Performance Benefits of Beetroot (Updated)

There are few legal ergogenic aids for athletes. Beets, or more appropriately foods high in nitrates can give a big boost for athletes. There is an extensive list of research touting the benefits of nitric oxide for athletes and I just finished reading a few of some of the newer studies. So I wanted to update my info on beetroots/performance just to make sure I’m staying up on the latest info for my athletes. I’m not going to state my research sources in this article, but if you need them, I can give you them.

What is Nitric Oxide?

When we consume foods that are naturally high in nitrates, our body does a good job at converting nitrates to nitrite and eventually nitric oxide. This process begins in our mouth and we have nitrate reducing bacteria  on our tongue. This is important to note as if you’re an athlete that wants to gain benefits from nitric oxide, you have to be careful not to use mouthwash. While I’m not advocating for bad breath, when you use mouth wash it kills the nitrate converting bacteria.

Benefits of Nitric Oxide for Athletes:

I should start with: nitric oxide actually has some awesome benefits for all people, not just athletes. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, which means it opens up our arterioles and makes them wider. This makes blood flow easier and reduces our blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, consuming one serving of beets (or similar foods) can reduce your resting blood pressure by 7-8mmHg. Pretty cool right. Other benefits include:

  1. Vasodilation/Increased blood flow to the vasculature (more blood flow to working muscles)
  2. Increased mitochondrial respiration
  3. Increased glucose and calcium homeostasis
  4. Improved muscle efficiency due to a lower ATP cost (exercise will feel easier at harder intensities)
  5. Performance enhancing-proven with endurance exercise and more recently seen in high intensity exercise/team sports and power sports

Where to find Nitrates?

  • Spinach
  • Argula
  • Bok Choy
  • Rhubarb
  • Beetroot
  • Carrots
  • And others-the ones listed contain high levels of nitrates

Looking at this list, if everyone just consumed more dark leafy greens/veggies, we’d all be on our way to having naturally high levels of nitric oxide in our body.

How Much Should you Take?

Most research has been done using beetroot shots (liquid beetroot). This is because it is easily blended/juiced and the blending does not diminish the levels of nitrates. Unfortunately many methods of cooking beets and other foods high in nitrates will reduce the efficacy of the nitrates (boiling especially).

Research shows: 5-6mmol of nitrate given for several days pre-competition is the best amount. Well, how much is that? If you’re not into juicing and you’d rather buy a beet drink, this equates to 2 shots of beetroot juice. One popular company is called BeetIt. So you’d take 2 shots of BeetIt.

If you want to juice your own beets, you’d want to start with 1/4-1/2 of a whole beet mixed with other ingredients (water, coconut water, some spinach?) A few thins to note about beets-they can turn your urine red (normal and fine) and they can even cause a scratchy or sore throat. So start with a smaller amount to test it.

Just consuming this amount of beetroot juice can show a 15% increase in time to failure. You want to take the shot of beetroot juice at least 1 hour pre-competition, however it takes generally 2 hours to see the benefits. Your nitric oxide levels will return to baseline around 12 hours later.

Does this Benefit Everyone?

Yes and no. Consuming fresh veggies is always a plus for everyone. Unfortunately there are athletes who are non-responders. This means they can consume the beetroot juice and not see a benefit. Often times, research has shown that elite athletes do not show as much improvement as less well trained athletes. This could be:

  • Elite athletes already have higher baseline plasma nitrates (healthy diet?)
  • They have better oxygenation (more capillaries)
  • Have higher nitric oxide synthase activity (already better at converting nitrates)
  • Have a higher proportion of type 1 (slow twitch) fibers-these are less amenable to changes in nitrate
  • They might not be responders

All this means is that I’d recommend all who were interested in trying a nitric oxide supplement to try it. See what happens and then decide what you think.

How long should you take it?

There is no definitive answer, however Dr. Andrew Jones out of the University of Exeter (the leading researcher in nitric oxide) believes that while there is no evidence that consuming nitrates over a long period is detrimental, there is no need for constant supplementation.

Instead he recommends taking the supplement 4-7 days before your competition or intensive training periods. He also states up to 4 weeks of supplementation appears to be beneficial, but then to cycle off them after that. Plus, no mega doses as they will not help.

In what form should you take foods containing nitrates?

As mentioned earlier, the way you process the food does alter the nitrate content. Juicing the beets is the preferred method. At this point, beet root powder do not seem to contain the same levels of beneficial nitrates because in order to get the powder form, the beets must be boiled and ground.

If you don’t want to juice and want to try powder, go for it. Or if you want to roast beets, go for it. There is no harm in trying different methods of cooking, you might not achieve the full benefits.

