Welcome back to the Snack Hack series. Each post aims to bring you some new information that will help to tweak, shake up and improve your overall health and wellbeing.
Today’s hack in the beetroot. This wonderful root vegetable not only has some incredible overall health benefits but could also give you a serious edge in your athletic performance.
The beautiful and bright colour of beetroots can make anyone fall in love, yet it is often ignored or dismissed as an old school snack that belongs next to the pickled onions. Beetroot has however now been gaining amazing popularity as a popular superfood around the world.
Beetroot is low in fat, full of powerful antioxidants, rich in Vitamin C, and helps in the absorption of iron. Both the leaves and the roots can be eaten. While the pink root is sweet, the dark green leaves are bitter but very rich in calcium, iron and Vitamin A.
These lil purple fellas are a great way to detox naturally. Beetroots are a unique source of betalains – a type of phytonutrient. These compounds are known to provide powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties. Beetroot is in fact known as a great liver-protective food. It is a great liver cleanser and helps in flushing out all the toxins. With the help of compounds like methionine and glycine, it prevents fatty acids from building up and stimulates the liver cells.
As well as some serious antioxidant power, beetroots also have a number of other minerals including:
Beetroots are also a great source of potassium. Potassium is a mineral electrolyte that helps nerves and muscles function properly. If potassium levels get too low, fatigue, weakness, and muscle cramps can occur. Very low potassium is especially an issue for athletes for the clear reasons above. Although the old banana is often heralded as a decent potassium provider when in need, we’ll go on to explore why the beetroot is really your perfect pre workout formula.
Let’s dive in a lil deeper..
Beetroot juice may help lower your blood pressure, even if temporarily. Researchers found that people who drank 8 ounces of beetroot juice daily lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure; systolic pressure referring to the amount of pressure in your arteries during contraction of your heart muscle and diastolic pressure being the blood pressure when your heart muscle is between beats.
This is thought to be the result of the Nitrates found naturally occurring in beetroot (not to be confused with artificial Nitrites used to preserve meats such as bacon). These are compounds in beetroot juice that convert into nitric acid in the blood and help widen and relax blood vessels which allow more oxygen to flow to your brain, heart and muscles and thus, lowering high blood pressure.
Lowering blood glucose
Though high in sugar, beetroot actually helps in regulating your blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that it does not lead to high glucose concentration in the blood. This simply means that the natural sugars in beetroot are released very slowly in the body and thus, prevents sudden spikes.
In the form of the juice, beetroots may actually help diabetics. If looking for a clean source of slow release carbohydrate to fuel your sporting (or general life) endeavours, beetroot really is a great energy option.
According to a small 2012 study, drinking beetroot juice increases plasma nitrate levels and boosts physical performance. During the study, trained cyclists who drank 2 cups of beetroot juice daily improved their 10-kilometer time trial by approximately 12 seconds, while also reducing their maximum oxygen output.
Beetroot juice helps in opening the blood vessels and thus increases the flow of oxygen throughout your body making you feel more energetic and active. This is probably why it’s best to have it early morning to wake up your sleepy organs.
Results of a 2015 study suggest further benefits of nitrates in beetroot juice. The study showed that people with heart failure experienced a 13 percent increase in muscle power two hours after drinking beetroot juice.
One compound in beetroot that causes concern for its use in pregnancy is betaine. As per studies, betaine had shown adverse effects in animal testing. And there are no adequate studies on pregnant women to support its safety.
Also, pregnant women are more sensitive to the effects of nitrites. Beets being high in nitrites must hence be avoided by expecting mothers. Not just the mother, even the fetus could be more sensitive to the toxicity of nitrites – especially during the 30th week of pregnancy when there is a rise in oxidative stress.
Alrighty, so we can see why the health benefits of lowering blood pressure, detoxifying the liver and balancing blood sugars make beetroots an awesome option.
If though you’re looking for the ultimate pre workout, then honestly look no further. Allowing blood to pump more effectively around the body has obvious positive potentials for a athlete looking for that extra gear whether they’re pushing weights or cycling long distance. Add to that increases in muscle power and natural anti inflammatory qualities and you have all you need for the perfect pre work out formula for the gym, mats, track or whatever it maybe.
Last point. Take your powdered beetroot in water or beetroot juice a MINIMUM of 2.5 hours BEFORE hitting your workout. Up to 3 hours is fine. If taken after it is a WASTE OF TIME! This is as the beetroot takes time to be processed and work through your system. Get organised, you won’t regret it. And just lastly, before I go off on a rant about the poor quality of pre workout supplements on the market, please, if you do need a little lift prior to training, don’t over tax your central nervous system and adrenal glands, just have a cup of coffee..
Till next time, thanks for reading!
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