Even in ancient times it was believed that some food products have unique properties and improve the effort abilities. Nowadays we definitely know that such assumption is justified in scientific studies. For example, beetroots and juice made of this vegetable influence the efficiency in a spectacular way, and these are not all their advantages!
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I think no other vegetable is as plain as beetroot. Nobody is surprised by the fact that broccoli, avocado and maybe sweet potatoes have unique influence on the sports condition, but the idea that cheap, easily-available and, for some – with bad connotations – beetroots also have such influence, is very surprising and almost causes confusion. Despite that, it has to be underlined that there's huge power in beetroots, from which you can make practical use in sports: both, professional and amateur. What's interesting – it's valid for many different disciplines.
The magic content of beetroots
Another interesting fact is that these are neither the vitamins, which are responsible for its phenomenone, nor polyphenols or other natural substances, but the inorganic nitrates – the compounds, which – until recently – were perceived as the threat for health. However, scientific research showed, that the inorganic nitrates don't have to be harmful for us, and that they have a very interesting advantage: they can be used in the body to produce nitric oxide (NO).
Not only arginine raises the level of NO
It was believed until recently, that the best way of increasing the production of NO is increasing the supply of arginine (because nitric oxide is formed of it, with the attendance of the enzymes from the NOS group). Such conviction popularised the supplements from the no-booster group based on various forms of arginine, like AAKG. However, nowadays, we are certain that non-organic nitrates are at least as good (or maybe better) in this matter.
It's good to know that the institutions dealing with, among others, giving opinions on supplements aiding effort abilities, such as the Australian Institute of Sports, recommend the sports people beetroot juice, and not the supplements containing AAKG.
What are the sports advantages of consuming beetroot juice?
There are many potential benefits of consuming beetroots or juice made of them. The most important, positive, consequences of “beetroot supplementation” are following:
decrease of exhaustion during the physical effort,
increase of training efficiency (faster stimulant to develop),
improvement of endurance,
larger “muscle pump”.
The key aspect, in order to achieve the best advantages from consuming beetroot juice, is – of course – dosage. On nitrates basis, majority of studies recommend the dose of about 6.4 – 12.8 mg/kg. It means, that a competitor weighing about 100kg should consume from 640 to 1280mg of nitrates from food. Taking under consideration the fact, that the average content of nitrates in beetroots is about 150mg per 100g, it means, that, with such body weight, you should consume more than 400g, or drink similar amount of beetroot juice.
The time of intake
The inorganic nitrates, along with the products which contain them, start to act after some time, and the effect is sustained for a few hours. It's best to consume beetroot juice about 2-4 hours before the planned effort (the half-life of nitrates is up to 8 hours, it means, that after this time their level in the body is lower by half from the maximal value). However, also after this time nitrates will also “work”, what may be also used practically when planning supplementation.
Few words of summary, or – who will benefit most?
Beetroot juice may be helpful in all sports disciplines, both resistance and endurance. What's interesting, it was believed for a long time that it would perform better in the latter, but further studies showed that the increased production of nitric oxide from the nitrates appears in the situation of oxygen insufficiency. Therefore, resistance training, CrossFit training, as well as martial arts training is the dream circumstance to consume beetroot juice (although, in the martial arts, it's good to pay attention to the fact, that the increase of nitric oxide production neither causes excessive pump nor, therefore, does it lower efficiency).