Who would have thought that a root vegetable would be the next big ergogenic aid? Yet, a batch of research strongly suggests that a beet a day may, well, help you beat the competition.
Case in point: A 2012 study by researchers at St. Louis University found that subjects who ate about 11⁄2 cups of beetroot 75 minutes before a running test were able to move at a faster clip and perceived less exertion than those who didn’t take in the ruby vegetable pre-exercise. The scientists surmise that naturally occurring nitrates in beetroot are converted to nitric oxide in the body which functions to widen blood vessels, thereby allowing for increased blood flow, and subsequently the delivery of more oxygen and nutrients, to working muscles.
Nitrates may also improve how efficiently your muscles use oxygen during activity. As a bonus, the nitrates in beets have blood pressure-lowering effifficacy, and betalins, pigments that give the root vegetable its distinctive blush, are believed to be strong disease-fighting antioxidants.
To get the most performance-boosting benefit it’s best to consume beets for several days before race day. Here’s how to sneak more in:
- Guzzle down a cup or two of homemade or shop-bought beet juice daily and the morning of a race. Beet Active Organics (Cherryactive.co.uk) offers a good source of concentrated beetroot juice for athletes. If the taste of beetroot juice is off- putting on its own, try cutting it with other juices like orange or whirl the beet smoothie at right.
- Add roasted or grated beetroot to everyday salads.
- Purée beetroot into soups.
- Make up batches of beetroot chips for healthy snacks.
Beetroot Raspberry Smoothie
Place 11⁄2 cups coconut water, 2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt, 2 small beetroots (chopped), 5 pitted dates, 1⁄4 cup almonds or walnuts, 2 T fresh mint, juice of half a lemon, 2 tsp minced fresh ginger, 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon and 1 cup frozen raspberries in a blender container in the order listed and blend for one minute. Serves two.