Yes, I'm serious about this, and not just for better health...
Drinking a glass of beet juice every day also enhances high-intensity endurance exercise performance.
How does it do this?
By providing your body with a very rich supply of nitrates.
Nitrates, which sometimes get confused as molecules to be avoided because of their addition to processed meats (where they can convert to harmful nitrosamines under cooking with high heat), are nevertheless found most abundantly in vegetables, and confer a dramatic list of health and physical performance-enhancing benefits.
Beets are especially high in nitrates, containing about 20 times the amount present in other vegetables.
How Nitrates Enhance Endurance Exercise Performance
For athletes, there are two primary benefits of ingesting a higher nitrate intake:
- Nitrates, under normal conditions, convert to nitric oxide
- Nitrates increase the efficiency of mitochondria in your cells, which enhances energy production
Numerous studies have shown the physical performance-enhancing effects of beet roots (high in nitrates), including their ability to reduce the oxygen cost of exercise by 5.4%, delay exhaustion during running by 15%, and improve sprinting performance by 4%.
Most recently, researchers evaluated the effect of nitrates on 7 athletically active males, measuring their cycling performance on two occasions:
- Six days after students at a diet with a normal concentration of nitrates.
- Six days after students ate a diet with 3 times the normal nitrate content
The results were fairly dramatic:
- After the nitrate-rich diet, the students used less oxygen when cycling at moderate intensity
- After the nitrate-rich diet, the students performed significantly better on an isometric strength test. Students were required to push against an immovable object as hard as they could (using an isometric leg extension machine) for 3.5 seconds, followed by a rest of 10 seconds, and repeat for as many repetitions as possible until they could no longer push at least 75% as hard as they could on their first repetition. Remarkably, the nitrate-rich diet produced an average increase in repetitions from 32.5 reps to just over 47 reps.
How To Use This To Improve Performance For A Race
There are a couple things you can do to convert this knowledge into practical gains on race day:
- As mentioned, consume a serving of beet juice every day... Beets are the highest in performance-enhancing nitrates
- About a week out from a race, consume a daily salad consisting of the following nitrate-rich vegetables: (1) arugula, (2) spinach, (3) walnuts and (4) cranberries.
- Take a curcumin supplement, which has been found to increase the conversion of nitrates in the blood to nitric oxide, which is necessary for the aforementioned benefits