Tag Archives: beets

2 tips to improve running performance

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I hope all my fellow fitness fanatics are having a terrific and healthy summer! I just got back from a 25.5 mile(41 km) run(a new personal record), so I am a little tired, though not as tired as I thought I would be. It took me 4 hours and 58 minutes to complete. I am sure I would have done better had the weather been less hot and humid and I had bothered to refuel with carbs half-way through(I just had water).

I wanted to experiment, to see how I would do without refueling(which is what I usually do on long runs), even while running farther than ever. I admit that an 11 min, 41 second pace is nothing to brag about, even while juggling the whole way. You’re all probably wondering why I didn’t just run 26.2 miles, the marathon distance. I came so close to doing it, and mistakenly believed I had(I wasn’t thinking clearly near the end and miscalculated, not to mention how sore my legs were), but after maping out my run when I got home, I realized I had run just 25.5 miles. There’s always a next time…

To get back on topic: As I am sure you all know, I love to dig through the scientific literature to find things we can do to improve our fitness level. Among many other things I’ve recently found, I came upon some interesting new research on improving running speed. This comes from Harvard University, Bedford, Massachusetts, Faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces not more rapid leg movements:

We conclude that human runners reach faster top speeds not by repositioning their limbs more rapidly in the air, but by applying greater support forces to the ground.

So I will try to remember not to lift my legs as much during runs. Although it doesn’t say so, I believe longer strides tend to increase the risk of injury too.

In other research, it appears that eating beets, which are rich in nitrates(its not a good idea to get nitrates from non-vegetable sources, they can be unhealthy), can help improve running performance too. Saint Louis University has found that:

Consumption of nitrate-rich, whole beetroot improves running performance in healthy adults. Because whole vegetables have been shown to have health benefits, whereas nitrates from other sources may have detrimental health effects, it would be prudent for individuals seeking performance benefits to obtain nitrates from whole vegetables, such as beetroot.

Taken from “Whole beetroot consumption acutely improves running performance.”

Copyright © 2012 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Although I have previously posted about beets improving running performance, that concerned beet juice, not whole beets: Can beet juice improve athletic performance? It’s nice to see that the whole vegetable has the same effect. I’ll be eating more of them from now on.

Can beet juice improve athletic performance?

Like a lot of athletes, I am always on the look out for something to give me an edge. Unfortunately, it is often very difficult to sort out fact from fiction when it comes to fitness aids. However, if something repeatedly survives intense scientific scrutiny, especially double blind, placebo controlled studies, they are likely to be beneficial.

Whatever the truth may be, you can’t go wrong by consuming more beets, although their sugar content is kind of high compared to most other vegetables. The phytochemicals that give it its distinctive dark reddish-purplish color may have some important health benefits, but besides this, beet juice may also give your athletic performance a boost. This boost seems to be due to the nitrates in beets, not the phytochemicals. According to Department of Human Movement Sciences, Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, The Netherlands:

Six days of dietary nitrate supplementation in the form of beetroot juice (~0.5 L/d) has been reported to reduce pulmonary oxygen uptake (VO₂) during submaximal exercise and increase tolerance of high-intensity work rates, suggesting that nitrate can be a potent ergogenic aid. Limited data are available regarding the effect of nitrate ingestion on athletic performance, and no study has investigated the potential ergogenic effects of a small-volume, concentrated dose of beetroot juice. The authors tested the hypothesis that 6 d of nitrate ingestion would improve time-trial performance in trained cyclists. Using a double-blind, repeated-measures crossover design, 12 male cyclists (31±3 yr, VO2peak=58±2 ml·kg⁻¹·min⁻¹, maximal power [Wmax]=342±10 W) ingested 140 ml/d of concentrated beetroot (~8 mmol/d nitrate) juice (BEET) or a placebo (nitrate-depleted beetroot juice; PLAC) for 6 d, separated by a 14-d washout. After supplementation on Day 6, subjects performed 60 min of submaximal cycling (2×30 min at 45% and 65% Wmax, respectively), followed by a 10-km time trial. Time-trial performance (953±18 vs. 965±18 s, p<.005) and power output (294±12 vs. 288±12 W, p<.05) improved after BEET compared with PLAC supplementation. Submaximal VO₂ was lower after BEET (45% Wmax=1.92±0.06 vs. 2.02±0.09 L/min, 65% Wmax 2.94±0.12 vs. 3.11±0.12 L/min) than with PLAC (main effect, p<.05). Whole-body fuel selection and plasma lactate, glucose, and insulin concentrations did not differ between treatments. Six days of nitrate supplementation reduced VO₂ during submaximal exercise and improved time-trial performance in trained cyclists.

This is neat. So the beet juice improved performance. I think this is due to nitrates being powerful vasodilators(it opens up the blood vessels). I am going to get some beets next time I go shopping.