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Out of the Lab Onto the Track

Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover studies convinced the scientific establishment that nitrate-rich vegetables such as beets could noticeably improve athletic performance.

February 16, 2012 |
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Acknowledgements

Image thanks to Richard Masoner.

Transcript

The scientific world could simply not believe that beets could significantly, noticeably improve athletic performance by enhancing energy production at the subcellular level. So last year the same type of study was repeated over and over and over in different labs. Forget the labs, what about out on the race track. Chugged two cups of beet juice and off they went. Randomized, double blind, crossover, placebo controlled study; nobody knew who was drinking what going into it, beet juice versus de-nitrated beet juice. And the most striking finding was a significant improvement in 4 and 16 K competitive cycling time trial performance after the ingestion of a single half liter beetroot beverage, with all nine individuals completing both distances faster after beetroot supplementation.

And once the researchers were actually able to take muscle biopsies from people before and after, and provide proof, earlier this year, that mitochondrial efficiency, human energy production could be improved; they finally won over the scientific establishment. A toast to health and performance.

The media echoed the praise… complete with even more atrocious puns.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by MaryAnn Allison.

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

For an explanation of this boost in the mitochondrial efficiency of human energy extraction, see Priming the proton pump, the second video in my series on the performance-enhancing effects of vegetables. What might be the potential downsides of doping with beets or other nitrite-containing vegetables? Stay tuned for tomorrow's video of the day. And if you can't wait until tomorrow for your next NutritionFacts.org video, there are hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects.

For some context, please check out my associated blog post, Using Greens to Improve Athletic Performance.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    For an explanation of this boost in the mitochondrial efficiency of human energy extraction, see Priming the proton pump, the second video in my series on the performance-enhancing effects of vegetables. What might be the potential downsides of doping with beets or other nitrite-containing vegetables? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s video of the day. And if you can’t wait until tomorrow for your next NutritionFacts.org video, there are hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/beech27/ Beech27

    So, let’s say that I’d like to apply this research to myself. How much should I drink? How often? When? 2 cups, before running, perhaps?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      The participants in the study drank a glass of beat juice 2.5 hours before the activity.

  • Elias Masri

     hahaha I just dried to chug beet juice, ive had beet juice before (but never alone) and had few side effects except red poop. I drank about half a liter and first I wanted to see my tongue, I was sure it was going to be super red and it was! and about 3 seconds later uhh ohh…i guess it wasnt such a good idea. It came out of me twice as fast as it went in and had me running to the bathroom! any studies on beet juice and a clean colon? ahahah luckily nothing too bad

  • Rudy Belgardt

    I’m just wondering if pickled beets have the same effect. Does the act of pickling in some way reduce the efficacy of the good stuff?

  • Victoria Kamsler

    Hi Dr. Greger,
    In additoin to beet juice, Vegan triathletes like Rich Roll are also using cordyceps and maca for endurance, and the recent book “Eating on the Wild Side” by Jo Robinson mentions watercress for aiding recovery from strenous exercise. Do you have any views on these?

  • Francis

    I’m an elite cyclist and use Beetroot juice before races most of the time, thanks for sharing this info with us Michael. I’be been Vegan for almost a year now and have never felt better. I’d be interested to know if I should be upping intake of certain things to account of the amount of exercise I do.

    Should I be having more protein than the average person doing recreational exercise? If one could look at a perfect healthy diet what would it look like. Is there anywhere online we can see a plan for a ‘perfect’ diet?

    Many thanks.

    • Toxins

      In terms of protein, protein needs match caloric needs, so when you exercise, you tend to consume more food, which will inevitably lead to greater consumption of protein. There is no need to seek protein rich foods or to supplement additional protein. I would suggest consuming something containing carbohydrates immediately after physical activity.

      “The Anabolic Phase: The 45-Minute Optimal Window
      The anabolic phase is a critical phase occurring within 45 minutes post-exercise. It is during this time that muscle cells are particularly sensitive to insulin, making it necessary to ingest the proper nutrients in order to make gains in muscle endurance and strength. If the proper nutrients are ingested 2 – 4 hours post-exercise they will not have the same effect. It is also during this time in which the anabolic hormones begin working to repair the muscle and decrease its inflammation.
      Immediate ingestion of carbohydrate is important because insulin sensitivity causes the muscle cell membranes to be more permeable to glucose within 45 minutes post-exercise. This results in faster rates of glycogen storage and provides the body with enough glucose to initiate the recovery process (Burke et al., 2003). Muscle glycogen stores are replenished the fastest within the first hour after exercise. Consuming carbohydrate within an hour after exercise also helps to increase protein synthesis (Gibala, 2000).”
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11098159