Beet Juice and Endurance Athletes
I visited my naturopath the other week to talk nutrition and training. I have never talked about this on the blog before, but I am an endurance athlete with Graves Disease which is an aggressive form of hyperthyroidism. Basically, while everyone else’s thyroid decides to slow down, mine wants to ramp into high gear which causes me to lose weight and muscle mass. I am going to do a full post on what exactly it is and how I manage it this August, but it is the reason I work closely with a naturopath and an endocrinologist to make sure I don’t have a thyroid storm in the middle of a marathon.
More on that later, for now, my naturopath absolutely floored me when she mentioned that I was doing well with my nutrition. My long time readers know that I have a sister with severe anorexia, so as a result, I am VERY relaxed with my nutrition and probably eat more sugar and fat than the average female runner because my over all goal is balance and positivity towards food of all kinds and well, that whole thyroid thing.
One change that I have made in my nutrition while training is to remove an afternoon coffee which cuts me down to one a day. Hyperthyroidism puts everything into overdrive for me, so inflammation from training will be enhanced. One thing I have added in is beet juice for my long runs and I wanted to talk a bit about that.
There was a study done by Andy Jones at the University of Exedor which showed that by adding beet juice to training increases the plasma nitrate concentration in the blood, reduces blood pressure, and made exercise feel easier.
Beets are a fabulous source of inorganic nitrate – just make sure you don’t use too much mouthwash before consuming them! The nitrate ends up in your saliva, where bacteria convert it to nitrite. Elsewhere in the body, it is converted to nitric oxide which aids in blood flow, muscle movement and brain transmission.
Here is a graph showing how levels of nitrate in your blood change after increasing amounts of beet juice:
So the more beet juice you drink, the better the effect. It peaks at about 2-4 hours and tapers off at around 12 hours. As a result of these increases in beet juice, blood pressure dropped and the amount of energy needed to maintain a moderate level of exercise decreased after drinking the beets. Basically, it felt easier to run at the same pace than without the beet juice.
I tried it out myself this past weekend and although I had tired legs after a hard week of marathon training, I was flying for the last 10 KM of my 30 KM run. I am planning on continuing to play with it until my marathon in 3 weeks, but my only caution is to not drink more than 500 mL as beet juice has been proven to be synonymous with portapotty stops.
If you find it difficult to palate, mix in an apple or pear with water to dilute the mixture and add some sweetness. I will be honest, straight beet juice (which is how I took it down) tasted not unlike alcohol.
How about you? Ever tried beet juice for endurance events? What was the result?
If not, would you try it?
I take a concentrate – BeetElite – which I mix with 4-ish ounces of water and take my pre-long run/pre-race supplements with. My husband does the full up bottled Biotta beet juice, but I have a sensitive stomach and also don’t like taking in too much fluid ahead of time (try to avoid potty stops). BeetElite makes individual serving pouches which are great for races where you’re traveling/in a hotel, and they also make a canister (which is much cheaper per serving). I like the original flavor (maybe because I like beets!), but the canister only comes in black cherry, which my husband preferred when he tried it. (I’m not sponsored by them or an affiliate or anything, I just like it and use it, though I will say it’s pricey.) I also eat canned/fresh beets though sporadically. I might consider making that more a regular part of my diet in this training cycle to get even more benefits.
(I’m hypothyroid – originally Hashimoto’s, now from having thyroid removed due to thyroid cancer, so I’m kept at quite low TSH, officially “hyperthyroid” most likely. I’ll be interested to hear how you manage it, sorry you have to deal with it.)
Hey! Thanks for letting me know. I am actually searching for a good powder replacement so I will check it out.
Silly thyroid issues. I’d love to connect and hear how you manage yours as well.
does eating beets have the same effect? i have always wondered this, never found an answer.
I think it is hard to eat enough beets to have the effect and cooking can lessen their ability to lower blood pressure. Still very good for you, but better raw.
Krysten Siba Bishop (@darwinianfail) says
How did I not know this!? I love Beet Juice!! And I often add beets to my salad
You are born to be an endurance athlete!:)