Beetroot Juice as Magical Elixir
Elite athletes competing in the grueling Tour de France bike race have been known to turn to questionable substances to enhance their athletic performance. Lance Armstrong was famously stripped of his many titles after it was revealed that he had been doping with steroids for years. So it should come as no surprise that world-class athletes are always searching for an edge. Steroids are forbidden. And hopefully, they’re out. But beet-root juice is in.
That’s right. Elite athletes are now “doping” with beet juice.
Why? Because it’s a rich natural source of nitrates. In the body, these compounds are converted to nitric oxide, a simple molecule the body uses to signal blood vessels to relax. This increases blood flow, which in turn helps muscle cells get significantly more oxygen and nutrients. As a result, athletic performance and endurance increase. So far this has been demonstrated convincingly among elite athletes competing in cycling, walking, running, and swimming.
But that’s not all. Beet root juice has been shown to lower blood pressure significantly, especially among people with high blood pressure. Those with normal blood pressure are not affected by this natural food. You can eat cooked beets for some of these benefits, but beet juice is trendy because of its somewhat higher concentration of nitrates, which have not been inactivated by the cooking process. To get the biggest bang for the buck, you need to drink raw beet root juice.
One cup of raw beet juice has about 100 calories, and contains about 25 grams of carbohydrates. Beets provide folate, potassium (also good for the heart), vitamin C, fiber, and, of course, dietary nitrates. Drink about two cups of beet juice a day to achieve the same benefits demonstrated in most studies.
Scott K. Ferguson, Daniel M. Hirai, Steven W. Copp, Clark T. Holdsworth, Jason D. Allen, Andrew M. Jones, Timothy I. Musch, David C. Poole. Effects of nitrate supplementation via beetroot juice on contracting rat skeletal muscle microvascular oxygen pressure dynamics. Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology, 2013; 187 (3): 250 DOI: 10.1016/j.resp.2013.04.001
Scott K. Ferguson, Clark T. Holdsworth, Jennifer L. Wright, Alex J. Fees, Jason D. Allen, Andrew M. Jones, Timothy I. Musch, David C. Poole. Microvascular oxygen pressures in muscles comprised of different fiber types: Impact of dietary nitrate supplementation. Nitric Oxide, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.niox.2014.09.157