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Could eating beets or beet juice before daily training help athlete strain harder and thereby enjoy better competitive outcomes?
Speaking at a international sports nutrition conference organized by PINES (Professionals in Nutrition for Exercise and Sport), AndyJones PhD of Exeter University in the UK reported that consuming nitrate-rich beetroot juice boosts blood levels of the nitric oxide precursor, nitrite, and this helps reduce the amount of oxygen needed during constant-work-rate exercise.
Hence, for the same oxygen uptake, athletes who consume beetroot “shots” (concentrated beetroot juice) might be able to exercise at a higher intensity; for example, a runner might improve by 5 seconds per mile. In general,athletes see about a 1.5% improvement in performance.
However, some athletes respond better to beetroot juice (and other nitrate-rich foods) than do others. Perhaps the initially “strong responders” tend to have a low intake of all nitrate-rich fruits and vegetables and as a result have a lower nitrite baseline?
To boost your nitrate intake, consume not only beets, but also strawberries, rhubarb, arugula, and spinach.
Note: Athletes who take beetroot juice should avoid using mouthwash. Mouthwash kills the bacteria in the mouth initiate the converion of nitrate into nitrite and then nitric oxide.
Beets, rhubarb and arugala are nitrate-rich foods.Sports nutrition research indicates the natural nitrates they contain can significantly improve running performance when eaten three-hours in advance of exercise. The nitrates convert into nitric oxide, a gaseous signaling molecule that acts as a critical biological messenger. Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels, lowers blood pressure, reduces platelet stickiness, and allows a person to exercise at a submaximal pace using less oxygen. This info is helpful for not only athletes but for unhealthy people with lung and circulation problems.
This nitrate-rich recipe is one of many tasty suggestions from the website of food-lover Eileen Behan RD www.ForTheLoveOfFood.org.
6 small red beets (12 ounces, raw or cooked), peeled and sliced very thin
1/2 large pink grapefruit, juiced
1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
8 ripe strawberries
1/2 lemon , juiced
1 tbsp olive oil
1-cup chopped (1 stalk) rhubarb
4 cups arugula, washed and dried
1. In a medium bowl, toss beet slices (either raw or cooked) with the juice and zest of the grapefruit-half, vinegar, pinch of salt and 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Marinate, at least 15 minutes to 4 hours.
2. Cut the strawberries into quarters. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, and juice from the lemon.
3. Prepare the rhubarb sauce: in a food processor, pulse rhubarb with 2 tbsp water and puree until smooth.
Just before serving, strain the marinated beets. Toss beets with the strawberries. Arrange the greens on a platter and top with the beets and strawberries. Put a dollop of rhubarb purée in the center. Optional: drizzle with a little olive oil.
Serves four. Calories per serving: 140
For other sports recipes: Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook
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