Quick Take Aways:

  1. Beets and other foods containing nitrates are beneficial for both athletes and those looking to be healthy
  2. Consume dark leafy greens as part of your diet
  3. For performance benefit, consume 2 shots of beetroot juice 1-2 hours before competition
  4. Consume beetroot juice or an equivalent food for 4-7 days pre-competition, but cycle off after 4 weeks
  5. Beets are beneficial for endurance athletes, but new research shows team/intermittent sports as well as high intensity and power sports
  6. Consume beets in the form of juice vs powder

 

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Life: Ups, Downs, Challenges and Rebuilding

Over the past 5 months I’ve sat down to write a blog so many times, but couldn’t ever seen to bring myself to do it. I can’t qualify what it was, whether being pregnant (pregnancy fatigue, depression, hormones), short of time, short of energy, feeling deflated or what. I just knew it wasn’t in my heart to write, so I allowed myself the chance to not do something just because I thought I should. That’s hard because I generally do what I think I should do and I’m a type A person. You might be thinking, why do you need to write a blog? In reality you’re right, I don’t. And my opinion matters just about as much as the next persons, which isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things. Since I’m trying to be a sound voice of science based nutrition/endurance reason, I feel compelled to keep pushing the fear mongering out. So that’s where the need to bring reason vs fear makes me feel compelled to write.

Pregnancy: Oh Boy…literally. I have a lot to tell other women who are athletes who want to become or will become pregnant, though this post won’t be about that. Pregnancy has been such a journey and I never could have imagined the ups and downs. And baby Caldwell isn’t even here yet. I know things will change again when that day comes soon. I will say it hasn’t been easy, but that doesn’t take away from the experience. Stay tuned to those blog posts in the future.

Today though, I wanted to get some things off my chest that have been here for a while. This is of course my opinions, feelings, frustrations and mine only. You might not be interested since there won’t be anything sports nutrition or training related in this post, but for me I feel like I just need to get this out. Soon enough I’ll be back to what I love to do and hopefully what you like to learn about/read.

How many of you feel like you’ve ever gone through a period in your life where things move so fast or out of your control that you don’t really stop to see what’s happening for months later? This is kind of what the past year has been like. Looking back, so much has happened, good and bad. Most of the time I just keep pushing forward not stopping to think about what’s happening, just pushing forward. There is always a task at hand and something to be done. No need to stop and think too much. But sometimes when feeling a bit out of it I do… so I did.

We’ve:

  1. Moved from the East Coast and away from friends and family to Texas (Good and bad)
  2. Taken new jobs (Brett from school to a corporation/geology firm) and me from a corporation (PowerBar) to school and being an entrepreneur (Good and bad)
  3. Bought our first house (Good mostly)
  4. Recovered from hamstring surgery and began to train as an athlete again (Good)
  5. Developed Rhabdomyolysis and had to be in the hospital for several days (Bad)
  6. Got pregnant (Good mostly)
  7. Had to stop training as an athlete (Not great, but not too bad considering being the trade off of being pregnant)
  8. Started school full time while pregnant (Good and challenging)
  9. Lost one of our dogs (Bad)
  10. Fostered another dog and are in the process of adopting him (Good)

And this last one hasn’t happened to us as a couple, but for me personally. I was very affected by the election cycle. I’ll speak more to this later, but I guess I’m pretty sensitive to some things and the daily barrage of insults directed at supporters of both sides was a lot to bear.

So looking back, it has been a bit of change to process. For a good  bit of it I’ve felt in control. Some of it though, not so much.

Starting with….Losing Colt

rogue-and-colt-2

I’ve been staying off of social media more and more because of the amount of stress that it has been bringing me and I just wasn’t ready to tell anyone that we lost Colt. Colt is the darker dog on right. He came to us from a Ridgeback rescue and was such a sweet dog. He was a very fearful dog having come from an abusive situation, however he learned that he was loved and he loved us and Rogue. It was the hardest decision to make, but he had a tumor and once his quality of life went down, we knew it was time. It was the hardest decision we’ve had to make and one that I still cry about (I’m crying as I write this). What I do know is that he is running free in heaven and not scared or in pain anymore. I vowed no one would ever hurt him again, I was able to keep that promise and I know he had a happy life with us.

Somethings are super personal, and while I’m pretty open with many parts of my life, I just couldn’t bring myself to share this. I felt like I needed to grieve before saying it on social media. But I’m putting it out there now. Which leads me to… Lepp, our foster dog.

lepp

We wanted to give back to Ridgeback Rescue in honor of Colt. So about 5-6 weeks ago, Brett and I brought up bags of dog food. There is an awesome Ridgeback Rescue called Texas Independent Ridgeback Rescue (TIRR) about 45min away. We met Lepp, who is a 5 year old Ridgeback. He has skin allergies, but other than that, an awesome dog. We couldn’t figure out why someone would abandon him (just part of his story). I wasn’t ready to bring another dog home, but Brett and I grieve differently. The house was too quiet and Rogue was depressed. So after a few weeks of talking about it, we brought him home for a foster time period. He’s doing really well at our house and we’re going to move forward with adoption. My heart doesn’t ache any less for Colt, but there are so many dogs who need love. So I’m happy to be able to give a piece of my heart to Lepp.

