Here's some news that's going to set the exercise world back on its ear. The news that the vegetable beetroot benefits a athletes endurance and stamina.
A University of Exeter team has discovered that the nitrates in beetroot juice lead to a reduction in oxygen uptake, this in turn makes working out less tiring so you can exercise longer.
And, the researchers say, the effect is greater than what you get from any other known means, including regular training.
Athletes who need endurance for their sport will be thrilled, but the findings are also welcome news for elderly patients or those dealing with cardiovascular, respiratory or metabolic diseases.
The intriguing research focused on eight male subjects, ranging in age from 19-38, who were given 500 ml of organic beetroot juice a day for 6 days in a row.
They then had to complete a series of tests that involved cycling on an exercise bike. As a control, the subjects were given a placebo of blackcurrant cordial for an additional six consecutive days before having to do the same cycling tests.
When they drank the beetroot juice, subjects could cycle an average of 11.25 minutes. This was 92 seconds longer than when they drank the placebo juice.
This works out to about a 2% reduction in the time it takes to cover a set distance, or being able to add about ten minutes to your regular workout.
When asked to cycle at an easy pace, the subjects were found to use less oxygen after drinking the beetroot juice than with the placebo juice, which means the muscles of the body were able to do the same amount of work, but expend less energy.
The juice might actually help you exercise for as much as 16% longer.
Fitness experts know that you surely improve your fitness level with exercise and have always believed the oxygen uptake of the body remains fixed, meaning that a conditioned athlete and the man on the street would have identical oxygen uptakes at the same intensity of physical activity.
Yet the Exeter team found differing oxygen uptake readings in subjects who drank beetroot juice before exercise.
No one knows how the nitrate in the juice boosts stamina, but the researchers suspect it could be that the nitrate (especially concentrated in juice form) in the juice turns into nitric oxide in the body.
This causes peripheral blood vessels to dilate which improves the oxygen supply to the muscles and impacts how much oxygen is burned up while the body is exercising.
The nitrates can also improve the efficiency of muscle contraction during an exercise session.
What's more, beetroot juice has been shown to lower blood pressure, and when the subjects in this latest study drank the juice they also had lower resting blood pressure readings.
This data supports research from the London School of Medicine and the Peninsula Medical School, appearing in the February 2008 issue of the journal Hypertension that found beetroot juice brought down high blood pressure.
The research is published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. While more work is needed, it's hard to deny the good-for-you benefits of nitrate rich fruits and veggies; these foods might just be the way to a healthy cardiovascular system. Beetroot juice carries nitrates just like some green, leafy veggies you may know like lettuce and spinach, though the juice form is considered especially beneficial to the body.
While beetroot juice isn't something you're likely to see at your local supermarket, you can find it in some health food shops or online sources.
Understand too that the amounts used in the research, 500-ml or just under a pint a day, are quite high, and the "earthy tang" of this nutrient rich juice isn't for everyone.
You might want to start with a small amount, diluted 4:1 with water or try some of the many recipes for combination juices to see what you prefer, and how these beetroot benefits can impacts your workout.
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