We don’t usually write a whole blog post about a specific vegetable, however when we do, it is on account of one powerful and simply incredible fuel source – beets. You’ve perhaps heard of the well known tip about red/purple and any ‘blood’-toned natural food sources being somewhat related to cardiovascular system, blood quality, heart health and efficiency? That is exactly what we are going to talk about today.
Beetroots and especially their extract in a powdered form are one of the most hyped supplements in the OCR community. There are quite a few brands producing a varied range of such products and many athletes are using it daily.
Beet Juice increases exercise capacity by 16 percent
An article published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, builds upon existing research indicating that beet juice increases exercise capacity by 16 percent in athletes who consume it (Jonathan Benson, Natural News). This number is an incredible metric, highlighting the potency of such a substance being introduced to one’s routine.
Another study from 2012, conducted by Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, examined 11 recreationally fit men and women. The study found their running performance acutely improved when they consumed the beetrot vegetable (unlike other studies which used extract). The study was based on different segments of a 5km run and the biggest take away is: ‘During the last 1.1 miles (1.8 km) of the 5-km run, running velocity was 5% faster’.
During a 5km run, running velocity was 5% faster
This study also states that nitrate ingestion improves exercise performance; however, it has also been linked to adverse health effects, except when consumed in the form of vegetables. Which on it’s own raises questions of effectiveness and possible side effects if consumed through extracted sources and powdered form.
How does it work?
To begin with, beets contain the organic form of nitrate and a lot of it (one of the richest and bioavailable nitrates vegetable). Once consumed it increases the level of nitric oxide in the cardiovascular system. Nitric oxide then sends messages to smooth muscle tissue telling it to relax, and causes vasodilation and increased blood flow.
Participants in the studies listed above didn’t experience any significant change in their heart rate, however this could be because they are already fit. Basically, muscles are directly being fed with more blood increased blood flow while heart rate remains stabilised. Some sources noted that beetroots are a vegetable of choice for older segment of people who experience elevated heart rates, which should reduce it through increased blood flow.
After introducing beetroot back in my diet (hadn’t consumed any since my childhood years) earlier this year I have noticed an increase in my overall endurance. I’ve added it to my diet as a side dish and have also tried out some of the sports drinks and oat bars with beetroot extract. This is notably due to partial placebo, which is a normal factor after finding out of such incredible effects and building a bias.
To test the supplement effect I usually choose to take it on a fasted state to compare the results with taking nothing in a identical training scenarios. Notably after taking beetroot extract (around 200ml extract equivalent of amount of nitric oxide in 500ml of beet juice) I experienced better focus and energy levels as well as overall performance in circuits/endurance training. It was also prominent throughout the training session.
As a side note since we’re talking about different kinds of training: since beetroot directly impacts cardiovascular system performance it is a well known aphrodisiac for both men and women – reproduction system is directly impacted by the blood stream flow and hormone balance.
Try it out and don’t let your heart skip a beet.