Remember when you were a child and your parents told you to eat your beets because it was good for you? My parents sure did not have to do much to convince me to eat beets when butter, salt and pepper were involved. Beets are recognized to minimize the chances of getting cancer of the skin, liver and lungs in animals. They are known to be one of the most powerful antioxidant vegetables, which means that beets, if consumed regularly, will have a positive effect on your heart health. If health is not what you are aiming for, eating beets or more precisely, drinking beetroot-juice (BR) is getting to be recognized as a potential means for enhancing exercise performance.
The compound of interest in the beet is: Nitric Oxide (NO), a powerful vasodilator. The role of NO involves amongst other things, blood flow, muscle contractility and mitochondrial respiration (production of energy within the cells of our body) positively. Want to get more “bang for your buck”? Try it, it will increase the NO level in your blood stream. You can either make the juice yourself (opt off of the chia seeds) or you can purchase it.
When consumed for 6 days or more, 500 ml per day of BR has been recognized to decrease the consumption of oxygen when walking and running which means that you can tolerate more exercise for the same amount of energy. This will take effect approximately 2.5 hours after consumption of the BR.
There has also been some research that was done on dose-response consumption of BR. At around 1 cup (at 8.4mmol) of BR rich in NO, not only did it decrease the consumption of oxygen at moderate exercise intensity, it also increased the time to task failure significantly (14% increase compared to placebo consumption in some studies).
The idea here is not to try to convince you to get BR on a regular basis but to take a step back and see the bigger picture. Nutrition has an impact on your health and on sports performance. Food is fuel to your body, which helps you recover. Exercise is part of the equation, indeed, and so is nutrition. Pay attention to what you ingest; take care of your body and it will take care of you. Insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results” Albert Einstein. Do your research and experiment or seek the help of a professional. See how your body responds. Did it work in a positive way or not? The numbers will tell you if it did.
For the past two weeks, I have been tapering before heading off to Ironman 70.3 in Mont-Tremblant and BR has been consumed almost every day. My body seems to have been reacting positively in my workouts. Is it because it was missing key nutrients in the first place for recovery? Was it because the volume of training was decreased or a combination of both? Only a Dietician or Nutritionist might help me in the nutrition department. Do you like beets? Have you tried consuming them on a regular basis? But please, don’t try this the day of the race for the first time. Give yourself time to see how your body responds to it before trying something new on race day.