This deep red root vegetable has been receiving a lot of attention from the endurance athlete crowd. Recent studies have shown some very promising results to prove the benefits of beets for your general health and athletic performance (here, here, and here).
The Benefits of Beets
So what makes beets so special? I'll give you a hint. The same performance-boosting compound in beets is found in bacon as well. If you guessed nitrates, you nailed it. Wait, WHAT!? Aren't nitrates those nasty cancer-causing chemicals we've been told to avoid like the plague? Actually, turns out that's not the case, especially when coming from a vegetable source (another myth bites the dust).
What does happen when we consume nitrates from concentrated sources (like beets), is that they get converted into nitric oxide by our body. So what does this have to do with endurance-boosting, you ask? Nitric oxide dilates our blood vessels to allow for more efficient blood flow throughout our body, resulting in a decrease in the demand for oxygen when we're exercising. In other words, we can run longer without feeling tired. How awesome is that?
IMPORTANT CAVEAT: Now, before you go on adding beets to every meal thinking you'll be transformed into an untiring running machine, know this. When it comes to consuming beets for performance benefits, it's all about the dose and the timing. The studies have shown that to get the best boost from beets, consuming roughly 500 ml (2 cups) of beet juice (or 2 large beets), 2 hours before racing or training does the trick.
At the end of the day, the most effective way to improve your endurance and running capacity is to train. But if you're looking to stack all the odds in your favor, adding in some pre-race beets is a simple and powerful endurance hack that will help turn you into an obstacle course racing machine.
One of the benefits of beets is that they are rich in phytonutrients called "betalains" which possess strong anti-inflammatory and detoxification support for your body.
The ancient Romans ate beets to get themselves fired up for romance. Turns out they weren't crazy. Modern science tells us that beets are full of boron, an element that aids in the production of sex hormones.
How to Eat Beets: Raw
It's a common misconception that you can't eat beets raw because of their tough root texture. But just slice them thin or dice them up to make it easier to chew and you're good to go.
Beet and Carrot Coleslaw
The Basics 5-10 minutes 2 servings 180 calories per serving Vegan, gluten-free
- 2 medium beets
- 1 large carrot
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 1 TBSP red wine vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Peel beets and carrot.
- Coarsely grate beets and carrot into bowl.
- Lightly pour olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper into bowl.
- Mix thoroughly, serve and enjoy!
How to Eat Beets: Bake 'em
If you're looking for an easy and tasty way to incorporate beets into your diet, try baking them. When in doubt, add fire.
Spartan Baked Beets
The Basics 50 minutes 2 servings 150 calories per serving Vegan, gluten-free
- 4 medium beets
- pinch of salt
- drizzle of olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Rinse beets and wrap each beet in tin foil.
- Bake for 45 minutes, checking for tenderness with knife.
- Remove from oven with oven mitts, unwrap tin foil, and rinse under cold water.
- Pull skin off beets under running water (should come off pretty easily).
- Dice beets into quarters or slices, drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt.
- Feeling fancy? Add some fresh arugula, crushed walnuts, and mozzarella to make the dish pop.
Related: Raspberry and Beet Smoothie Recipe