Have you ever wondered how Usain Bolt manages to zip through the 100 meters and still remain in control or how the marathoners continue to run for hours at a stretch? Well, they are trained athletes who follow a much-disciplined lifestyle characterized by special diets, rigorous training and adequate sleep and rest.
Do you plan to emulate them or at least improve your overall fitness and endurance? In the process have you been consuming protein smoothies and energy bars before your workout or a run. Here is some good news for you; beetroot juice (yes, the boring plain and almost repulsive drink) is the new favorite of fitness freaks.
Beetroot the new star
Beetroots, the bulbous red roots that are usually eaten pickled and in salads are now much sought after for their role in improving the endurance and performance in athletes. The benefits of beetroot for the brain are well known, but it is only recently it was found that beetroot juice plays a very significant role in boosting athletic performance.
What makes beetroot so special?
How can this simple vegetable stand up to the might of the powerful smoothies and bars? The magic ingredient is Nitrate. The plant absorbs nitrate from the soil, water, and the atmosphere. Our saliva converts the nitrate to nitrite which is absorbed and stored in our cells. When the need arises this nitrite is converted into nitric oxide and it is ready for use.
Benefits to athletes
- Improves endurance and performance
Normally, runners and athletes develop oxygen debt because of the inability of the cells to match up to the oxygen demand; and that is the reason they gasp for breath. But when you drink the nitrate-rich beetroot juice, nitrite converts to nitric oxide which incidentally is called supplemental oxygen. As a result, the need for oxygen reduces and this improves the endurance and performance of athletes.
- Increase maximum threshold and VO2
The oxygen debt in the muscles leads to the formation of lactic acid in the muscles and leads to cramps and fatigue which slow you down. This happens due to a change in the metabolic pathway which is called metabolic threshold. Seasoned athletes have a better threshold and greater endurance.
Once you consume beetroot juice, the nitric oxide which is formed reduces blood pressure and relaxed the blood vessels leading to increased blood flow. The plasma nitrite (nitrite absorbed by blood) targets only those tissues that are oxygen deficient. As a result of your metabolic threshold increases because you are no longer in need of oxygen. Secondly, the need to inhale more oxygen too reduces and your VO2( maximum volume of oxygen needed by an athlete) increases. This increase in threshold and VO2 increase your speed.
- Better Reaction Time
Why is it that at the beginning of any exercise you are alert and quick but with passing time your reflexes become slower and slower? When you start any form of workout, the oxygen-rich blood flow to your brain increases, but with time when the oxygen in your blood reduces, your brain cells are deprived of life-giving oxygen and your responses dull.
As you already know, the plasma nitrite attaches itself only to oxygen deficient cells and releases oxygen, the brain cells receive the much-needed oxygen and thus your reaction time and mental alertness improves.
How much beetroot juice a day is advisable
If this news has got you all excited and you want to include beet juice in your daily regime, you must know how much is safe to consume. First and foremost you must develop a taste for the juice which is bland and practically tasteless. It is advised that you drink around 17 ounces of beetroot juice at least 3 hours before exercise.
The downside of this juice
- People with kidney stones should not consume beets or beetroot juice because of the presence of oxalates.
- Your stools and urine will have a pinkish to reddish hue.
This simple drink definitely seems promising and any beginner will see significant results with the consumption of beet juice. Experienced and trained athletes might not be able to see significant improvement in their overall performance and endurance though. A point to remember is that each individual reacts differently to different ingredients, so until you try it you might not be able to judge how beneficial it is for you.