Jill here – in one word, YES!
To be fair, most vegetables are worth the hype. They are nature’s pharmacy, packed full of vitamins, minerals and plant-based compounds called phytochemicals that bring a multitude of health and performance benefits.
Rule #1 nutrition is cumulative; it’s like a bank account that builds compound interest over time. If you make regular deposits by eating quality, nutrient dense plant and animal foods you will build physical resilience.
Of course, nutritional withdrawals are made every day depending on activity, stress and overall health status. Your aim is to have enough ‘cash’ in your nutritional bank account to deal with these expected withdrawals but still have some in reserve for unexpected occurrences such as extremely busy and taxing periods or coming in contact with an infectious bug.
This is where fresh vegetable juices come in and today we’re talking about beet juice.
When it comes to vitamins and minerals they are a powerhouse. They are high in B-vitamins, in particular folic acid and B6, an excellent source of manganese, potassium and copper. They're also a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C and iron.
The hype around beet juice, however, often centres on their nitrate content. Through a chain reaction that starts in your mouth when mixed with saliva, your body changes these nitrates into nitric oxide, which aids blood flow through the vessels and into the skeletal muscles. There is considerable research to support the theory that beet juice lowers blood pressure and delivers more oxygen rich blood to the muscles thereby boosting performance, especially endurance performance. But more on that later…..
It’s the phytochemicals that really interest me. Beets are rich in betalains, which is an unusual group of plant chemicals that provide stellar antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support.
Betalains help your liver process unwanted toxic substances. They specifically help your phase 2 liver enzymes convert them into water-soluble forms so they can be excreted through the urine. Bingo! We're all exposed to numerous substances in our daily lives and we all need strong detoxification systems to maintain health and wellbeing.
But here’s an important point, unlike many other phytochecmicals, the more you cook beets the more betalains are lost. The loss is substantial even if you steam them for 10-15 mins. This is why fresh beet juice is the way to go!
Of note: for those of you who are prone to kidney stone formation, beets are high in oxalates (along with spinach, some berries and beer.) Oxalates can sometimes become problematic if they over accumulate in an environment with an overly high concentration of calcium. Of all kidney stones formed calcium oxalate stones would be the most common type.
Joe and I like to make an early deposit into our nutritional bank account so we start every day with one cup of fresh vegetable juice. Joe’s favourite is carrot, lemon and ginger but mine has always been beet with a little granny smith apple.
Both are delicious but if you want to know more about the specific performance research that made Joe switch his morning carrot juice in favour of beet then you may want to join our ‘Inside the Workshop with TJB’ Facebook group. I’ve outlined the research there.
Ps: If you start drinking beet juice, you should know that it may make your urine and stools look reddish. That's normal.
If you're interested in signing up for your first endurance cycling event as a solo or team, check out the Race Joe Barr Endurance Series. There's a distance for everyone!