Athletes are by nature competitive. They spend hours training not only to beat their opponents but to compete with themselves. Their goal is to win, and if possible, to win big.
Sadly, some athletes go overboard in their desire to excel and gain a competitive edge that they rely too much on performance-enhancing drugs. Remember Lance Armstrong and how he lost his credibility and Tour de France titles because of drugs? What about the many others who even became addicted and had to enter rehab?
The stories of renowned athletes who fall from grace because of performance-enhancing substances may be disappointing but it taught aspiring sportspeople to rely on natural and healthy means to improve performance rather than chemicals. While consuming a lot of fruits and vegetables generally helps keep the body in good condition, one vegetable is gaining popularity among athletes as a performance booster – beetroot or beet.
If you are a competitive athlete or just someone who enjoys playing various sports for fun, drinking beet juice can improve your athletic performance in the following ways:
Increases Exercise Efficiency
Athletes train regularly, in part, to increase exercise efficiency. Performing a movement over and over can make your body more efficient as you get used to it. Increased exercise efficiency, therefore, implies that you exert less energy and can perform the same action much easier, and longer than before.
Drinking beet juice plays a role in increasing exercise efficiency. Why? Because it is packed with nitrate, an inorganic compound that has been found to improve mitochondrial function significantly. Note that evidence suggests how mitochondrial function helps to improve exercise efficiency and energy conservation.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Since regular exercise and engaging in physical activities have been known to impact the heart and blood vessels positively, many assume that all athletes have excellent cardiovascular health. In reality, however, many sportspeople compromise their cardiovascular health by unhealthy diets and improper exercise, among others. In fact, the incidence of sudden cardiac deaths among athletes is up to four times higher than non-athletes.
Maintaining and improving cardiovascular health is undoubtedly critical for athletes. How can you continue playing, let alone excel in sports if your heart is not functioning properly, right?
To help boost your cardiovascular health, dietary supplementation using beetroot juice can help considering its nitrate content. One study that tested the effects of beet juice on patients with heart failure revealed how beet juice may improve cardiac muscles. The subjects were given beet juice and showed a thirteen percent increase in muscle power after just two hours.
Another heart benefit of drinking beetroot juice is that it helps lower blood pressure level. This BP-lowering effect of beet juice means that you are less susceptible to suffering from the negative and even life-threatening effects of high blood pressure such as heart problems, stroke, and kidney failure.
To become a decent player or competitor, you should improve your endurance or stamina. Sports is naturally tiring considering that your body is being pushed to its limits. One of the factors that separate the winners from the losers is their level of endurance.
If you are currently doing endurance training, you may want to include a glass or two of beet juice daily to boost your endurance. In one study that aimed to assess the effects of beetroot juice supplementation, elite runners were given the said juice for 15 consecutive days and the researchers discovered a significant increase in the subject’s time to exhaustion. This means it takes a longer time for those who drank the beetroot juice to experience fatigue than runners who did not take any.
Improvement in exercise endurance has also been observed in a study that evaluated the effects of beetroot juice supplementation among obese adolescents. The effectiveness of improving exercise tolerance was observed by the researchers after just six days of beetroot juice supplementation.
Another performance enhancing-benefit of drinking beet juice is its ability to improve neuroplasticity when it is used in combination with exercise. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt, change, and essentially learn.
So, what does neuroplasticity have to do with being good at sports? A lot. Any top-rated athlete will tell you that sport is as much cerebral as it is physical, if not more. When you are perfecting a skill, you are not only training your body, but you are also changing or strengthening nerve pathways in your brain, so you can “master” the skill.
Considering the positive effects of beet juice consumption on neuroplasticity, athletes like you can learn the techniques and skills needed to excel in your sport. Enhanced neuroplasticity also means that your brain can continue to adapt, change, and learn even if you get much older.
Improves Sprint Performance
If you are involved in sports that require high sprint performance, you will benefit greatly from drinking beetroot juice. One study published on the European Journal of Applied Physiology revealed how the dietary nitrate in beet juice improves repeated sprint performance among team-sports players and how it can assist in tempering the decline in cognitive ability that can happen during an extended intermittent workout.
The subjects consisting of football, rugby, and hockey players, were given beetroot juice for a week. On the last day (day 7) of beet juice supplementation, they were asked to complete an intermittent sprint test and perform certain cognitive tasks. The researchers found improvement in total work done during the intermittent sprint test as well as improved reaction time of response on the mental tasks given. Pretty interesting benefits if you are a soccer or football player, right?
Given the many benefits of beetroot discussed above, it is clear that this humble purple veggie is one of the most underestimated vegetables in the market. Keep in mind that when you take beetroot juice you are not only ingesting performance-enhancing nutrients but many essential minerals, such as potassium, iron, and calcium.