Written by Coach Cathy Barry - Owner, Founder and Head Coach - Eclipse Track & Field Club Inc. Located in Oshawa and Bowmanville, Ontario.
The History of Beets and their Benefits:
Beets are not a new phenomenon, they have been around from the times of the early Romans and Greeks. Beets were used for culinary purposes and for medicinal uses as well. It wasn’t until the 1700s that the beets we see today made their way across the ocean and are now known as “Sugar Beets”. Beets are packed with healthy nutrients, including calcium, iron, potassium, fibre and protein. They also contain high levels of antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce the risk of certain cancers. To understand how beets work in this process, it’s important to understand Carcinogenesis - the change in normal cells to cancer cells. There is an initiation stage, followed by promotion and progression. Driving these stages are oxidative stresses and inflammation causing inappropriate gene activation (National Library of Medicine - Red Beetroot and Betalains, John F. Lechner and Gary D. Stoner, 2019). The red colour from beets comes from a components called betalains which can disrupt inflammation - one of the causes of the appropriation of cancer cells. These betacyanins might help defend cells against harmful carcinogens by protecting cells from free radicals (antioxidant properties). Also, high levels of a unique fibre found in beets may be linked to a lower colon cancer risk. Other amazing benefits from eating beets as part of a regular healthy diet is the reduction in the risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and dementia. (Every Day Health, Kristine Cherney, 2022).
Beets and Athletic Performance:
Beets are high in “Nitrates” - a vital chemical which assists in Oxygen exchange - crucial for any athlete who wants their body to work more efficiently. Of note as well, Nitrates are found in spinach, arugula and blackberries but in much lesser quantifies. How does nitrate in the body work? Once consumed, Nitrate is converted to Nitric Oxide, a gas which is responsible for blood vessel dilation, muscle contraction, he transmission of nerve signals and the release of certain hormones such as insulin and human growth hormone. In a study performed in the Journal of Applied Physiology, in which volunteers consumed 500ml of Beet juice for 10 days, nitrate concentrations in their blood was almost double and their blood pressure fell an average of 6 points. The amount of oxygen consumed after being on a stationary bike was also reduced by 19% and participants reported that they could exercise longer to the point of exhaustion. However, in other reports such as Sports Medicine, it was reported that while Nitric Oxide may enhance tolerance to exercises this only applied to those who did not exercise regularly or only exercised at a moderate rate.
Given that most of us are not “Elite Athletes” and we do exercise at a low to moderate rate - a boost from Beet Juice and all of its benefits is worth its weight in gold. Imagine your muscles being able to work much more efficiently at contracting - this means more power - for athletes, it means being able to contract muscles faster and for longer periods of time with less fatigue. For sprinters, it means less lactic acid build up and the ability to increase speed or slowing down less quickly by the finish line than their counter parts. For Mid to Long distance runners, it means the ability to keep running at a good pace with less fatigue - improved “Endurance”.
How to get the most from your Beets! Beetroot Juice:
1 small/medium beetroot
1 large apple
2 celery stalks
1/2 lemon or lime
1/2 inch small piece of ginger (peeled)
Wash all vegetables and fruits in running water and pat dry them. Peel and cut beetroot into long slices. Cut apple into long pieces and remove the core. Peel and cut carrot into long pieces. Cut celery into long pieces. Put glass or container under the nozzle of a juicer and turn it on. Process all ingredients (beetroot, apple, carrot, celery, ginger) except lemon alternatively through juicer. Squeeze the half lemon into prepared juice and stir well. Pour it into chilled serving glass and serve. Drink it immediately.