Dr. Tom Clifford is a world leading researcher in the world of tart cherry juice and beetroot juice when it comes to athletic recovery. Dr. Clifford has a bachelor's in sports and exercise science and a master's in sports performance. He also has a doctorate and exercise, health, nutrition. He's worked with several elite sports teams, including the Newcastle Falcons rugby team. Our conversation today sheds some light on the truths, the myths, and the theories behind tart cherry juice and beetroot juice when it comes to athletic performance and recovery.
Dr. Tom Clifford's Information
University Profile: https://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/ssehs/staff/tom-clifford/
Jase Kraft's Information:
Jase Kraft: [00:00:00] Today's guest is the world's leading researcher in the world of tart cherry juice and beetroot juice when it comes to athletic recovery. Tom has a bachelor's in sports and exercise science and a master's in sports performance. He also has a doctorate and exercise, health, nutrition. He's worked with several elite sports teams, including the Newcastle Falcons rugby team. Our conversation today sheds some light on the truths, the myths, and the theories behind tart cherry juice and beetroot juice when it comes to athletic performance and recovery.
Jase Kraft: [00:00:36] Let's get into.
Jase Kraft: [00:00:41] You're listening to the Science of Sports Recovery podcast. Each week, we explore how to recover more efficiently from training so you can work out harder and realize your full potential. This is the Science of Sports Recovery podcast.
Jase Kraft: [00:01:10] Hey, Tom, it's great to have you on the show.
Tom Clifford: [00:01:13] Hi, Jase. So nice to see you.
Jase Kraft: [00:01:16] So there's a brief intro on your background and stuff, but we just run down your education. You have a bachelor's degree in sport and exercise science, then a master's degree and sport performance from the University of Portsmouth. And if I'm correct in saying you also were a boxer and a football, is that American football? Is that soccer that you playing at the University of Brighton.
Tom Clifford: [00:01:47] Oh, wow, where have you dug this out from, so, Yes, so,
Tom Clifford: [00:01:53] In my undergraduate in sport science, I've always been football, soccer. So, you know, Americans soccer. That was always my main sport. I did try and take up boxing. I really enjoyed it. It wasn't very good.
Tom Clifford: [00:02:08] It's really good fun.
Tom Clifford: [00:02:10] But that was, you know, I stuck mainly to soccer when I realized that boxing.
Jase Kraft: [00:02:15] Yeah, sweet, do play all of three or four years that you were there.
Tom Clifford: [00:02:20] Yeah. So we did four years.
Tom Clifford: [00:02:21] So the first year I still played for my home club, so I used to travel back then I decided to play for the university for the second.
Jase Kraft: [00:02:30] Cool, cool, after university, did you, did you play any more club or do you currently do the any of that kind of stuff now.
Tom Clifford: [00:02:40] Yeah. So not so much.
Tom Clifford: [00:02:41] So I carried on playing for a few more years and then I stopped, I started to move around a lot for work and I decided to bring back kind of my Saturday afternoons and my Tuesday. It was the evenings instead of training. So I just stopped playing over there and, you know, kind of local five aside, things like that.
Tom Clifford: [00:03:01] And now now I'm a runner, a very, very distinctly average runner a few races a year to keep me motivated.
Tom Clifford: [00:03:12] So I don't really play soccer.
Jase Kraft: [00:03:13] OK, running like long-distance or.
Tom Clifford: [00:03:18] Yeah, attempting. So I do, I suppose I've done a few 10k half marathons, so I normally run due to a free each year.
Tom Clifford: [00:03:25] So that's pretty mundane exercise.
Tom Clifford: [00:03:28] Like I said, I'm not, I'm no athlete would say.
Jase Kraft: [00:03:33] So, your master's degree in sport performance, what is that entail? Because I don't know if we have that specific title in the States here.
Tom Clifford: [00:03:45] Yeah, good question.
Tom Clifford: [00:03:47] I mean, you know, in the States, a lot of sports science as well as kinesiologists. Sometimes I think that basically the same it's just kind of, you know, different wordings. But the school's performance degree was very much, I suppose like sports science would be still containing the main part. So it still had physiology, biomechanics, and psychology. I was just full of kind of teaching was really at sports performance. So I don't know what it's like in the States. In the UK, when you do a sports science degree, you can do more clinical kind of physiology, clinical psychology, work. But most of the stuff was very sports focused. And then as it went on, you got to choose dissertations and bigger projects. And that's when I probably did a lot more nutrition work.
Jase Kraft: [00:04:32] Ok, OK, so then that's when you got into the nutrition realm. I believe you got a doctorate, as well from Northumbria University and then you started working with rugby teams, soccer football teams, and if I'm not mistaken, Paralymic, Paralympic swimming teams as well.
