By Julie Cornelius, MS
There are a lot of “magic pills” out there and claims about different foods or supplements that will ‘make you faster’, ‘help you lose weight’, ‘gain muscle and lose fat’. The majority of these don’t have any research to justify their claims, or research that was not done very well and shouldn’t be taken very seriously. Friends are always asking my opinion about these different things. A friend recently asked me about one that he said he really felt a difference with…
This one actually has some solid science behind it, so let’s talk a little bit more about beets. Beet root juice has been studied for its ability to improve performance and some estimates are that it can improve your time to exhaustion by up to 15%. That is very significant and can improve results dramatically. The way it does that is by providing nitrates to your diet. These nitrates get turned into nitric oxide (NO), a molecule that helps to increase vasodilation-a fancy term meaning it helps to improve blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles.
The studies about beet juice have involved quantities of 300-500 mL, about 1-2 cups of juice a few hours before your race starts. Eating 3-5 beets can have the same effect as drinking beet juice. And beets aren’t the only food that contains nitrates. Other good sources include leafy greens like arugula, spinach and lettuce.
Not only does vasodilation help to improve athletic performance, it also helps to lessen the risk for cardiovascular disease. A win-win! One or two cups of beet juice might be a lot and may cause digestive issues for certain people. My suggestion would be to add in beets and leafy greens to your daily diet to get the most benefit. And add in some extra beet juice the morning of your race- maybe even add a few beets and a handful of spinach to a pre-race smoothie! Always remember the number one rule of sports nutrition- don’t try anything new in a race that you haven’t tried in training. Try out having some beets before a training ride that is similar to your race and see if it helps you to ‘beet’ the competition!
Here is a bonus-one of my favorite recipes with beets!
- 1-2 small roasted beets
- 1 15 oz. can (1 3/4 cup) cooked chickpeas, mostly drained
- zest of one large lemon
- juice of half a large lemon
- Pinch salt and black pepper
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 heaping Tbsp tahini
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Roast beets in the oven by wrapping in foil and cooking for 45-60 minutes at 375 degrees. Once cooled, peel, chop and add to a food processor. Add the chickpeas, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic, and tahini and process until smooth. Drizzle in the olive oil and add until desired consistency is reached. Season to taste. Store in fridge for up to a week. Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Minimalist Baker.
Julie Cornelius, MS is Co-founder of Potential Energy Training & Nutrition. She has an extensive background in nutrition and graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ with both her Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science in Nutrition. She has worked in fitness studios helping clients achieve their nutrition goals, spent two years teaching college nutrition courses, and was the founder of Julie Bar, an energy bar company. Julie is a long time cyclist and mountain biker who loves being outdoors. Julie helps individuals to meet their nutrition goals, whether it is eating to win an endurance mountain bike race, losing weight, or just eating to be healthier. Connect with Julie: email@example.com.