A glass of tart cherry juice propped against a cinder block with tart cherries and a spoon nearby.

© Tatjana Zlatkovic / Stocksy United

Why Tart Cherry Juice May Boost Your Workout Recovery and Sleep

We asked experts if TikTok’s favorite juice is truly all that beneficial.

By Kylie GilbertMarch 26, 2024


If TikTok is any indicator, tart cherry juice is the trendiest health drink on the block. Videos about tart cherry juice benefits have millions of views and counting on the platform, with the buzz partly due to tart cherry juice being a key ingredient in the viral “sleepy girl mocktail.” But outside of sleep, one of the most promising potential tart cherry juice benefits is improved workout recovery. 

Compared to massage guns, cold plunges, or infrared saunas, drinking tart cherry juice seems like a simple way to ease sore muscles after a workout. But does it really work? 

To find out, we asked Jason Machowsky, RD, a board-certified sports dietitian and registered clinical exercise physiologist, and Anthony Lynn, PhD, a principal lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University and a nutrition scientist who has researched the effects of tart cherry juice. 

Ahead, we’re sharing the potential health benefits of tart cherry juice, plus tips for incorporating it into your routine.

What Is Tart Cherry Juice? 

Tart cherry juice is extracted from Montmorency cherries, also known as sour cherries. 

Unlike the cherries you eat in the summer, tart cherries “have a higher acidity content than sweet cherries, so [they] are not very palatable fresh,” Lynn says. This is why tart cherries are usually frozen, dried, or pressed into juice or tart cherry juice concentrate, a more potent form that needs to be mixed with water before you drink it, he explains.

Not all varieties of tart and sweet cherries have the exact same nutritional makeup, but generally speaking, tart cherries have a greater amount of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory polyphenol compounds, Lynn says. (More on why that’s so important in a minute.) While sweet cherries still offer antioxidant benefits, research tends to suggest that tart cherries may offer health benefits such as improved sleep and muscle recovery. 

Possible Benefits of Tart Cherry Juice

Below, check out a few promising tart cherry juice benefits. Just keep in mind that most studies have been limited to recreational male athletes—and there’s a need for more studies in females, as well as elite athletes, Lynn caveats. Know, too, that some trials and research studies were supported by the cherry industry. 

1. It Might Reduce Muscle Soreness and Improve Exercise Performance 

Tart cherries are rich in polyphenols (primarily anthocyanins) that are “potent antioxidant and inflammatory agents,” Machowsky says. They’ve been shown to help muscle recovery and ease soreness from high doses of endurance exercise, like running a marathon, he says. (It’s worth noting, however, that anthocyanins are also common in many dark-skinned fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, and blackcurrants, Lynn says.) 

A 2021 meta-analysis published in Nutrients, of which Lynn is an author, also concluded that consuming polyphenol-rich foods, juices, or concentrates—like tart cherry juice—is a low-risk way to enhance recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD). “We found reasonably convincing evidence that tart cherry accelerated recovery of muscle strength,” he says, adding that they found weaker evidence that it reduced muscle soreness

Tart cherry juice might also boost your workout performance. A 2020 meta-analysis of 10 studies (totaling 127 men and 20 women) found a significant improvement in endurance exercise performance after consuming tart cherry concentrate (in juice or powdered form) for up to a week beforehand. That said, more research is needed to say for sure.

2. It Could Boost Brain Health 

Some research suggests that tart cherry juice may benefit your brain as well as your body. 

For instance, one randomized controlled trial in people over 70 with dementia showed improved memory and verbal fluency after just 12 weeks of drinking anthocyanin-rich cherry juice. In another randomized controlled trial, researchers found that participants (ages 65–80) with normal cognitive function who drank two cups of Montmorency tart cherry juice for 12 weeks showed improved cognitive abilities.

What’s more, a study performed on aged rats found that adding tart cherry juice to their diet helped significantly reduce inflammatory markers and improved working memory. The study concluded that consuming tart cherries could help promote healthy aging and delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases in older adults.

3. It Might Improve Sleep 

Searches for “does tart cherry juice help you sleep” surged after the “sleepy girl mocktail” went viral on TikTok. So does it? 

