March 1, 2016

Beat Your Best Time with…Beets?

beet juice

Most athletes would agree – how you fuel your body matters. You won’t find many top performers scarfing down a dozen donuts, and for good reason. If your body is a fine tuned machine, why fill it with low grade gas?

But while good eating habits are great for overall health, is it possible to see real, measurable gains in athletic performance from food? According to a study out of the Journal of Applied Physiology, it seems you can. And the wonder food of choice? Beets.

The question was this: could the high nitrate content of beet root juice decrease the oxygen demand for energy? Essentially, could a simple beet allow athletes to do more with the same amount of breaths?

To find out, scientists took a small group of active men and tested their performance on a bike. They then instructed half the group to start drinking 2 cups of beet juice a day. After 6 days, they retested the groups and the results were impressive. Those who drank their beets were able to perform the same tests, but this time used 19% less oxygen. And when they were asked to cycle until exhausted, they increased their time by 16%.

Beetroot Chart

Now, maybe juicing some root vegetables isn’t your cup of tea. Or maybe the race is tomorrow and you don’t have time to chug beets for a few days. Fear not – turns out you can just eat your beets, and even do it the same day. That’s exactly what this study tested. Athletes were given 1 ½ cups of baked beets and then asked to run a 5k only 75 minutes later. For the first 3km, the beet group was on-par with the placebo group. Then in the last 2km, they pulled ahead 5% faster for the win – and with no increase in heartrate.

So whether in a glass or on the dinner menu, beets could be the next best thing to hit your training routine. Inexpensive and (almost) side-effect free, why not give it a try? Check out the recipe below to get started.


cooking-480951Balsamic Glazed Beets
Adapted from Back to Her Roots
Serves 2 (approx. 1 ½ cups each)

6 med-large red beets
1 tbsp. sugar
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1-2 pinches salt
1-2 pinches pepper
Aluminum foil

1.  Preheat oven to 350. Trim tops from beets and wash. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil and place on a cookie sheet or into a baking pan (beets may bubble while cooking). Bake for about an hour, or until soft enough to pierce with a fork. Let cool 10-15 minutes before handling.

2.  Combine sugar and balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes until slightly thickened.

3.  Remove beet peels and slice into rounds or chucks. Carefully toss beets with thickened balsamic glaze until all pieces are coated. Top with salt and pepper, serve.