Studies find tart cherry, coenzyme Q10 improve endurance exercise performance, recovery

March 10, 2020

A meta-analysis published on January 27, 2020 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition and a human trial reported in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research on January 31 of this year reveal benefits for two widely available nutritional supplements in endurance exercisers.

“Tart cherry concentrate has been shown to improve muscle function, and reduce muscle damage, oxidative stress, inflammation, and muscle soreness in athletes; however, evidence for acute endurance performance benefits is scarce,” meta-analysis authors Ruirui Gao and Philip D. Chilibeck of the University of Saskatchewan noted. “The purpose of this review was to evaluate the effect of tart cherry juice on endurance exercise performance with a meta-analysis.”

The analysis included ten randomized, controlled trials that involved a total of 127 men and 20 women. The trials compared the effects of concentrated tart cherry juice or powder to a placebo ingested before and/or on the day of exercise.

Pooled analysis of the data determined that tart cherry concentrate consumed as little as 1.5 hours before performance testing and up to seven days before the athletic event was associated with improvement in endurance performance. Drs. Gao and Chilibeck commented that tart cherry may exert its effects due to an ability to enhance blood flow and support a healthy level of inflammation, as well as via its antioxidant property and low glycemic index. “This is the first meta-analysis evaluating the effect of tart cherry concentrate on endurance performance,” they announced. “The importance and practical application of this meta-analysis is that this will inform athletes of the use of tart cherry concentrate as an effective supplementation strategy to improve endurance exercise performance.”

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) also has an antioxidant effect as well as numerous other significant benefits for athletes and nonathletes. A trial reported in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research compared the effects of a placebo to 300 milligrams per day of the form of CoQ10 known as ubiquinol in 16 male collegiate distance runners for 12 days during summer training. On the seventh day, the men participated in a 25-kilometer run, followed by a 45-kilometer run on the ninth day.

Supplementation with CoQ10 was associated with an increase in CoQ10 concentrations measured on the sixth day of the study, accompanied by a decrease in enzymes that included creatine kinase, a marker of muscle damage. On day 10 after the 45-kilometer run, men in the placebo group reported a significant increase in fatigue, while fatigue levels did not change significantly among those who received CoQ10. “Ubiquinol-10 could mitigate tissue damage and alleviate fatigue status in distance runners during summer training,” authors Yoshi Suzuki and colleagues at Juntendo University concluded.

These recent reports suggest a role for CoQ10 and tart cherry concentrate to improve endurance performance and help prevent fatigue and exercise-related muscle damage. Those who don’t regularly exercise can still benefit from the antioxidant and other significant positive effects of both supplements.


Apply What You’ve Learned: Making the Most of Exercise

  • Regular physical activity is an essential component of good health. Sedentariness (low activity levels) is among the known risk factors of many major diseases.

  • The intake of healthy carbohydrates helps support the body’s needs when consumed before or during a workout. Carbohydrate ingestion during moderate to intense exercise that lasts longer than two hours is associated with improved endurance.1

  • It is suggested that people who engage in intense training consume double the recommended daily allowance of protein in order to support rapid recovery and maintain muscle mass.2 Protein powders mixed with a liquid or protein bars are a quick and efficient way to boost what the average diet may not provide.

  • Adequate hydration is essential during a workout, but this can be overdone. Drink enough liquid to satisfy thirst or take small sips.


  1. Cermak NM et al. Sports Med. 2013 Nov;43(11):1139-55.
  2. Kerksick CM et al. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018 Aug 1;15(1):38.

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