Flashback Friday: Whole Beets vs. Juice for Improving Athletic Performance

"Whole Beets vs. Juice for
Improving Athletic Performance" Nitrates, concentrated in green
leafy vegetables and beets, underwent a great makeover
a few years ago from inert substances
to having profound effects on the power plants
within all of our cells, reducing the oxygen
cost during exercise meaning we can bust out the same
amount of work with less oxygen. So one little shot of beet juice
allows free divers to hold their breath for over four minutes.
They get about a half minute longer. And for others this improved
muscle efficiency allows athletes to exercise
at a higher power output or running speed for
the same amount of breath. I profiled this discovery
in an unprecedented 17-part video series, the longest
I think I've ever done. It was just so fascinating.
But that was back in 2012. What's happened since? Well, this all led to many athletes,
elite and amateur alike, consuming beetroot juice
prior to competition. But what does
the new science say? Well, most of the studies
were done on men. Turns out it works on women, too,
even African-American women – an even more neglected
research demographic.

Same workload power outputs
using significantly less oxygen after drinking beet juice.
But forget beet juice. What about whole beets? Cheaper, healthier, can find
them in any produce aisle, but there had never been any
studies on actual beets, until now. Whole beetroot consumption acutely
improves running performance. They gave physically
fit men and women a cup and a half of baked beets, which
is equivalent to about a can of beets, 75 minutes before
running a 5k. They started out the same, but
during the last mile of the 5k race the beet group pulled ahead
compared to the placebo group, who were given berries instead. Though they were running faster,
their heart rate wasn't any higher. If anything, the beet group
reported less exertion. Faster time with less effort? They don't call them block-rocking
beets for nothing.

But if nitrates are so good
why not just take them in a pill, nitrate supplements
with names like "Hellfire." Although they can work, their
long-term safety is questionable. Non-vegetable sources of nitrates
may have detrimental health effects. So if we want to improve
our performance, we should really ideally obtain
nitrates from whole vegetables. The industry knows this,
so instead markets an array of nitric oxide stimulating
supplements. However, there is
little or no evidence of a performance improvement
following supplementation with these so called NO boosters. The evidence is with the vegetables. How much money can companies
make selling beets though? So how about a novel
beetroot-enriched bread product? We've tried to get people
to eat their fruits and veggies and where has that gotten us? But hey, lots of people
eat white bread. So why not have
them eat red bread? And indeed it worked. Red beet bread brought
down blood pressures, improved the ability of arteries
to relax and dilate naturally. Bread, therefore, may
be an effective vehicle to increase vegetable consumption
without significant dietary changes, because, heavens forbid,
people should have to change their diet
to improve their health..