Tom Clifford: [00:04:56] Yeah. So, yeah.
Tom Clifford: [00:04:57] So this was, oh God, six years ago now. I did my doctorate, so I finished in twenty seventeen Northumbria University right in the north of the UK. And it was actually just after I finished my doctor, I got a job at Newcastle University literally just across the road from and we had we got a freight partnership with Newcastle Falcons Rugby Club. So you have a PhD student. So the environment is part of the package. I would help with their nutrition. And then in terms of my applied work, I've worked with some Premier League soccer clubs, a lot of exceptionally well researched focus. But my work with rugby union problem is it is very much consultancy based. So I've never, I've never, I suppose, work full or part-time on a regular basis for any teams or clubs. It's mostly just consultancy work, which is quite common in the UK. We still have a lot of sports to do on the top level that doesn't employ any type of nutritionism. So I don't know if that's similar in the US, but I know that they sometimes have sports scientists end up having to try and be an all-rounder, and I think part of the problem is still that sports nutrition is not, say, a legally protected title here in the U.K. so a lot of people get away with it. So there's a lot of clubs that will have, say, consultants help them specific areas. But yeah, there's still quite a few you don't actually employ part, or full time, at all.
Jase Kraft: [00:06:32] Ok, so what's kind of the reason they bring in someone like you? What are you trying to help them with?
Tom Clifford: [00:06:39] Yeah, absolutely. So the stuff that I did with swimming was around cooking and meal preparation for athletes. So quite a big part of the organization to look after Olympic athletes UK, sport is to do work on things like cooking skills and training camps. Things like that obviously develop activity quite independent. So that's some of the work I did with, with rugby a lot more the work with the academy. So it was trying to, I suppose, educate them really good nutrition. I mean, we're trying to catch them when they're between 14 to 18 year olds. So, you know, they get good habits when they actually turn professinal things is possibly do. So that's a lot of workshops. Got a little cooking class and things, a lot of just one on one consultations, making small programs for the athletes as well. So various things like that.
Jase Kraft: [00:07:32] So so it sounds like that.
Jase Kraft: [00:07:35] And you're trying to develop habits more with the nutrition rather than specific. Eat this after work out or that. But overall, how do you set up your meals for that? What were some of the challenges of people not being able to get into the habit that was healthy for them?
Tom Clifford: [00:07:55] Yeah, now it's a good point. And I think that's one of the trickiest bits. I think most people in rugby are pretty good. They kind of have a good idea about nutrition. Generally, I find that a lot of individuals struggle with breakfast, particularly in rugby. They struggle to when they're younger, they often struggle to put on the body mass required to be a professional rugby player. And it's quite difficult to get to 90 to 100 kilos to 15, 16. But the way the game's going, it's very much possibly even required to get to that level. So I found that around school in the academy, that's probably one of the biggest challenges when they're trying to get sufficient breakfast, sufficient foods and the healthy foods to have actually during school as well. I found that probably most difficult and also particularly in that age group. A lot of these foods are made by their parents or carers. So it's quite hard to get them to be independent. And you have to really kind of get the parents involved in what you're trying to sell. So we would do so we do presentations where it would be the players, but also the parents, so we can try and get some of the messages across because they need to buy into it as well as in the shop and most of the. So, yeah, in the academy, I find that probably the most challenging.
Jase Kraft: [00:09:16] Ok, yeah, I know what you mean by you need the buy-in from the parents or the people that are providing the food to because I in high school so that 12 to 16 kind of age I, I took the, my nutrition into my own hands for a while at my own home and decided to cut out like a lot of processed stuff, all sugars, no candy, anything like that. But the temptations are always there because my family ate that and that was hard. Like that was really hard. I felt myself slipping up a lot of times. Then I had to just set hard, fast rules and to like, OK, not even a little bit, because if I get a little bit,
Tom Clifford: [00:10:04] I get it.
Jase Kraft: [00:10:06] Yeah. So were you able to like, work with the parents directly or did you have to like, help your athletes communicate with the parents?
Jase Kraft: [00:10:17] And how if I if there was an athlete that said, hey, I want to do this, how should I communicate with my parents to make this happen?
