5 Foods that Every Female Athlete Should Eat: Part 3 – Beetroot

beetroot sports performance

So by now you should be stirring liver into your bolognaise and serving it with some sauerkraut on top. The next step is to add some colour to the mix with beetroot!

Beetroot is a root vegetable. You probably know this. At 10g of carbohydrate per 100g it makes a great alternative if you want something “starchy” but you are moderating your carbohydrate intake.

But did you know that beetroot has magical performance enhancing powers and the potential to lower blood pressure?

So I am not talking about THAT type of performance (necessarily) and probably “magical performance enhancing powers” is slightly unscientific. BUT research has shown that beetroot may have the ability to improve performance in endurance sports and enhance tolerance to exercise at severe intensities. It may also play a role in muscle growth and supporting inflammation.

Why is this? (small science lesson)

Beetroot contains nitrates. Nitrates are converted to nitrite in the body which are then converted to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator which means that they cause natural expansion of the arteries (hence drop in blood pressure) but this also means that blood flow is improved which means that oxygen delivery to active tissues is more effective (as seen in this image from Nature)

beetroot sports performance

Sports performance is about being efficient. Greater efficiency means less energy is wasted. Less wasted energy means that you don’t get as tired doing the same amount of work and you can keep going for longer (endurance sports) or push harder (high intensity, CrossFit type sports).

So how much do we need to reap the benefits?

Many of the studies suggest that the equivalent amount of nitrate in 250g-300g of beetroot is enough to gain the benefits.

The jury is still not out if there is more benefit from a daily intake of the required weight or if a 2 hour “injection” via a commercial beetroot drink shot two hours prior to exercise.

My argument is that there are many benefits to eating beetroot generally and there is no harm done by eating it on a daily basis. Research now also suggests that beetroot can promote better blood flow to the brain and therefore reduce risk of dementia.

How to include more beetroot in your diet?

Beetroot is a versatile food. You can add it into salads, roast it, boiled it and serve along side an “meat and 2 veg dish”, blend a cooked beetroot into a smoothie, juice a raw beetroot alongside some apple as a post workout carb drink or make a fermented beetroot relish to have with some goats cheese or in a salad. Yum!

Bottom line: Get your beetroot on (or in)!

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