Beetroot is without doubt one of the most overlooked ergogenic (performance enhancing) aids. Aside from being a very nutritious vegetable, its specific nitrate content means it is scientifically proven to improve performance when ingested correctly. In this short article we unpack the mechanism behind beetroot’s performance gains and how to optimise it.
The nitrates which are present within beetroot operate as vasodilators, which essentially means that they expand the body’s blood vessels. This allows for greater and more efficient blood flow throughout your body, which in turn allows for enhanced oxygen transportation and waste product removal. As a result, you can perform at a higher tempo with less effort. The amazing thing is that this can occur even if you do not do anything else other than consume beetroot. What is critical is that consumption is undertaken correctly.
TWO TO THREE HOURS IN ADVANCE OR CUMULATIVE EFFECT
The first consideration is the timing of your intake. As with most foods or supplements that can enhance performance, there is an optimal time at which to consume them, so as to derive the maximum benefit at the time of performance. With beetroot, the sweet spot tends to be two to three hours in advance of activity, in order to derive the short-term benefit.
However, studies have shown that cumulative consumption – that is regular consumption over a prolonged period of time – can lead to sustained improvements. Most of the benefit from prolonged consumption is likely attributable to the sustained improvements in training performance which occur as a result of consumption.
ROASTED NOT BOILED
Most of us, myself included until very recently, will not be aware that most of the nitrates are leached during boiling and substantial amounts are also lost via steaming. Therefore, roasting your beetroot is best, and don’t peel the skin, or top and tail prior to cooking.
Research has shown that 2-3 medium sized beetroots are required for optimal short-term benefit. As eating this amount of beetroot runs the risk of gastrointestinal discomfort, juicing can be a very good option. A lesser amount of beetroot may be required at any one time in order to obtain the cumulative benefits.
Lightly roasting the beetroot and then juicing it is my preferred method of consumption, as it allows for a significant intake without putting stress on my digestive system. Juicing a raw beetroot is next to impossible if you wish to preserve the integrity of your juicer.
It all depends on how the beets were processed. With most pre-packed products, it is very difficult to ascertain how the beetroot was cooked. If you’re in doubt, then it’s best to prepare the beetroot yourself.
DO NOT BRUSH YOUR TEETH OR USE MOUTHWASH AFTER CONSUMPTION
Mightn’t sound desirable but the chemicals that are present in mouthwash or toothpaste can destroy the nitrates and prevent any performance benefit from occurring. Therefore, try to avoid rinsing or brushing for a few hours after consumption.
Finally, don’t be alarmed if your pee or stool turns a tad purple. It’s a good sign 😊