Supplements, especially sports drinks, continue to be popular with those looking to enhance their performance and training. However, most of these drinks are loaded with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colourings and flavours, none of which contribute to optimal health.
So is there a healthy option out there that we can use? Well, beetroot may be the answer! This humble vegetable has been popular in salads and soups but recent research done at the University of Exeter in England has shown that consuming the juice can significantly improve your sporting performance.
Beetroot juice is one of the richest sources of antioxidants and naturally occurring nitrates in the world. When consumed, the saliva in our mouths converts the nitrate to nitrite, which is then converted into nitric oxide elsewhere in our bodies. The nitric oxide has two major effects in the body: Firstly, it causes blood vessels to dilate, allowing more blood to be pumped around the body while at the same time lowering blood pressure. Simultaneously, it makes the mitochondria in our cells more efficient, which means they are able to create the same energy while using less oxygen. The combination of these two processes (a lower oxygen cost and higher oxygen supply) allows you to train and perform faster and stronger, for longer!
Studies done by the University of Exeter have shown that beetroot juice is especially effective during high intensity exercise lasting between 5 and 30 minutes with athletes showing a nearly 3% increase in performance! Recent studies have also shown that beetroot can also enhance performance in endurance and team sport events.
Some of the top athletes and sports teams in the world swear by its effects, including World Champion cyclist Mark Cavendish and football club Crystal Palace F.C. Team GB also used the juice in their successful London 2012 Olympic campaign. Although elite athletes supplement with the juice, the average person actually benefit even more as their bodies haven’t adapted as much to exercise.
So when and how much should you consume? It’s best to drink beetroot juice 2 – 2.5 hours before you exercise as this gives your body enough time to digest it and convert the nitrates. This is also the point where nitric oxide levels peak in the body. It is important that you avoid chewing gum or rinsing with mouthwash while supplementing as the friendly bacteria in your mouth will not have the chance to convert the nitrates! Most studies have shown that the optimal amount of beetroot juice you should consume to see a beneficial gain is 600ml. Alternatively you can take two concentrated shots, which you can buy from good health-food shops.
You can try supplementing with our freshly prepared organic beetroot at the Deli Juice Bar before your next workout!