Sodium nitrate supplements have been shown to improve physical capacity during exercise. However, this compound, present in processed foods, is harmful to health. But the good news is that recent research suggests that the benefits of nitrate can be achieved by consuming beets before exercising.
Much has been said about the importance of following a diet rich in vegetables. It is, without a doubt, one of the best ways to reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease or cancer. Although they are low in calories, vegetables are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.
When it comes to exercise, growing evidence shows that the nitrate content of vegetables can exert a natural ergogenic or performance-enhancing effect. Nitrates are found in all vegetables, but they are especially abundant in green leafy vegetables and beets.
Several studies show that by ingesting beet juice before exercise, you can have more energy for a longer period. According to the researchers, the nitrate present in beet juice reduces the expenditure or consumption of oxygen due to exercise, which allows you to gain endurance by burning less energy, and helps to produce the muscular force that drives the athlete.
Beets also contain other excellent components including phytochemicals like quercetin and resveratrol. But the positive effects of beets on exercise performance are likely due to its nitrate content. The breakdown and use of dietary nitrates in the body begins in the mouth with our saliva.
A few years ago, it was discovered that beet juice increases nitric oxide levels in the blood, which increases blood flow to the muscles, stimulates the growth of mitochondria, and strengthens muscle contractions, leading to endurance. significantly higher in athletes.
Other vegetables also contain nitric oxides, such as carrots, lettuce, spinach, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, cabbage, arugula, and rhubarb.
A 2014 study found that beets can also be helpful in increasing blood flow to fast-twitch muscle fibers, helping it go faster. Some research used recreational runners as research subjects and found slightly better results on 5K tests and lower perceived exertion when runners drank beet juice before running.
However, a 2017 review of 23 studies on the subject showed that beet juice definitely improves performance, but that its effectiveness may be less when combined with other supplements, such as caffeine.
Another recent study done on recreational runners found that eating 200 grams of baked beets 75 minutes before exercise improved running performance for both men and women.
The increase in performance was most likely due to the conversion of dietary nitrate to nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide reduces oxygen expenditure during exercise by requiring the muscles to use less energy to produce the same amount of work.
What this means is that eating a couple of medium-sized beets at least 60 minutes before a race could help you cut your 5K time by at least half a minute.
Beets are harvested in the fall, so there’s no better time to try them than in the fall racing season. However, it is important to take care not to consume in excess, since an exaggerated intake can upset your stomach.