-day period, for comparison, the students repeated the experiment using the other arm and drink.
The students' pain scores and muscle strength loss were lower with the cherry juice than with the placebo drink, the study shows. However, muscle tenderness and range of motion were similar for the two drinks.
"Although the results of this study indicate a protective effect of cherry juice, it is not possible to conclude that cherry juice supplementation prevented muscle damage, because only two of four indirect markers of damage showed an effect," write Connolly and colleagues.
"However, there was clearly a preservation of muscle function attributable to the cherry juice," the researchers add.