Beets. You may as well head straight to the garden with a spoon and take a big bite out of that dirt pile because to me, that is what a beet tastes like. (Tasty, right?)
This aversion probably explains why a canister of beetroot powder has been sitting on my kitchen counter for far longer than I care to admit. I know beets, like most vegetables, are good for you. But what’s the deal with beets and their benefits, especially when it comes to athletic performance and endurance? Here is the beat on beetroot health benefits. Plus, learn how beetroot juice and athletic performance are related.
Beetroot health benefits
Beets are root vegetables that are naturally high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. DJ Mazzoni RD, MS, CDN, CSCS, and Medical Reviewer at Illuminate Labs, explains this is because beets contain phytonutrients called betalains. Betalains have been shown to possess significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant functions.
Beets are also full of fiber, minerals, nitrates, and vitamins, especially Vitamin C. Wait, hold up! Did we say nitrates? That’s right. Most people think nitrates are to be avoided, but the nitrates found in beets are responsible for widening blood vessels. This could essentially help with blood pressure, brain function, and yes, even athletic performance, shares Cleveland Clinic.
Beetroot juice and athletic performance
How exactly does this work then? Mazzoni explains, “Beets contain dietary nitrates, which are nitric oxide precursors. Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels and optimizes athletic endurance.”
Dana Ellis Hunnes Ph.D, MPH, RD, a senior clinical dietitian at UCLA Medical center, assistant professor at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and author of Recipe For Survival shares more.
“Drinking beetroot juice boosts your stamina and could help you exercise for up to 16 percent longer. Possible reasons associated with this include the nitrates found naturally in beets. Also, beetroots reduce the oxygen cost of the physical activity. Therefore, beetroot juice makes [working out] feel easier and allow you to go at it longer.”
Hunnes explains for endurance athletes, this nifty little feature could be an incredible booster if they are able to go faster, harder, or longer (depending on the type of activity they engage in).
“All of this could ultimately help them shave time off of their event and allow their effort and performance to feel easier,” says Hunnes. Seems like a win-win to us!
Best ways to enjoy beets
Besides their awesome nutritional benefits, one of the best parts about beets is their flavor. Earthy and rich in flavor, beets are delicious (according to others, not me). The best part is, they are completely versatile and can be added to a variety of beverages and meals.
Bake them up into a batch of homemade cookies, roast them, slice them up for a salad or slaw, or transform them into a dip or handcrafted hummus. However, if you are looking to enhance athletic performance, it’s best to enjoy beets in beetroot juice. Most studies on beet products for athletic performance and endurance use beetroot juice rather than whole beets, since beetroot juice is more concentrated in nitrates, explains Mazzoni.
Most grocery stores carry beetroot juice. You can even find powdered beetroot in a supplement form. All you have to do is add it to a bottle of water or a beverage of choice, shake it, and enjoy. (And if you notice a change in the color of your urine, don’t be alarmed – that’s normal if you’re eating more beets than before. If it bothers you, you can always switch to golden beets.)
Okay, so it looks like it is high time I bust open that beetroot powder in my kitchen. Anyone care to join me for some beetroot juice?