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Beets (or beetroot) have long been touted for their positive effects on endurance and exercise performance.
Many athletes today will drink beet juice prior to competitions for a good, legal, boost.
But is this actually supported by science?
Let’s find out.
Before we do, what is it about beets that people believe give them their performance superpowers?
Consuming nitrates is known to help boost athletic performance, but like most things, the fake artificial versions offer much promise but also perhaps many drawbacks due to their unnatural composition.
You know what is not unnatural, but is also high in nitrates?
So researchers from St. Louis University set out to test how beet consumption might affect athletic performance, in this case in the case of runners, and find out if natural dietary nitrates could offer a safer boost to athletic performance.
Their results were very positive!
They divided a group of participants into two distinct groups: one that would consume baked beetroot prior to running on a treadmill and the other that would consume a “placebo” of cranberry relish. Both would be consumed 75 minutes prior to running.
How did they do?
The beetroot runners ran 0.4km/hr faster when measured by mean velocity than their cranberry chomping counterparts.
(No disrespect at all to cranberries. They are amazing and great for your urinary tract and loads of other things. I personally love them in all their tart glory!)
Where the beetroot runners really excelled, though, was as the run went further.
In the beginning stages of the run, both groups maintained a similar pace. However, during the last 1.1 miles of their 5km run, the beetroot runners ran at 5% greater velocity than their cranberry counterparts.
That is pretty significant. An extra 5% at that stage of exercising, when fatigue may start to set in, can make a huge difference, whether you are a competitive athlete looking to win the race or simply looking to compound the most gains out of your workouts.
A little extra safe work could yield a lot of extra results!
What do you think? Do you eat beets or drink beet juice? Have you noticed an improvement in your performance? Let me know in the comments below!
(Note: Yes, some studies have shown not all elite-level athletes have experienced significant benefits from beet juice. First of all, we are not talking about the highest level of elite athlete here, which are a very small subset of the population and do not make for a representative sample of the population. Even still, some elite-level athletes have experienced benefits from beet juice in studies as well, so it’s promise is certainly there.)
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