Q: How can eating beets help my endurance?
No, I do not get this question every day, but the connection between beets and endurance is fascinating. It turns out that beets are a great way to naturally increase the nitric oxide levels in your body. What is nitric oxide and how does it help your running? Nitric oxide helps the body get oxygen into working muscles; it also reduces blood pressure, helps with circulation and aids in recovery.
One study from Exeter University, conducted by Dr. Andrew Jones, concluded that consuming beet root juice increased endurance by 16 percent and improved race times by 1-2 percent. Athletes who consumed the equivalent of 500 milliliters (about 2 cups) of red beet juice showed favorable results. The study concluded that the naturally occurring nitric oxide in the beets was what was caused the endurance effect.
So am I telling you that you should eat beets at 5 a.m. if you have big run at 7 a.m.? Not necessarily, but you could get the benefits if you tolerate eating beets or drinking beet juice a few hours prior to your workout. A more tolerable method is to juice your beets with pineapples or strawberries. I also recommend diluting the beetroot juice with water so that you are properly hydrated.
Another option is to use one of several good beet supplements that are on the market and come prepackaged for easy use. One to try is a supplement out of Austin from Neogenis Sport®, Beet Elite Shots, that has been researched and shown positive results for athletes who have used it. It is flavored with black cherries so you do not get that beet taste. The benefits of using such a supplement is that you get the dosage of nitric oxide and you can mix it up and drink on the way to your workout.
John Ruibal, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, is a registered dietitian and is board-certified in sports nutrition from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. He coordinates the distance running classes available at both iRun Texas locations in San Antonio. He has been running for more than 40 years and coaching for 25. To connect with John or learn more about his classes, visit www.iruntexas.net.