DOES BEETROOT JUICE HELP ENDURANCE PERFORMANCE?
This blog looks at claims that have been made about beetroot juice enhancing performance for endurance activities such as long-distance running, cycling and swimming.
The beetroot we put on our plates is of course the root of the plant. Most people think of beetroot as being deep reddish purple in colour; however, there are beetroots that are yellow or red with white stripes. The dark colour of the beetroot comes from betanin, which it has been suggested prevents oxidated stress.
BEETROOT AND NITRIC OXIDE
If a personal trainer is advising a client about diet, it’s useful for them to understand the effect of beetroot juice on the body and its potential benefits for exercising.
Nitric oxide is naturally synthesised within the body through the amino acid L-arginine, but levels can be increased through the intake of foods such as beetroot. Beetroot juice can increase the body’s natural percentage of nitric oxide, which helps with vaso-dilation of the veins, increasing blood flow from the heart to the working muscles. This allows them to work at longer and higher intensities. So a personal trainer may want to recommend beetroot juice as part of a client’s training diet.
INCREASING BLOOD FLOW TO THE MUSCLES
Another benefit of increased blood flow to the working muscle is an increase in haemoglobin – the molecule responsible for transporting oxygen – going to those muscles. Along with oxygen, beetroot juice will also help send sugar and fatty acids to the muscles; together these are the three elements needed for aerobic respiration, which occurs in the mitochondria of the muscles.
A personal trainer should find that a client benefiting from additional oxygen, sugar and fatty acids will be able to work at their usual level but for longer. Alternatively, the fitness instructor will be able to increase the level at which their client is working and therefore potentially improve their endurance performance.
SUPERFOODS AND THEIR POTENTIAL BENEFITS
Certain foods, such as broccoli, olive oil, salmon and beetroot are often called Superfoods. These are foods that are high in anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals, which help to break down damaging free radicals and process them out of the body. Along with leafy green vegetables, beetroot is believed to be particularly high in these beneficial anti-oxidants.
CAN BEETROOT JUICE HELP WITH ENDURANCE PERFORMANCE
Although further studies are needed, research reported in an article by Dr Stella Lucia Volpe in the Health and Fitness Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine (Vol 17/No 1), indicated that in some studies beetroot juice increased endurance performance when compared with a placebo.
A personal trainer might want to recommend that a client eats beetroot or drinks beetroot juice not only as a potential performance enhancing food, but also to increase their overall vitamin and mineral intake as part of a balanced diet.
POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS OF BEETROOT
However, the ACSM article recommends that beetroot should not be eaten every day. While the positive side effects may include improving performance and reducing blood pressure, the negative side effects include betturia, a red colouration of the urine, and the fact that beetroot has a high sugar content may be a concern for some clients.