One of the most promising pre-workout foods lies in the simple beet. Research has shown consistently impressive results from consuming beets before several athletic events. Beets contain one of the highest levels of nitrates, a compound found in many vegetables and leafy greens that helps dilate blood vessels (promoting good blood pressure), lower inflammation, and enhance Mitochondria (our mini powerhouses of energy in our cells).
Research on beet consumption for performance has shown promising results. In one study, two groups of young avid runners were given beets (equaling 500mg in nitrates) or a placebo in the form of cranberry relish*. They were then monitored through a 75 minute 5 kilometer treadmill run. The beet consuming group showed a 3% increase in velocity over the placebo group, with the greatest increase in the last mile (5% increase). In sports where seconds can mean the difference between winning and not placing, a 3% increase in speed is an impressive performance boost.
Beet consumption research has also shown success with timed sporting events, like races. Researchers at the University of Exeter demonstrated that beetroot juice, at a dose of 500 milliliters, would reduce the amount of oxygen consumed by subjects in a series of cycling events . The beet juice “reduced the oxygen cost of moderate-intensity cycling exercise by 19% and increased the time to exhaustion during high-intensity cycling by 17%” . This would provide the beet consuming racer better stamina than his competition. These previous results may provide peace of mind to athletes wishing to embrace a beet pre-workout protocol.
With all of this information in mind, how do you start to add beets to your pre-workout? There are several ways to build a performance enhancing meal. First, and the easiest ways, buy fresh beet juice or look for a supplement made with beets. It will need to have at least 300mg of nitrites to be considered in the dose response range. For beet juice, a 500ml (milliliter) serving size would be enough. Second, buy pre-cut beets that are vacuum sealed. These can be found in many grocery stores and can be diced in to salads, smoothies, or added to your juicer. Third, buy fresh beets and prepare them yourself. Aim to eat two medium sized baked beets. This will equal roughly the same amount used in the experiments. To synergize the effect of the beets, you can make a smoothie or salad with spinach, which is also high in nitrites. For all of these methods, it is best if the beet is consumed roughly 2 hours before your event. This will allow your body to utilize the nitrites. Let us know how this works for you!
- “Fitness Foods: Boost Performance With Beets” By Clare Tone http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0416p16.shtml
** “Acute and chronic effects of dietary nitrate supplementation on blood pressure and the physiological responses to moderate- intensity and incremental exercise” Vanhatalo, et al. http:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20702806