The Food That Will Make You Run Farther, Faster

Where did we last leave off on our discussion of food and performance?

Oh yes… we chatted about coffee. Oh coffee, how I love you.

I’m pretty sure that we covered everything and more about caffeine and your fitness performances, so let’s move on.

Whatcha’ say?

What other foods can change the way you exercise and perhaps give you a bit of a natural boost?

It’s one of those vegetables you either love or hate. There are no “they’re okay” feelings.

Beets

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Personally, I love them.

My husband hates them. Dan wants badly to like them, he’s asked me to prepare beets a half dozen different ways. But so far, nothing has made these root veggies his friend.

I think last we tried them he compared them to tasting like “dirt and earth”.

But this post isn’t about if they are good or bad. It’s about…

Beets Make You Run Farther

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Or do they?

As a runner training for my next trail race and half marathon, I am starting to fuel my body better for my sport.

After Googling how to make that happen, I came across a news article stating that beets helped to increase endurance strength.

In fact, professional endurance athletes such as Tour De France cyclists and marathon runners have been drinking beet juice for years in an effort to improve performance legally.

I was intrigued but knew that I couldn’t just rely on a news article for the absolute truth.

Research had to be done!

The University of Exerter’s School of Sport and Health Sciences has spent years studying the affects of beets and fitness performance. The head researcher Dr. Andy Jones believes so deeply in his beet research, his Twitter handle is @AndyBeetRoot.

That is the sign of good and powerful research.

The college’s initial study in 2009 found that athletes who enjoyed 2 cups of beetroot juice before training were able to last 16% longer than athletes were were given a placebo.

16% Longer…

Let’s put that into perspective.

That means if you were normally able to run for 60 minutes, if you added beetroot juice to your morning routing you may be able to make it to 69.6 minutes.

For some that equals a whole extra mile, if not more!

And these benefits were seen within just 6 days of starting a beet juice regiment.

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Dr. Jones was even surprised by the outcome, saying…

“Our study is the first to show that nitrate-rich food can increase exercise endurance. We were amazed by the effect of beet juice on oxygen uptake because these effects cannot be achieved by any other known means, including training.”

Impressive, yes?

What Magic Do Beets Possess?

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They contain nitrates.

And nitrates are the magic in this endurance equation.

You see, when nitrates are ingested, they are quickly converted to nitrites from mixing with bacteria in saliva. Then they they are converted to nitric oxide else where in the body (this part is still being studied).

You may have heard that eating nitrates are bad… they are are included in processed deli meets and hot dogs. What’s interesting is the nitrates found naturally in plants, are not linked to health concerns.

Nitrate Benefits

It’s the nitric oxide that the body then uses to boost your overall performance.

And fast.

Nitrates have several benefits, but for fitness performance it comes down to:

  • They help muscles use oxygen more efficiently
  • They help to relax blood vessels allowing for blood pressure to go down and blood to travel much easier.
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Easier blood travel means that oxygen and nutrients are going throughout the body easier. The better blood and oxygen flow, the longer you’re able to workout.

Any Other Foods Besides Beets

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I’ve already mentioned that Dan hates beets. And I understand they are one of those foods you either love or you… don’t.

So are there any other foods that can over the same benefits? Other foods equally high in vegetable nitrates?

  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Green Beans
  • Celery
  • Collard Greens
  • Cabbage
  • Radishes

The Lowdown On Juice

All of the studies that I noted above have one thing in common…

They used beet juice for their participants as a way to get the most concentrated amount of nitrates into their subjects.

Many studies said that you can indeed eat the whole, raw food but because of fiber which can slow digestion you might have to ingest a larger serving.

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I love fresh pressed juice but I hardly ever indulge in it because of it’s low fiber and often high sugar and calorie content. But the good news is…

2 cups of beet juice only has 80 calories.

Not bad at all, in fact, quite the perfect pre-run snack!

Moral of the story… don’t be afraid. It’s nothing like drinking 2 cups of orange juice.

Will They Help You?

Who knows if they will help you enough “juice” to notice a difference, however look at the veggies on the list.

Do any of them seem bad for you? If nothing else, adding these to your pre-run nutrition plan will only help to incorporate more delicious vegetables into your day!

How can that be a bad thing?

The science is there, it’s been replicated over and over. And even if it’s a placebo affect, it might just help your fire burn just a bit longer!

I’ve got my next race in July, and yes I will test this out.

Question…

Given the opportunity to either run 1 mile farther than you ever have before or to be able to run a shorter distance faster, which would you choose?

I love speed, so I would be all about the shorter distance!

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