Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Beet Juice, Tastes Like Dirt ... But Does It Work?

Biotta Beet Juice - I think it actually has an "earthy body",
as in it straight up tastes like dirt
Michael's friend Michelle, and by default my friend too I guess, is a pretty good triathlete.  She was a great high school swimmer, and combines that high level skill with improving biking and running to often place very high in her age group.  Last year we all ran the Disney Marathon together.  She co-stars and plays "Michelle" in Michael's Disney Marathon Video (you can watch it here). And she discovered something in her marathon training that she felt might have helped her performance.

During her training, she started drinking beet juice based on recent scientific data that indicates it might actually improve the performance of endurance athletes.  And of course, being the low-level endurance athlete who thinks he has "high-level" potential that I am ... I looked into it.  And what I found was very interesting - but I'm a nerd - so read on at your own risk.

Professor Andrew Jones, Ph.D., and Head of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter in England is the world's leading authority on beet root research.  Now some of you Mensa types out there who have memorized more than three of the abbreviations on the Periodic Table of the Elements might explain this a little more eloquently, but the main gist is that the beet root has a very high level of nitrates.  Who cares right?  Well, these nitrates are converted to nitric oxide after about 2 hours of absorption in the body.  At that point, this added shot of nitric oxide apparently lowers blood pressure, effectively improving muscle efficiency - meaning that it takes less oxygen to perform the same amount of work.

What does that mean for you and me as endurance athletes?  Studies indicate that drinking beet juice before an event actually makes us run further for longer and faster.  In fact, many results have shown that elite athletes have improved their performance by 1-2% after using it.  That doesn't seem like that much does it?  Well consider this ... 2% off of a 4 hour marathon is almost 5 minutes.  Instead of coming in at 4:00, you might be able to post a 3:55.  In fact, it might be the difference in a PR or Boston Qualifier.

So is it fact or fiction?  Well, many high level and Olympic athletes including 10K Gold Medalist Mo Farah use it.  Plus, there is an increasing awareness of beet juice in many endurance sport circles, as explained in this Runner's World article earlier this month.  Many athletes haven't reported a huge jump in quantitative results, but still feel it gives them a psychological advantage.  In fact, our friend Michelle said she didn't actually know if really did anything, but it made here feel faster.

As far as how much to drink, it appears that about two servings of 8oz about 2 hours before the event seem to work the best.  But I'm actually still researching that part of it.   There are apparently also beet shots that are a concentrated form of beet root so you don't have to drink quite as much. I'm telling you, it's not good!  It literally tastes like it came straight out of the ground ... which, well it did ... but you know what I mean. Some athletes have found that drinking it a couple of days prior to a long run or event seems to help even more.

Researchers are also finding that natural mouth bacteria aids in the conversion of the nitrate into nitric oxide.  So strangely, if you use certain types of bacteria killing mouthwashes or toothpastes, it can render the beet juice ineffective.  I drank some yesterday and I can tell you that it turns your urine red.  Which is actually kind of cool because it gives you the visual effect of internal bleeding or a hernia, without the pain or possible life-threatening injuries.  One down side is it's expensive.  The bottle pictured above cost about $7 at our local grocery store.

So I'm gonna give it a whirl this weekend.  Based on everything I've ready, it really can't hurt - but we'll see if I can run like the wind for much longer than normal.
Have you tried beet juice?  What are your thoughts on it?
... beet great today! (ha, see what I did - put an extra "et" on "be" to make "beet" ... pure genius!)


  1. I just drank some of your beet juice. Then I ran 7 miles in 5 minutes. I think it works.

    I really think I should have had a V-8.

    Beet Great Tomorrow too baby!

  2. Only serious comments here please ... man, you are one corny chick!

  3. I'm sorry sweetie. I'll Beet-have from now on.

    No I might not...wait, I'll Beet Back.

  4. I wanna be a Beetter runner. Maybe I should check this out?

  5. I think I'll stick with being slow.

  6. Ha ha - Michael's comment was funny. I like a bit of corn with me beetroot.

    I've tried beetroot juice but back when I wasn't well so I really can't say if it worked or not. One day I was feeling a bit off and ended up throwing up all the beetroot juice - looked like I was haemorrhaging and I haven't been able to face it since.

  7. I've read about beet juice and while it all sounds good and true, I'm hesitant to drink it a few hours before a long run--I'm afraid I would hurl. Will be interesting to read about your experience (better for you to hurl than me, he?).
    Cheers and happy running,

  8. Agree with ajh. I'll rather stay slow than drink that.

  9. I have never heard of the benefits of beet juice. I look forward to seeing your review on it. I am willing to try anything that may improve my running!

  10. I know all about nitric oxide... and it works... it's what Mad Max used in "The Road Warrior" to make his car go faster....

    that said my wife juices with beets and carrots... I drink it sometimes and I'm still not very fast.

  11. Looking forward to hear about your results.

    Michael's comment made me chuckle :-)

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  13. I almost skipped reading this post.... soooo glad I didn't! Too funny! and the follow up comments were almost as good!
    I know there is no way I could force myself to drink something that tasted nasty. I bought a bottle of glucosamine one time. I had one dose and couldn't handle any more. And that stuff was apparently made of gold (judging from the cost!) But thanks for the heads up... I'll keep my eyes peeled for the beet pill.

  14. Nice comment, Michael! :)

    I don't know if I could rock beet juice. Does not sound appealing to me.

  15. I just started juicing, and I have always hated vegetables, but the beet juice is making me sick to my stomach, I think because I didn't drink it on an empty stomach. And the taste really was like eating dirt. I won't be using beets ever again!
    P.S. one article I read said you need to chew the juice and swish it around to activate salivation which releases enzymes. I think I would certainly have up chucked! Wouldn't that be colorful?


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