“Beet” Your Fatigue & Supercharge Your Muscles with Beetroot!
Written by Rami Allan, B.S, NASM-CPT
Are you struggling with your workouts or seem to get fatigued easily? Looking for a new way to reach your fitness goals and maximize your results? Well, beetroot may be your solution!
Beetroot is a dark red-pigmented vegetable with numerous benefits, which include an increase in stamina, improved blood flow, and special antioxidant support for the muscles. Whether you toss it on a salad, roast it, mix it into a soup or drink it, beetroot is packed with vitamins, minerals and powerful antioxidants. There are new clinical studies and emerging research that depicts the wonderful benefits beetroot provides for your muscles (especially your heart!) and exercise.
Nitric Oxide for Muscle Health
Beetroot is a great source of naturally occurring nitrates that are converted into nitric oxide (NO) in your body. Nitric oxide is important because it expands your blood vessels, therefore increasing blood flow and nutrients, as well as decreasing plaque growth and blood clotting.1 For the muscles, this is great news, especially for the heart. If you have a healthy blood flow in your heart, NO production would also lead to improvements in other muscles in your body. This indirectly leads to an increase in muscle power and strength, which is especially important as you age. If all of these benefits weren’t enough, beetroot is antioxidant rich and an inflammation-fighting superstar, which aids in recovery.
Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine have previously found that dietary nitrates improved muscle performance in elite athletes. More recently, the researchers wanted to determine if such nitrates might also help patients with heart failure. These patients have less stamina and weakened hearts, which makes them easily fatigued with everyday activities. Using a double blind, placebo-controlled, randomized crossover design, the research team gave nine patients beetroot juice treatments.2 After just two hours, muscle function was assessed and dietary NO increased breath NO by 35-50%. In addition, the patients showed a 13% increase in the quadriceps muscle. The quadriceps are powerful extensors of the knee joint which help us extend the knee for walking, running, jumping and squatting. This is very notable as we age because muscles get weaker, slower and less powerful.
Dr. Coggan, assistant professor of radiology at the Washington University School of Medicine stated, "I have compared the beet-juice effect to Popeye eating his spinach. The magnitude of this improvement is comparable to that seen in heart failure patients who have done 2-3 months of resistance training."3
The researchers also concluded that the performance enhancement properties from beetroot comes from its ability to increase the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood, therefore reducing the total amount of oxygen the muscles need in order to function at the optimal level.
Exercise and Fatigue
If you thought that was enough, we’re not done just yet! Drinking beetroot juice after exercise may reduce muscle soreness, and speeds the recovery process so you can get back without delay. This is primarily due to beetroot’s high betalain and carotenoid content, which are powerful antioxidants. Researchers also found that carotenoids have potential health-promoting effects in the exercise-induced fatigue.4 Betalains are plant derived dark, red-pigmented antioxidants and they have been shown to act as powerful anti-inflammatory agents by preserving muscle function and reducing oxidative damage.5 In addition, the betalain in beetroot helps to form Glutathione, which enables the body to neutralize toxins and make them water-soluble. This means the toxins can be easily excreted through urine and flushed out of the body, making beetroot one of the best methods to detoxify the body and boost all bodily functions. If there are too many toxins in the body, your body will not function optimally.
New research from Northumbria University reports that beetroot juice after exercise provided a boost in recovery in a fairly short amount of time.6 The research team observed 30 men who exercised twice a week with 100 drop jumps in order to induce muscle damage in the legs. Following the jumps, the men drank beetroot juice for three days.7 The results showed that those in the beetroot juice group jumped an average of 18% higher than those in the placebo group just two days after completing the workout. This study provides new information on the potential use of beetroot juice to aid recovery after exercise. Moreover, these muscle groups are not only in use with counter movement jumps and drop jumps, but are used in running, cycling and walking. Therefore, people who suffer from sore muscles after such activities could benefit from consuming beetroot or its juice.
On a side note, beetroot has one of the highest sugar contents of any vegetable. Luckily, beetroot powder is a great option due to its low sugar content, which does not hinder its powerful benefits. Beetroot provides superior protection for the heart, nitrates, and antioxidants such as betains and carotenoids with fiber. With these circulatory health benefits and support for physical activity and protection for the muscles, beetroot is definitely a powerhouse vegetable for your exercise needs.
Coggan, Andrew R. et al. “Acute Dietary Nitrate Intake Improves Muscle Contractile Function in Patients with Heart Failure: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Randomized Trial.” Circulation. Heart failure 8.5 (2015): 914–920. PMC. Web. 12 Sept. 2017.
Dhankhar J, Kadian SS, Sharma A. “Astaxanthin: A potential carotenoid.” Int J Pharmaceut Sci Res. 2012;3:1246–59.
Clifford, Tom et al. “The Potential Benefits of Red Beetroot Supplementation in Health and Disease.” Nutrients 7.4 (2015): 2801–2822. PMC. Web. 12 Sept. 2017.
Murphy M., Eliot K., Heuertz R.M., Weiss E. Whole Beetroot Consumption Acutely Improves Running Performance. (2012) Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112 (4), pp. 548-552.
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