Tom Clifford: [00:10:27] Yeah. Yeah, good question. So, yeah, I didn't do too much direct with the parents of them when we had kind of group workshops. We wanted to try and I suppose teach the class themselves to have our own economy. So I did want to try and encourage them to actually yes, their parents can cook for them, but can they cook for themselves? And I think that's something that's really important to try to get them to do that, even if their parents do things like weekends, etc.. We do try and encourage that. And we did do cooking camps and things like that, whether we go away and practice making snacks, different things like that. But I suppose in terms of athlete in the parents communication, I always found the parents generally on board. I don't think that's probably too much friction there, so I think that for athletes or academy individuals coming up, we want to make sure they get the nutrition, optimize it the best they can. And like most things, it's just being really open in terms of communication. So whoever is in charge making the products that you're consuming, that is just being honest about the times, but also learning about what you need and then actually getting in the kitchen doing that yourself. I think that's a really nice way. And I think that if you maybe come from a background of parents and carers who aren't into the nutrition moms and don't necessarily know all the types of food that they make are really congruent with your goals or perhaps what nutritionist is telling you, then I think that's a really good opportunity for you then to have the stuff with your parents. I mean, encase you get, you know, 14, 15, 16 and older like that. I think these conversations are really beneficial to have and perhaps you can be the one to start to educate them and start to take them a little bit when you actually when it comes to, say, cooking meals for the family.
Jase Kraft: [00:12:18] Yeah, yeah. That's been my experience. Sometimes it's just as simple as having that conversation, although it might be like intimidating because of the power hierarchy or whatever. But just having that real conversation with that.
Jase Kraft: [00:12:35] Yeah. So that's great. The topics today I want to discuss specifically with you because I know there's been a lot of research in the past and some couple hot topics is tart cherry juice and beet juice and how that affects recovery and performance and stuff.
Jase Kraft: [00:12:53] And I know you've been kind of on the forefront of a lot of that research in and dug into that a lot.
Jase Kraft: [00:13:00] So I want to start with tart cherry juice. I've actually tried this myself, so I'm curious to know if there is actually any benefit to it. But before we get into the actual research and what it actually does, I want you to help explain what the hypothesis,
Jase Kraft: [00:13:20] why would there be such a hot topic and what is it supposed to do in the body?
Tom Clifford: [00:13:27] Absolutely. Yeah. And I think what's actually useful and probably relevant both to tart and tart cherry juice, and the beetroot juice, probably say what we mean by kind of saying muscle damage and recovery and then help you understand the mechanisms for how it might work. But I suppose the way recovery works in terms of what these the context these products might work be thinking about recovery from what we would call muscle damage, which sounds quite, quite bad. And it sounds like something that you want to avoid. But that's just the term. I mean, when we do any kind of exercise, we do damage our muscle slightly and they do repair regrow. So it's not necessarily something that's negative. But what we're specifically talking about here is, is damage that elicits some kind of reactions. So the main symptoms that we get from strenuous exercise and these can last for several days tend to be an increase in muscle soreness. So delayed onset of muscle storms, which most people know. And even if you're somebody who goes to the gym quite frequently, you'll know a lot about what consist and even the elite athlete level. We what we're primarily players, soccer players, various other sports, people report being so even at the league level. So that's one aspect you want to try and recover from, that can be quite a problem when you're trying to train every day. And then the other big major issue is often a detriment in muscle function. So your ability to produce force your ability to use power, we typically measure this by, say, jumping, sprinting like that.
Tom Clifford: [00:15:03] So all of these activities take a while to recover when you're suffering muscle. So these are the two things that we really want to try and modulate in some way. So we want to try and get some muscle function back pre-exercise as quickly as possible. And the same with muscle sore want to try and find them, what normally accompanies these two symptoms. Inflammation and the production of free radicals seem so also linked to inflammation. Now, all of the research in terms of the causes of muscle soreness and the cause of it, that suggests that inflamation and free radicals might exacerbate them or they're at least hindering the recovery process. So the whole point when it comes to polyphenol-rich drinks like tart cherry juice is to try and focus on this inflammation and free radical aspect, tart cherry juice trying to target those main areas. And it does this at least presumably this is our best understanding by some of the polyphenols it contains. So tart cherry Juice is particularly rich in some polyphenols called anthocyanins and these are just small chemical compounds when we consume them, what we presume is that these anthocyanins, because they've been shown in studies to do this or anti-inflammatory, which they've done from this inflammatory response, and they're also antioxidants, which, again, we assume is reducing this buildup of free radicals. So if we can reduce both of these, then potentially we can enhance that recovery process. So you can see less so and then perhaps we can jump higher a few days after suffering from muscle.
Jase Kraft: [00:16:39] Okay.Yeah, so in theory, you damage your muscles after a hard workout by and you get the effects by soreness and then a lack of like I could bench one today but only one sixty tomorrow.
Jase Kraft: [00:16:54] The idea is inflammations free radicals. That's what's causing that lack of performance and the soreness and then through these different chemicals in tart chery juice that's supposed to reduce those two things and help with that. OK, so what is the research actually showing with that? Is that hold true through research or is it finding something else?
Tom Clifford: [00:17:19] Yeah, so it depends on a lot of the early research in cherry juice, which is probably about a decade ago, it really started.
Tom Clifford: [00:17:27] My PHD supervisor, Professor Hawatson, did a lot of it...