Looking For Fitness In A Glass Of Juice

Garden Acupuncture shares a new trend in athletic "juicing" (i.e. beetroot juice).

[Hopefully] gone are the day of Barry Bonds or Ben Johnson (he was the Canadian 100m sprinter) who won the gold medal in 1988 only to have it taken away after the Olympic athletic department found steroids in his urine.

Today, Olympic hopefuls are "juicing" something else--notably beetroot juice and tart cherry juice for their source of getting a legal jump on their competition.

So what is beetroot juice? Well, nothing too exciting if you were already running to the produce market. Beetroot juice is created by from the knotty parts of the beet. And while no one is sure who thought of this is first, it seems to actually have some physical performance enhancement capabilities.  In a study published last year, for instance, cyclists who ingested half a liter of beetroot juice before a 2.5-mile or a 10-mile time trial were almost 3 percent faster than when they rode un-juiced.

Well 3% increase may not seem like a lot to us, but in the world of professional athletics 3% is enormous. So much so that it's already documented being used in the British track and field athletes at the London 2012 Olympics, including Mr. Mo Farah who won the gold medal in the men's 10 kilometer race. Other athletes include several other marathon runners, swimmers, rowers, cyclists, and soccer players from all different nationalities.

It is not yet clear how beetroot juice improves performance, but it seems to improve blood oxygen flow to muscles and prompts the muscles to use the augmented oxygen more efficiently. Dr. Andrew Jones, a professor of applied physiology at the University of Exeter in England states "there is a lower oxygen cost” to exercise when someone is drinking beetroot juice. That may be one reason it allowed volunteers who drank it for a week beforehand to walk or run for significantly longer on a treadmill than those who had drunk a placebo juice.

So how can this help you? Currently, it seems that scientists think that it works well for short length exercise in comparison to endurance races. So try to drink approximately one half-liter of the juice per day and be prepared for a period of acclimation. Shocking...beetroot juice is not tasty!