Beet Juice to Improve Cardiovascular Endurance

Athletes are turning to beet juice as an ergogenic aid and it certainly doesn’t get any more natural than that! Why beet juice? Beets are a natural source of nitrates which the body can convert to nitrite and later to nitric oxide to enable muscles to utilize oxygen more efficiently. Nitric oxide opens up your blood vessels to lower blood pressure and prevent blockages that lead to stroke and heart attack.

Beetroot Juice
But what about nitrates in cured meats and their link to cancer? Nitrates and nitrites are added to cured meats as a preservative and many consumers actively try to avoid them. According to functional medicine practitioner, Chris Kresser, “the study that originally connected nitrates with cancer risk and caused the scare in the first place has since been discredited after being subjected to peer review.” (1) He goes on to say that “if you think you can avoid nitrates and nitrites by eating so-called “nitrite- and nitrate-free” hot dogs and bacon, don’t be fooled. These products use “natural” sources of the same chemical like celery and beet juice and sea salt, and are no more free from nitrates and nitrites than standard cured meats.” Many scientists suggest that nitrates and nitrites are not problematic, but may actually be beneficial to health, specifically in athletes looking to increase performance.

How do nitrates support athletic performance and cardiovascular endurance? Nitrates (which get converted to nitric oxide in the body) dilate blood vessels and allow more oxygen and nutrients to reach your working muscles. This increases the efficiency of oxygen utilization for energy production during exercise. (2) In addition to the beneficial properties of nitrates, beets also offer nutritional value in the form of betalains. Betalains give beets their vibrant red pigment and act as antioxidants in the body to reduce inflammation, which can aid in a faster recovery. (3)

Head of Sport and Health Science at the University of Exeter, Professor Andrew Jones, PhD, offers supporting research in his numerous studies related to athletic performance and beetroot juice. His recent study in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance looked at dose-related effects of beetroot juice on rowing performance in highly trained athletes. (4) Results suggest that athletes ingesting 200-500mL of beetroot juice twice daily (with one dose taken 2 hours before exercise) showed significant improvement in athletic performance.

How can you reap the benefits of beetroot juice? Juicing fresh beets in your own home is one solution. I personally would recommend you combine the juice with carrot, apple and ginger for a more palatable flavor. Alternatively there is an expanding number of new beetroot juice products on the market including BeetIt and BeetElite Neo Shots that athletes can turn to for convenience.

 

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