Beetroot Juice for Triathletes
I don’t want to give away all of my secrets, but Beetroot Juice is all the rage at the moment in the sports world.
The very high levels of nitrates in beetroot juice are thought to dilate capillaries in the body allowing blood flow to the muscles to be increased. In addition, the high levels of nitrates in the blood reduces the rate of utilisation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the most immediate source of energy for muscles. These two facts combined enable muscles to work much more efficiently when an athlete has been drinking beetroot juice.
A study conducted at the University of Exeter and published in May 2010 in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that drinking
beetroot juice reduces the energy expended by muscles. This research and a previous study (also published in the Journal of Applied Physiology), showed that drinking beetroot juice can boost stamina, allowing an individual to exercise for up to 16% longer. Studies have also shown that the high levels of nitrates in beetroot juice can help to significantly lower blood pressure.
These findings are far too good to ignore for athletes looking to get the best out of their bodies, and too good to ignore for me as well, so I thought I’d give it a go and started drinking Beet-It beetroot juice a few weeks before my World Championship Qualifying race. As far as I could see, beetroot juice is a natural, organic vegetable juice so drinking a small amount each day was no different to eating an apple each day or having a glass of orange juice each day. It didn’t seem as though it could do any harm so I may as well give it a go.
Beetroot Juice the Pros
- Natural, Organic, with no artificial additives
- It’s a vegetable it has to be good for you
- Improves athletic performance
- Increases stamina
- Not the most expensive substance known to man (unlike some sports supplements)
- It tastes delicious – just like beetroot in fact
- It turns your pee and poo pink – always good for comedy effect!
Beetroot Juice the Cons
- It’s not the cheapest substance know to man
- It tastes like beetroot
- It turns your pee and poo pink
Now, as an individual it is difficult to tell if it had any positive effects on my performance. In order to test such things properly you need to carry out a large study with numerous individuals all following a carefully controlled set of tests and compare them against a similar sized set of individuals doing similar tests whilst on a placebo drink. For me as in individual it’s impossible to tell what effect it had. As well as drinking beetroot juice I was doing many other things that should have improved my athletic performance.
- I’d ramped up my training
- I’d been doing a year of proper periodised training
- I was eating more healthily in general
- I had lost some weight
- I was peaking and tapering properly for the race
All of these things will have helped me swim, cycle and run faster than before, the beetroot juice may have helped and added to those gains, and it may not have, but whatever happened I went really well in the race, something seemed to work and the beetroot juice did turn my pee pink so something was happening!
I think I shall continue drinking it, I’ve developed quite a taste for the standard Beet-It juice, although I’m not so keen on the concentrated Shots that they sell – These are supposed to be a nitrate shot without the taste of beetroot, but personally I prefer the actual beetroot juice. There are plenty of athletes using Beet-It products to get that extra edge. I’ve been offered an ‘Elite Athlete’ package from them that will save me some money on the cost of their juice and I can’t really see too many downsides to drinking a daily glass of a delicious, healthy, organic vegetable juice that improves my performance.