Fall and winter mean more than just pumpkin spice lattes, sweaters, and snow. It also means it’s root vegetable season. One of our favorite root vegetables is the humble beet, which, it just so happens, is excellent for runners! Researchers at the University of St. Louis conducted a study, published in the April 2012 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, showing that eating cooked beets “acutely improves running performance.” According to the study, the key is nitrate. According to eatright.org:
“For the study, the researchers tested 11 “moderately fit” runners as they ran a pair of 5-kilometer races on a treadmill. Before one race, they gave volunteers a placebo; before the other, they gave them a 200-gram (7-ounce) serving of baked beets (which contains approximately 500 milligrams of nitrates).
The results? After eating beets, the runners went an average of 3 percent faster and shaved 41 seconds off their times. And their biggest speed gains came over the final 1.1 miles of the race. According to the study, 200 grams baked beetroot, or an equivalent nitrate dose from other vegetables, should be consumed 60 minutes before exercise.”
A study by the University of Exeter looked at eight male cyclists consuming half a liter (500ml) of beet juice (approx. 2 cups), containing nearly 700 mg of naturally occurring nitrate, for six days. The control group with the placebo drank 500 ml of black currant cordial containing very minimal nitrates for the same amount of time. (http://www.active.com/cycling/articles/can-beet-juice-instantly-improve-your-endurance). The study found the beet cyclists were able to cycle 16% longer than the non-beeters. For some of the science behind why you might want to consider adding beets and beet juice to your diet, check out this article by Precision Nutrition!
My favorite way to eat beets? Roast ‘em up, add some balsamic vinegar and goat cheese, and apply fork. Here’s a recipe to get you started!