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An Olympic athlete, a weekend warrior, two neighbors getting ready to walk the block after supper and a couple on their way to a mountain retreat get-away walk into a bar…
They all order the same drink. What is it?
Beet juice, straight up. Why?
Whether you’re a high performance athlete or you just like to walk for exercise, you probably want to improve your fitness level so you can get the most from your workout.
Of course if you’re competing, like Olympic athletes do, you also want to make sure anything you use to enhance your performance is not only safe, but legal. And that’s why old-fashioned beet root juice is gaining popularity.
Not interested in setting any records? Well, then you just might want to pack beet root juice on your next vacation…
Beetroot juice has been known to improve performance in individuals, regardless of training level for a while now. And the reason has to do with beet juice’s high nitrate content.
Dietary nitrates, found in a few special foods like beets, are converted within your body to nitric oxide, a compound that helps blood vessels dilate so more oxygen-rich blood can flow through your body. This helps muscle to recover much quicker and in turn helps you build muscle power faster.
Nitric oxide is important for regulating the cardiovascular system; it supports healthy blood pressure and circulation which naturally boosts energy. So you could say beet juice is the superjuice that keeps your arteries loose.
People drinking beet juice supplementation require less oxygen to walk, run, or exercise. They can tolerate higher-intensity exercise because blood pressure remains lower, and there’s less strain on the heart.
And a study at Leeds Beckett University indicate that supplements from red beets can significantly improve athletic performance by allowing the body to perform well even in environments with thin air…
When you hear people say that the “air is thinner” at higher altitudes, they really mean there is less available oxygen to fuel your muscles. So finding a means by which the body needs and uses less oxygen would allow you to participate longer and better in activities at higher altitudes.
Putting it to the test
In the altitude study at Leeds Beckett University, researchers examined effects of nitrate-rich beet juice on participants with a wide range of aerobic fitness levels. They were tested while they ran on treadmills at an altitude simulation of more than 8,200 feet.
Researchers measured the rate of oxygen used by the body, the amount of oxygen in the blood, and the participant’s heart rate during the study. They also monitored blood pressure and rate of exertion as participants performed a variety of physical tests in an altitude chamber at the university.
They found that the average oxygen uptake was significantly lower after taking the beetroot supplement; and performance, regardless of fitness level or altitude, was enhanced by an average of 3.2 percent. Bank that for high altitude exercise.
Drink away altitude sickness
But there’s something else that beet root juice may help you tolerate better, even if you’re not an athlete. In fact, if you’re planning a vacation get-away to the mountains — whether skiing is on your agenda or not — there’s all the more reason to fuel up with beet root juice… and that’s altitude sickness.
Even mild altitude sickness can put a big damper on travel. No one wants to spend days suffering from headache, loss of appetite, nausea and sleeplessness while waiting for your body to acclimate.
The symptoms of altitude sickness occur because blood vessels tend to contract at high altitude. Given what we know about beetroot juice and its ability to dilate blood vessels, a team of Norwegian and Swedish researchers decided to see if they could improve blood vessel function at high altitude simply by having test subjects drink beet juice.
They measured blood vessel function with a standard test of arterial endothelial function, a flow-mediated dilatation test (FMD) that uses ultrasound.
In their study recently published in Nitric Oxide: Biology and Chemistry, the researchers showed that consumption of organic nitrate-rich beet juice restored reduced blood vessel function at high altitude.
So next time you plan a visit to higher ground, or need a stamina boost, reach for beet juice. Not a fan? Try beet supplements.
But whatever you do, be careful not to decrease you body’s natural ability to make nitric oxide. One way to do that is to avoid mouthwash. Dietary nitrate feeds into a pathway that produces nitric oxide with the help of friendly bacteria found in your mouth.
Researcher Eddie Weitzberg says that powerful mouthwashes may restrict the benefits of dietary nitrates on muscle function: “We need oral bacteria for the first step in nitrate reduction. You could block the effects of inorganic nitrate if you use a strong mouthwash or spit [instead of swallowing your saliva]. In our view, strong mouthwashes are not good if you want this system to work.”