Elite athletes are constantly looking for an edge. The challenge is finding ways to enhance performance without getting caught using banned substances. Currently one of the most popular products used to enhance performance the natural way is beet root juice.
Improving athletic stamina
Energy drinks and caffeine used to be the method of choice for a performance boost. But beetroot juice may be the most potent natural substance yet discovered to improve athletic stamina.
Drinking beetroot juice is a key part of the training routines of many Olympic athletes in London, according to the New York Times. Track and field athletes, marathoners, swimmers, rowers, cyclists and soccer players have embraced the alleged performance-enhancing qualities of beetroot juice.
Boosting elite cyclists
Beetroot juice emerged on the competitive scene after a study conducted in 2009 at Exeter University in England found that elite cyclists who drank about a pint of beetroot juice before a workout were able to ride 16 percent longer. Another Exeter study the following year found that cyclists who drank a pint of beetroot juice for six days were 11 seconds faster over a 2.5 mile time trial and 45 seconds faster over a 10-mile course.
The reason the cyclists were so much faster, According to Exeter researcher Andrew Jones, was nitrate molecules in the beetroot juice. The body converts nitrates into nitric oxide, a gas that dilates blood vessels. This vasodilation allows more oxygen-rich blood to circulate. More oxygen getting to their muscles allowed the cyclists to ride longer at maximum intensity.
Athletes aren’t the only ones that can benefit from the nitrates in beetroot juice. In the Exeter studies, researchers found that the athletes on the juice had lower resting blood pressure because of the vasodilation. Elderly people and patients with lung, heart and metabolic syndrome could also benefit from the increased oxygen supply that nitrates promote.
Athletes have attempted to induce vasodilation with various banned substances, including hypertension drugs and erectile-dysfunction drugs, for years. U.S. 400-meter runner Lashawn Merritt, the 2008 Olympic champion who served a two-year ban after testing positive for taking an erectile dysfunction drug, was one of the more famous cases.
Avoid nitrate supplements
Synthetic nitrate supplements are approved by the International Olympic Committee. You can buy them at your local GNC, but some studies on nitrate supplements suggest taking them is risky. A 2010 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition warned that extended vasodilation from overconsumption may trigger a severe drop in blood pressure that could lead to cardiovascular collapse, coma, and death. Long-term use of nitrate supplements can also trick the body to stop producing nitric oxide, which it does so naturally to regulate blood pressure.
Nitrate rich foods
A consistent rule of thumb when it comes to essential nutrients is that getting them from natural foods is much more effective than taking supplements. A pint of beetroot juice contains as much as 310 grams of nitrates. And many other vegetables high in nitrates could provide similar performance enhancing benefits, including spinach, carrots, radishes and beets.
Could a salad deliver more boost than an energy drink? Give it a try and see for yourself.