Nothing Beets a Good Workout

By Joanna

Did you know that beet root may offer much more than just added variety to our dinner plates and staining everything red? It’s true. There are several claims made about the health benefits beets can provide, the most popular being the benefits that beets may have on the cardiovascular system [1]. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) beet root is frequently used to support blood production, and the healthy functioning of the Heart and Liver.

 

What’s the Good Stuff?

Of all the substances contained in beets, nitrates are touted as a key player in conveying the benefits mentioned above. When consumed, the nitrates in beets are converted into nitric oxide within our bodies. What we know about the function of nitric oxide is that it plays a role in relaxing blood vessels and in the reduction of blood pressure. It’s this connection with nitric oxide that some studies focus on to demonstrate how beets may be useful in enhancing exercise performance [2]. The research suggests that beets may be able to increase athletic performance by supporting stamina and improving the efficiency of our heart. Considering the research, it makes sense why TCM values beet root as a therapeutic food.

 

Beets as a Performance Food?

So how might we get in on these benefits? Well, consuming a 250 ml to 500 ml glass of beet juice roughly 1 hour prior to exercise may provide these pre-workout benefits, giving you calories to burn throughout your workout and cardiovascular support [3]. When consumed after workouts, beet juice should help restore calories expended during activity, and may speed recovery by supporting delivery of nutrients for repair. Additionally, to help maintain your blood sugar levels and vascular flow to tissues, consider drinking a serving of beet root juice between finishing your workout, and before taking your post-workout shake or meal. It’s not all about juicing necessarily; You can certainly add a serving of beets to any meal as a part of a healthy nutritional plan!

 

Are There Any Considerations or Draw Backs to Know?

As beets are food they are generally considered safe, however there are a few points worth mentioning. If you have a history of developing kidney stones (oxalate stones), it’s best to avoid beets as they do contain measurable amounts of oxalic acid. There’s some concerns that this oxalic acid (present in beet root, though much higher in beet greens) can interfere with calcium absorption, though opinions differ on what this means. It’s said that cooking beets breaks down oxalic acid, however cooking can also interfere with nitrates and reduce the cardiovascular benefits mentioned earlier. Unless you own a juicer, beet root juice can be expensive to buy or challenging to find in stores. Lastly, don’t forget the strong pigment in beets can show up in your urine and stools, giving them a reddish tinge – though alarming this is nothing to worry about, just remember you had beets!

References:
1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24476472
2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23640589
3 http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Abstract/2011/06000/Acute_Dietary_Nitrate_Supplementation_Improves.27.aspx

 

   About the Author:

   Jeff is a Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner at Absolute Therapy Inc., where he      offers  preventative and treatment-based options to his patients in the areas of acupuncture, herbal  medicine, TCM  nutrition, and manual soft tissue therapies. You can learn more about Jeff and his  practice online at  www.jftcm.ca, or visit www.absolutetherapy.ca to check his hours of availability  and to schedule an  appointment.