A few small-scale studies have shown tart cherry juice can have an impact on sleep duration and quality, and that it might be modestly helpful for older adults struggling with insomnia. Tart cherries contain a small amount of melatonin, a hormone your brain produces that plays a role in sleep, as well as tryptophan, an amino acid used in the production of serotonin and melatonin. There’s some evidence that drinking tart cherry juice can translate to boosted melatonin levels and potentially increase the availability of tryptophan, Machowsky says.

“While cherries contain some melatonin, the content is far below the amount of melatonin that people typically take to aid sleep—so it’s uncertain whether the effects of tart cherries are driven by the melatonin,” Lynn explains. One study suggests a polyphenol called procyanidin B-2, which is present in tart cherries, might be the active ingredient promoting sleep, he adds.

“Whatever the active ingredient, I would see tart cherry juice as a safe drink to try which might help with sleep—assuming you don’t drink too much too close to bed and then wake up needing the toilet!” Lynn says.

4. It May Help Gout Symptoms

Cherries are sometimes recommended to patients with gout, a common form of arthritis characterized by sudden attacks of pain, redness, tenderness, and swelling in one or more joints.

Still, there’s surprisingly limited evidence showing it can lower the risk of gout attacks, Lynn says, and a long-term study in gout patients is still needed.

How Much Tart Cherry Juice Should You Drink?

So, if you want to try tart cherry juice, how much—and when—should you drink it? 

Machowsky says that if you’re drinking tart cherry juice in hopes of boosting your workout recovery, most research in athletes suggests consuming 8–12 ounces two times per day for four to seven days before the “target event” (such as a marathon or endurance competition), the day of, and two to four days after. Some people also find it helpful to drink tart cherry juice daily during heavy training periods, Machowsky adds. 

If you’re trying to capitalize on the potential tart cherry juice benefits for sleep, Machowsky suggests drinking about 8 ounces in the morning and 8 ounces one to two hours before bed (aka the dosage used in the aforementioned insomnia study). 

All that said, remember that more research is needed on tart cherry juice, so there’s no absolute “perfect” amount to drink. Check in with your doctor on what may be right for you and your goals.

Are There Any Downsides to Drinking Tart Cherry Juice?

Like with all juice, you’ll want to be aware of the calorie and sugar content of tart cherry juice. (The sugar should be coming from the fruit, not added in—so be sure to check the label, Machowsky says.)

“I will usually have people start with just the evening dose of the juice if they are watching their total caloric intake since each 8-ounce glass is about 130 calories,” he says (although nutrition facts vary by brand). “But for athletes looking to reduce soreness or people looking for a potential sleep aid, the benefits may outweigh the caloric/sugar implications.”

If you have chronic kidney disease, you’ll want to check with your doctor before starting to drink tart cherry juice, Machowsky notes. “There is some potential concern about very large doses of cherry juice for people with chronic kidney disease, particularly in concentrate form,” he says.

Another potential side effect of tart cherry juice: “It may also irritate some people’s GI system that have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as it contains high levels of polyols [also known as "sugar alcohols"] that some people with IBS are sensitive to,” Machowsky says. 

Sorbitol, a sugar alcohol found in tart cherry juice, can also cause gastrointestinal issues such as stomach cramping and diarrhea for some people, so be sure not to drink too much—and to dilute a concentrate as instructed. 

And finally, remember that every person has unique dietary needs and goals, so do what’s right for your body and talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian if you have any questions about trying tart cherry juice.

The Takeaway

More research is needed to understand the full potential of drinking tart cherry juice—but sports dietitians often recommend it to athletes. 

Research suggests the anti-inflammatory properties of tart cherry juice can make it helpful for post-workout muscle repair. Experts say there’s also evidence that supports drinking it before bed to get enough sleep—which is also crucial for muscle recovery and physical repair of any injuries. Again, more research is needed, but for now, experts say there are little downsides to giving it a shot and seeing whether tart cherry juice benefits you or not.

And of course, you should always rely on tried-and-true workout recovery tactics such as getting enough rest, drinking plenty of water, and cooling down and stretching after exercise.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.


Get our latest health stories straight to your inbox

Enter your email to get articles, expert-backed tips, and updates from Peloton sent to your inbox.

By providing your email address, you agree to receive marketing communications from Peloton.

For more about how we use your information, see our Privacy Policy.