Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Exercise and Blood Pressure Benefits of Beets!

One of the key tenets of exercise physiology recently got turned on its head.     For years exercise physiology students were taught that improving oxygen delivery to muscles was one of the keys to improved athletic performance and work capacity.

It was established that oxygen delivery to muscles could be improved through several different processes such as increased lung capacity allowing lungs to take in larger quantities of air and oxygen; the heart becoming stronger allowing it to pump more blood to the muscles which carries oxygen; or increasing the amount of red blood cells and hemoglobin in the blood which allows the blood to carry more oxygen to the muscles.   But It had been assumed that the fundamental amount of energy a human can create using a given amount of oxygen remained constant so all improvements came from the ability to deliver more oxygen to the muscles.

A 2009 study shattered this assumption!    The study ( ) looked at 8 men who were given  either 2 cups of beet root juice or 2 cups of black currant drink as a placebo for 6 consecutive days and completed a series of moderate-intensity and severe-intensity exercise tests on the last 3 days.   Something amazing happened:   the men taking the beet root juice showed the ability to do the same amount of work with 19% less oxygen consumption and their time-to-exhaustion was extended by 15.7% compared to the placebo group!   Before this study there was no known substance that could increase energy creation based on a given amount of oxygen delivery!   To see a great video describing this study click here:

Since this time many studies have confirmed the positive impact beet juice can have on human physiology, and several companies have developed beet products based on beets grown to maximize their content of Nitrates which are responsible for most of the benefits!    Nitrate aids your body in producing more Nitric Oxide which helps to open your blood vessels prior to and during exercise.   This allows you to get more energy from a given amount of oxygen so your muscles feel stronger for longer and your time to exhaustion increases!  This can allow you to train harder for a longer period of time!

There are other substances such as the amino acid arginine that can increase nitric oxide levels but this requires a complex process.  However Nitric Oxide can be formed from dietary nitrate in a much simpler process that does not require any co-factors like Nitric Oxide creation from arginine.

Beetroot Health Benefits
Beetroot is an excellent source of iron and folate, both of which are key nutrients for everyone but particularly woman!
Helps lower blood pressure
Contain betaine, which has been shown to have significant anti-cancer properties and is effective in inhibiting the formation of cancer cells and in particular colon and stomach cancer.
Helps relieve constipation
Helps detoxify the liver

How do I get the benefits?

If you like beets eating them can provide the same benefits as beet juice and cooking them does not reduce the benefits either!   If you want the maximum benefits there are now several companies making beet root powders that mix easily with water or juice, and several of these companies use specially grown beets that have extremely high and consistent levels of Nitrate.     There are several companies including “Beet Elite” that produce powders available in black cherry flavor for those who do not like the taste of beets.   You can also mix the powder into a smoothie with frozen berries.  It is best to ingest it an hour before exercise.

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