Beets found to significantly improve athletic performance while reducing oxygen needs, upsetting a fundamental tenet of sports physiology.
Are you ready for a wild ride? One of the fundamental gospels of sports physiology just got turned on its head. Every exercise physiology textbook in the world just got thrown out the window, and all because of -- beet juice!
When athletes train, the reason they get better is the improved oxygen delivery to their muscles. Changes in their lungs allow them to take bigger breaths, for example. Strengthening of the heart boosts cardiac output and blood flow. Your body may even start making more red blood cells to boost the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. But the energy ultimately derived from that oxygen remains the same. X amount of oxygen gets you X amount of work, period, no matter who you are.
As an analogy, on the same gasoline, a Lamborghini goes faster than some lemon, but not because the chemistry of gasoline combustion is different in the sports car. It's just a more powerful engine.
Similarly, we may have bigger muscles. We may be able to get more oxygen to those muscles quicker. But the fundamental energy that can be extracted from oxygen remains the same. Or so we thought.
Researchers put eight guys on bikes and measured their oxygen consumption before and after a few days sipping two cups of beet juice. Before this series of experiments, there was no known drug, substance, steroid, intervention, nothing that could actually increase energy extraction from oxygen. Yet this is what they found.
The open ovals are the placebo, and the filled are the beet root group. After a couple of cups of beet juice, they could do the exact same amount of work with less oxygen. Same work with 19% less oxygen. Then when they ramped up the bike, for an intense bout of what they called "severe cycling", time to exhaustion was extended from 9:43 to 11:15. Greater endurance with less oxygen in the beet group. 16% improvement in their time, with only about 4/5 the oxygen requirement! In short, the beet juice made their bodies' energy production significantly more efficient.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is transcript contributed by Bruce A. Hamilton.
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The "wild ride" of which I speak is a 3-week series—my longest video sequence yet—exploring this phenomenon. In tomorrow's NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day I'll discuss the proposed mechanism and then delve into the pros, cons, and controversies surrounding the performance-enhancing effects of vegetables. Strap yourself in! If you don't have the patience to wait, you can check out the DVD (all proceeds to charity) or take this opportunity to dive into any of the other thousand subjects.
For more context, please check out my associated blog posts: Using Greens to Improve Athletic Performance, Top 10 Most Popular Videos of the Year, Cancer-Proofing Your Body, Increasing Muscle Strength with Fenugreek, Plant-Based Diets for Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Breast Cancer & Alcohol: How Much Is Safe?