Swim, bike and run are king in the world of triathlon for attention. You have to train each sport to make it to the end of a triathlon, unless you like to wing it or you are a super stud. But, did you know there’s other disciplines in the triathlon world?
Nutrition and recovery are sometimes often overlooked red-headed stepchildren of triathlon. Seasoned long course triathletes know all too well that without proper nutrition and recovery, you won’t get to the finish line upright. Newer athletes just getting into endurance sports in general may think they ran into a brick wall when going long, only to realize that adjustments in nutrition and recovery can result in significant gains in races aside from just increasing training volume and intensity.
And don’t think that all of those supplement manufacturers have missed out on that fact. We get a lot of review requests for recovery products, drinks and the like. We have a significant backlog and the industry is turning into fierce competition for your triathlon dollar.
We were contacted by the Cherry Marketing Institute about trying their Red Recovery kit that utilizes tart cherries for nutritional and recovery properties. Veggies and fruits have always been touted as a great source of vitamins and antioxidants that aid the body in getting rid of the “trash” and supporting the building and recovery of systems after a hard workout or long day.
Using natural cherry products has to be one of the safest product testings we have ever done. There were no powders, no pills and no real processing. It’s either frozen, dried, juice or concentrate, plain and simple.
Read on to see what we thought about the Red Recovery Kit.
Packaging / Shelf Appeal / Marketing
The box the kit comes in is very professional looking with sharp graphics and glossy finish. When you rip into the box, the contents are thoughtfully places in filler paper scraps with some other fun items mixed in.
The pamphlet is also well prepared with graphic and easy to read information about their products.
One odd item was the juice comes in what appeared to be a recycling gatorade bottle, but the ca was sealed. It was either bottled in that container and a wrapper was removed, or they are reusing bottles, which is great for the environment as long as its hygienic. Lets just assume it was all good as we tried everything out and came through just fine.
The dried cherries were also placed in zip-locked bags which were convenient, but usually nutritional products are factory sealed and a seal has to be broken to get the contents out. It’s more of a homey feel of someone packaging stuff in their kitchen to send out rather than a mass-production system at a factory. Some people like this idea, and some would rather have a little more comfort about the process and the hygiene of it all.
As mentioned before, we tried it all and it didn’t make us sick or kill us, bonus. Their site, ChooseCherries.com boasts Facebook pages and a twitter page. They use each account on a consistent basis and interact with followers on a regular basis. Score one for the social media side.
With the Red Recovery Kit, there’s no real construction issues since it’s a food product and not cold hard gear. You could look at the packaging and feel confident your kit will arrive in one piece and not all broken with cherry juice dripping out of the box.
To stretch the idea of construction, you could look at the nutritional facts of the products. When they use just cherries for their products, there’s not much rocket science that goes into the molecular mixture. There are studies about the makeup of cherries and what they can do for the body, but a cherry is a cherry.
One item to note for those of you counting calories and carbs, just because fruits are good for you doesn’t mean you should stuff your face with copious amounts of it. Per 100 grams of dried tart cherries, you will get 340 calories and almost 83% of that will be carbs. Be careful in your planning and if you use cherries, but aware to account for the calories and carbs. The are nutrient dense.
Fashion / Appearance
The products overall are appealing, if you enjoy cherries. Cherries are not for everyone, but for those of you that don’t mind the small red fruit, the Red Recovery Kit should be a great addition.
The dried cherries are akin to large raisins and smell great. The juice is dark red and pretty much what you would expect with cherry juice.
Really, there is nothing extraordinarily different in appearance to report with the products. They are what you would expect.
Fit / Function
The Cherry Marketing Institute is trying to make a push for using cherries as a recovery food for working out. Eating fruit instead of garbage food, chemically developed recovery powders or other items in itself is a marked improvement. Our bodies are developed to survive from what the earth produces, and it does not get any more natural than cherries. You can’t go wrong eating dried cherries or cherry juice, unless you eat too much.
They are calorically dense, so you have to account for that if you are counting calories. But, they can be in place of your bananas, apples or other fruit you eat throughout the day, and if you buy what their site is reporting, tart cherries could potentially hold more nutritional benefits than your other fruit. Same calories but more anti-inflammatory benefits, reduced pain from gout and arthritis, extensive list of heart health benefits and can help reduce post-exercise muscle and joint pain. Winning!
But, if you cannot choke down the cherries, it’s not going to help you.
We are open to cherries, so we proceeded to see how many items we could integrate our cherry products with.
We tried it in morning oatmeal, recovery shakes, popping some dried cherries on their own and sometimes even on some ice cream for dessert. The flavor does tend to take over whatever you have added the products to. If you dig cherries, no problem. If you needed just a hint without the cherries taking over, you’ll need to adjust the quantity added.
The juice mixed perfectly with shakes and the dried cherries were a great addition to items like oatmeal or pancakes.
As for the recovery benefits, it’s not a euphoric feeling that you are superman and could run 20 more miles after a 5 hour bike ride. We implemented our standard recovery routines and sleeping patterns, while working in the cherries into places where we might have traditionally used bananas, oranges, apples or other fruits. There were no obvious drop-off in recovery, immunity and muscle recovery. We were still ready for our planned workouts after using the tart cherry kit and without testing, there’s no real way to tell if the cherries were helping our heart.
We were able to go to work and function after tough morning workouts. We didn’t have that tired or lead like feeling in our legs that you might typically have after a long or intense workout.
To be open about it, it really it hard to say that using cherries significantly improved recovery or made our body feel or respond any different than before or after the Red Recovery kit.
What it did add was a nice change of pace from our typical fruit selection and no adverse effects for diverting from our tried and tested historical recovery foods.
This product is a little different in the fact it’s not something you can just buy on the street. It’s more of a marketing strategy from the Cherry Marketing institute to make people aware of the benefits of cherries. They are hoping to capture your grocery shopping dollar when you go to the store and buy cherries in addition to your other food. It could be said that using cherries instead of the scientifically derived recovery products could be less costly since you are not buying a cannister that requires processing and shipping, but like all foods is still subject to price swings from gas prices and economy induced price changes.
The Red Recovery Kit introduced us to cherries and how they could expand our dietary repertoire. Year after year of using the standard “other” fruits could lead to an indifference in natural recovery foods, but with tart cherries, we have a new option that frankly we never thought about until contacted for this review.
The kit isn’t something you can order, but the products are available in pretty much any grocery store. Just be careful not to over-do it with the dense calorie count and with a higher fiber content, don’t use cherries too close to race day to settle down that GI before the big race.
* Writer's note - Cherry Marketing Institute provided the products for this review at no cost and did not influence this review.
Ryan Falkenrath is devoted family man balancing faith, family, Triathlon Coaching and racing. He is a certified USAT Level 1 Triathlon coach (www.SetThePaceTriathlon.com) and has formally raced endurance events since 2001 from 5k’s to Ironman distance races.
Ryan is racing Ironman Chattanooga in 2014 to raise funds for Ride to Give and Mended Little Hearts. You can follow his adventure on Facebook at Tri for a Hand Up, give to his Fundrazr campaign (), read more of his writing at Endurance Sports Examiner follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan or email him at Ryan.Falkenrath@SetThePaceMedia.com.