Beetroot Benefits Exercise Endurance

New research shows that beetroot can improve exercise endurance and help to keep blood pressure low. Dietitian Juliette Kellow BSc RD explores the benefits of drinking beetroot juice!  

Beetroot Benefits – Exercise Endurance

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

If you want to work out for a little longer and improve your exercise endurance, you might want to try adding beetroot to your diet according to new research from the University of Exeter and Peninsula Medical School.

Scientists found that when eight male volunteers aged between 19 and 38 years drank 500ml of beetroot juice every day for six days they were able to improve their exercise endurance, cycling for an extra 92 seconds than when they drank a placebo drink of blackcurrant cordial. The study, which was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, also showed that the participants had lower blood pressure when they were resting.

Although the exact way in which beetroot works its magic is still unclear, the scientists think the effects on exercise endurance may be due to the high concentration of naturally occurring nitrates that are found in this purple veggie. In the body, nitrate converts into nitric acid, which dilates blood vessels. This leads to a reduction in the amount of oxygen used during exercise, which means we can increase our endurance and don’t feel as tired when we do our usual work out. It also helps to lower blood pressure.

Professor Andy Jones who worked on the study from the University of Exeter’s School of Sport and Health Sciences said, “Our study is the first to show that nitrate-rich food can improve exercise endurance. We were amazed by the effects of beetroot juice on oxygen uptake because these benefits cannot be achieved by any other known means, including training.”

WLR says . . .

This is only a small study and so the results need to be interpreted with caution. Ultimately, eating beetroot or drinking its juice is unlikely to increase your exercise endurance unless you are already an athlete and at the peak of fitness. For most of us, the best way to increase endurance is to exercise regularly so aim to work towards achieving the recommended 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, five times a week.

Eating fewer salty foods, ditching the salt pot, eating more fruit and veg and losing weight if necessary can help to lower blood pressure. However, drinking a little beetroot juice, adding beetroot to salads or roasting it with a little olive oil won’t do any harm. In fact, in addition to the current study, research published in the journal Hypertension in 2008 revealed that drinking beetroot juice lowered blood pressure.

Slimmers often avoid beetroot as it tends to contain more calories than many other vegetables. However, an 80g serving of boiled beetroot – equivalent to three baby beetroot – contains just 37 calories and it’s virtually fat free. Plus, it’s a good source of fibre so can help to fill us up – great for helping to control our weight. In particular, beetroot contains soluble fibre, which helps to keep blood sugar levels steady and may reduce cholesterol. Unlike most other veg, which tend to have a low glycaemic index (GI), beetroot has a medium GI.

It does have a low glycaemic load, which means it’s a good choice if you’re trying to lose weight. This veggie also contains good amounts of a B vitamin called folate, which is especially important for mums-to-be and women in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to help protect against birth defects such as spina bifida. And this root veggie also contains an antioxidant called betalin, which may help to keep the heart healthy.

Bottom line: adding beetroot to your diet can help to boost your nutrient intake and won’t ruin your diet. But it probably won’t make you run that much faster!

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