As runners we’re fascinated by fractions of seconds. If you told us to eat bananas through a straw or drink water backwards out of a cup, to improve our 10k from 40:00 to 39:59, we’d all be queuing up to buy straws & backward beakers at the mall. One of the latest trends / crazes is eating / drinking beetroot. But before you buy a years supply of the super vegetable, here are the facts:
Beetroot contains high levels of nitrates
Along with a host of other vegetables including the likes of celery, lettuce, spinach and rocket – red beetroot is rich in nitrates. So, what does this mean to you and me?
Nitrates are vitally important when it comes to the health of the cardiovascular system. One of it’s key functions is to widen blood vessels, thus increasing blood flow and better regulating blood pressure.
It may seem obvious but given that nitrates can be converted to NO (Nitrogen Oxide), this benefits athletes hugely when it comes to modulating blood flow to muscles, muscular contraction and cellular respiration. This in turn helps the body to maximise the efficiency of its Oxygen usage.
Recent studies support the hypothesis:
Perhaps the most famous studies supporting the theory were conducted by the University of Exeter. Their findings are surprising to say the least.
Studying 8 subjects for six days, conducting a variety of moderate & severe athletic tests, the University sought to further validate the results by making the participants take a 10 day “washout period” – thus clearing the body of the nitrates, before the supplements given were reversed. Here’s what they found:
- As exercise intensity increased, the oxygen demand from the body rose slower in the participants taking the beetroot supplement.
- The “time to exhaustion” in the severe test showed that those drinking the beetroot juice could last a significant period longer than those receiving the placebo (675 seconds v 583 seconds, that’s a 16% increase in endurance)
- The aerobic system was more efficient at using oxygen, reducing the feeling of exhaustion whist the body found it’s rhythm.
Of course, with all scientific studies there will be findings to the contrary, but from the vast amount of reading I’ve done for this post, I have come to two conclusions. Firstly, beetroot has the potential to increase efficiency of the oxygen we use & secondly, that in turn, endurance can be improved. I’ll definitely be heading to the supermarket to try this one out!
Would you consider introducing beetroot into your pre / post race diet?