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.



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


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?


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


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.


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.


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!


  • Sheena

    I’m with Dan on beets 100% but I’d definitely down some of the other vegetable juices in front of an important or big race!

    • Haha, he will be happy to know he’s not alone!

  • I’d choose running a shorter distance faster, just because I feel like it’s usually harder to do that than to add another mile to a distance. I’m not much of a beet eater but I eat plenty of those other vegetables. Some people use beats in baking so that might be an interesting way to sneak them in.

    • They bake really well! Perfect for red-velvet stuff so you don’t get turned off by the red color!

  • I knew it!!! I knew that’s what you were going to say!! I’ve actually been adding them to my smoothies lately 🙂

    • Haha, you know me so well 😉

  • I’m also about the shorter distance, but more like shorter mid-distance, 5Ks and 10Ks. But you knew that :).

    I like fresh juices from Earth Fare and always get beets in mine. I always thought they helped my running after drinking it (was not drinking it immediately before running, though). Then again, it could’ve been because the juices had combinations of all those ingredients in there. To me I always feel better and run better when I eat veggies the night before a race, like a big salad, rather than much carbs.

    • I have still not had one at Earth Fare! I need to get on that, maybe tomorrow!

  • Marina

    You need to make Dan some Borcht – its beet soup and its delicous:)

    • Recipe?? Or should I just google it?

  • I love beets but have not had success with them in juice—I need to try again when my Vitamix arrives.

    • I should try them in the vitamix! Great idea! you’re going to love having it

  • I’d always choose distance over time because right now that’s just how my training is going…I’m happy being a turtle!

    I love beets. I’ve been thinking of trying juicing to help my overall fitness and health, but juicers are so expensive, and buying juice is pricey too..and like you pointed out, pre-made juices are HIGH in sugar! Maybe I’ll just start to eat beets in my salads more often!

    • Slow and steady wins the race!

      I was going to get a juicer too but decided I don’t want to clean up after one! haha

  • My husband said the same thing about beets.. tastes like dirt haha. I think I like running only a little more than Dan likes beets, so I’d definitely say a shorter distance faster. Get it over with quicker, right? 😉

    • Haha! Yup, the faster you go the faster it’s all over 🙂

      • Ok wait. I JUST remembered I got my husband to eat beets spiralized and baked. Have you tried that?

        • Nope! But I will have to try that next!

  • I love beet salad! Good to know there are so many amazing benefits of it. My mom makes a delicious beet and potato salad with peas and carrots as well. So good. Thanks for sharing the science behind it!

    • That sounds delicious! Would love the recipe!

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