But do you know what makes beetroots so worthy of an athlete’s attention. It’s their nitrates. They are an excellent source of nitrates that the body converts into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps with a wide range of functions that will have athletes ditching their sub-par sports drinks, including:
- Opens blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, and increasing the blood flow throughout the body and to the muscles
- Helps muscles use oxygen more efficiently, which makes it easier for mitochondria to produce energy
- Improves stamina and endurance, increases time to exhaustion, and lowers fatigue levels
When athletes train, the reason they get better is the improved oxygen delivery to their muscles. Changes in their lungs allow them to take bigger breaths, for example. Strengthening of the heart boosts cardiac output and blood flow. Your body may even start making more red blood cells to boost the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. But the energy ultimately derived from that oxygen remains the same. X amount of oxygen gets you X amount of work, period, no matter who you are.
As an analogy, on the same gasoline, a Lamborghini goes faster than some lemon, but not because the chemistry of gasoline combustion is different in the sports car. It's just a more powerful engine.
Similarly, we may have bigger muscles. We may be able to get more oxygen to those muscles quicker. But the fundamental energy that can be extracted from oxygen remains the same. Or so we thought !
Researchers put eight guys on bikes and measured their oxygen consumption before and after a few days sipping two cups of beetroot juice. Before this series of experiments, there was no known drug, substance, steroid, intervention, nothing that could actually increase energy extraction from oxygen. Yet this is what they found.
How big a difference does it make? Cyclists on the mix were able ride at a set intensity between 12 to 14 percent longer than those who went without the drink. The findings aren’t an anomaly, either. Prior research shows that cyclists who drank half a liter of the juice for six days clocked in 45 seconds faster over a 10-mile course, a huge gain in a sport where the difference between winning and losing is often just a tire’s width.
How Much ?
Until now nobody knew exactly how many beets you needed to drink to see a boost. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that drinking between about 280 ml—about one glass—of the juice is enough to yield considerable performance gains.
It is recommended that you mix the beetroot juice with an equal-parts mixture of orange, carrot, and pineapple to cut through the taste. You may even dilute it further by adding half to one glass of water to it. To begin with start with a quarter glass and work up gradually to a full glass.
Try it in training by loading up with a glass a day, for one week. Some research also suggests that beetroot juice can lower blood pressure, so avoid this elixir if you’re prone to getting lightheaded or start noticing those symptoms while loading.
With all that blood and oxygen pumping throughout your body and that burst of natural and sustainable energy, you will be running at optimal levels and will never skip a beet ! :))