Beet Juice: The Endurance Elixir

Is an endurance elixir beyond imagination, does such an aid border too close to fantasy?

Perhaps. But while the human system absolutely faces fundamental constraints, certain nutritional aids will boost your performance in an appreciable manner. The limiting factor central to running activity is oxygen availability –– when our muscles cannot receive oxygen at an adequate level due to high level activity, we become fatigued, and experience diminishing performance.

Nitric Oxide (NO) is at the biological root of muscular vasodilation. This messenger molecule tells muscular veins to increase blood flow, and helps regulate muscle contraction. One of the best sources of dietary nitrates is beetroot, that redish and earthy vegetable we seldom encounter. Who knew such a prodigiously modest food could harbor such massive potential? Olympic athletes have become major consumers of the stuff, mostly in juiced form.

A beet salad with a nice tart dressing is a nice way to retain the vegetable’s hearty fiber.

The irony is elite athletes, of anyone, are least likely to experience marked improvements in performance, as their physiology is already operating near peak. Then again, if beet juice holds the key to a minor improvement in split time or any competitive betterment more generally, it is absolutely worth the effort for these folks.

Especially for more casual runners, whose oxygen conversion is nowhere near perfect, the difference in terms of endurance is more palpable. Opinions differ from study to study, but the generally agreed upon benefits are:

a) Reduced oxygen cost for motion, which translates to an increase in general efficiency

b) Enhanced muscle metabolic function, or less muscle fatigue

In other words, drinking four to six ounces of beet juice could make for some marginal improvements in your running performance. But even if the changes aren’t tangible, beet juice is incredibly healthy, and is a known combatant of hypertension and inflammation. So even if the experience of the jog doesn’t change markedly.

Beet juice will have your body feeling better and healthier

Beets can be juiced by hand, by pressing out the liquid nutrients forcefully.

We recommend beet juice especially for those training to run at altitude. Mountain trails have their special place in the canon of running, giving way to some of the best scenery and most technical climbing around. But anyone who has dashed at altitude can attest to the cardiovascular difficulties that come with the territory. There is less oxygen available in the air at high altitudes, and this translates to rapid exhaustion with even minimally intensive exercises.

Training for altitude is a long and arduous process of acclamation. Your body adjusts to the requirements by improving red blood cell formation, and thus increasing oxygen delivery. Beet juice will help because it enhances vascular performance, leading to better cardiovascular efficiency. Nitrate intake also improves exercise tolerance and might reduce lactate accumulation, which at least means you’ll be feeling less pained as you summit that mountain.

There is no general consensus on what role beets play in improving athletic performance or cardiovascular health, but many studies do find promising results. And beyond being incredibly nutritious, beets can taste quite delicious. If you find they taste too earthy alone, try them in smoothies, juiced with orange juice, on pizza, or on hamburgers.

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