Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Beetroot juice for peak performance?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Beetroot juice for peak performance?

Recent studies have found that Beta Vulgaris – i.e. the simple beetroot - can be an aid to athletic performance. Rich in potassium, antioxidants and folic acid, beetroot was found to lower blood pressure back in 2008, by scientists at Barts and the London School of Medicine. In 2009, a University of Exeter study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that drinking 500ml of beetroot juice before exercise improved stamina. A second Exeter study last year found that cyclists could shave seconds off their time – similar benefits were found for runners in a US study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in April.

The reason for beetroot’s winning ways, says Professor Andy Jones, from the sport and health sciences department at Exeter, is nitrate, a nutrient found in soil that helps build protein. This converts into nitrite in the body and then into nitric oxide, which has a “double whammy” effect: it widens blood vessels, increasing blood flow; and it reduces the oxygen needed by muscles, enabling them to work more efficiently. “We found this works most effectively in high-intensity exercise, typically races that last up to 30 minutes,” says Prof Jones. He says your average runner might feel the benefits of beetroot more than elite athletes whose muscles are already efficient.

However, those eager to achieve a new personal best would need to eat four or five beetroot to make a difference. Pickled or boiled beetroot is of limited value, unless you drink the water it is boiled in. A similar problem exists with supplements, with eight to 10 capsules needed daily. Which is why experts say the best way to get the benefits is to drink the juice. “Shots” containing 7cl of concentrated juice, and 0.4g of nitrate, have been developed as a sports drink and for use in studies. The James White drinks company in Ipswich, UK said that beetroot juice now accounts for half of the firm’s £5 million turnover. You would need to drink about 500ml (half a litre) of ordinary strength juice to get the same nitrate levels. Consuming this amount of beetroot juice has no side-effects, says Prof Jones – other than turning your urine pink.

The benefits may go beyond track and field, according to Ben Benjamin, professor of medicine at Torbay Hospital. He says that, though more research is needed, 500ml of ordinary-strength juice daily could mean that frail, elderly people could get out of a chair without feeling breathless, or walk upstairs by themselves. Prof Jones agrees: “This is one of the sports nutrition stories of the decade. It transcends performance – we can use it to improve health.”

To make your own beetroot juice drink...
1) Select 3-4 beetroot and wash.
2) Cut off the tails and tip and put into a blender or liquidiser.
3) Strain the pulp and pour into a glass. Simple!

Note that beetroot is used as a dye and will stain hands, clothes and some plastics. It is advisable to wear gloves when preparing.


Anonymous said...

I'm after getting into juicing a lot. To prevent sore throats from simple beet root juice I recommend taking it with one carrot and one apple. Decent juicer needed, not a blender with a spout. Centrifugal one works very well.

Anonymous said...

Organic beetroot would be an ideal choice as the beetroot is more likely to have absorbed those nutrients in higher quantities. If not, try and buy local beetroot as less likely to have been sprayed to keep it fresh for longer in transportation! And it helps support local farmers. For anyone who finds vegetable juices in general to have a strong (acquired) taste, juicing some carrots and apples as a base goes a long way in assisting with the flavour.

Richard said...

I've used beetroot juice for ultra marathons and (being of decidedly average ability) have found it to work very well.

The pink wee and purple #2's can be a bit worrying though.