The election:

Boy oh boy…There is so much to say, and I’m going to try not to really say a lot. Part of the problem is there has been too much being said. Everyone has an opinion and being computer warriors (being able to hide behind the computer) means that they feel they have the freedom to say whatever they want, be rude, vicious, repeat untruths, etc. Seriously stop everyone!

I’ve had to really step away from social media for the past 6 months or so because of the vicious comments from both sides of the aisle. I have good friends and family who are supporters of both sides and the constant daily posts demeaning each other (even if not directed at one person) was a lot to handle. Every day checking Facebook was a reminder of how much hate, discord, disrespect and untruths are out there.

Now that the election is over I had hoped that we’d be able to come together to rebuild as a country. But it doesn’t seem to be that easy. Instead now we have people protesting an election that was won fair and square. No matter what side you are on, I can’t remember there ever being protests like this against a president elect. If you were not for Bush, you dealt with it. If you were not for Obabma, you dealt with it. Life is hard, realize things won’t always go your way and be able to grow and better yourself. The president/government should not be in charge of making your life better. Go out, work hard and make your life better. We need to have a bit more autonomy in this country.

I am proud to be an American and no matter who is in charge of the country, I know we will prosper. I think there are a lot of hurt feelings and too many people not listening to each side of the debate. All I’d ask is to really try to be informed about both sides of the aisle (don’t make assumptions and if you read something you aren’t sure is true, look it up from as much as an unbiased news source as  you can), to all grow up, stop name calling and know that there are bad apples on both sides of the aisle.

School/Fueled and Focused:

I’m very passionate about helping athletes to succeed whether it’s from an endurance coaching area, sports nutrition area or a combo of both. After completing my Sports Nutrition Cert and 2 year IOC sports nutrition diploma, I knew it was time to finish my Master’s degree. Texas Women’s University has a great dual exercise physio/sports nutrition masters and I’ve been in school since Sept. It’s hard work, but great to be in school learning, to help better those around me. I won’t say it’s been easy to be in grad school full time, coach and be pregnant. It’s a challenge, but I’m the kind of person who generally thrives on a challenge. If I’m not busy enough I’m not sure what to do. Plus there are women who are in school with me who are single mothers. Wow, that’s hard work!

I’ve kept a stable number of athletes for 1:1 coaching and nutrition (thank you!), but the project I’ve spent the past few years on (Fueled and Focused) has lately been on the back seat. I’m a risk taker and I have always believed that I can achieve what I set my mind to. So after having numerous athletes tell me they need help with recipes/meal plans, I created the idea for F&F. Hundred of hours and thousands of dollars later, it was nearly complete. Complete enough to launch it. After spending years and a lot of effort and money on something, it’s really disheartening for something you love so much to not be as successful as you’d hoped. I had hoped that I had created something that many endurance athletes could use and love and that I could help to create a more stable financial environment for our family.

At this point, it’s not where I want it to be. Over the past year I scoured over business blogs, read books, joined women entrepreneur groups all to figure out how to really be a good business women. I have to say, I just ended up sad, deflated, frustrated and mad. Here’s why:

Do you know there are (probably) thousands of people who call themselves life coaches, health coaches and nutritionists who have literally zero education (other than life skills and maybe a weekend certificate) who charge $500-$1000/month (you read that right!)? I had know idea this segment of the working population existed until I joined the business groups. It’s not an anomaly, there are many of these “coaches.” Over the past year I’ve tried to figure out how they can do it. How can they charge such large sums of money and be OK with it? How can people trust them and listen to them when they don’t understand what they are teaching? How can I, as someone who is educated and has spent years in school, not charge 1/4 of that? I had other “health coaches” say I should be charging those fees. I can’t imagine what my athletes would think or how I would feel if I charged prices like that. I do know some tri coaches and nutritionists charge that much and it has made me re-evaluate some of my prices, but I can’t even fathom the thought of it. I have to be comfortable at the end of the day and those numbers are not it.

Again to social media: In addition to the past year with politics, I just feel that social media has become way too much about me me me. Truly there are not enough pictures of dogs, kids, travel and heart warming stories. Instead it’s “look at me, listen to my opinion, read this thing I’m sharing that isn’t true (but you don’t know it), etc.” There are things I’ve heard people say about (really about everything) nutrition on social media that are so false it’s crazy. Every day I’d see these false statements made, the fear mongering perpetuated and people really eating up the falsehoods. Every day I’d want to counteract what is being said with the truth, but after a while I realized it’s not popular to bring science to the table. It’s more popular to fear monger and claim things are true when there really isn’t proof. I have a hard time not correcting something that is false and making a counter point. After so many times of trying to help though, I realized that most didn’t want to hear what I was saying.  Side note: It’s like the day in Oregon where I was the pool and this man was trying to swim butterfly. He was really struggling in the water and his timing was really off.  I thought I could help to tell him that if he did this one drill it could help his timing. I said it very politely, but he was really offended and just swam off. Oops. Last time I’ve given swimming advice when not asked. So that’s part of what’s made me take a step back and re-evaluate my goals, passions, hopes, business practices, etc. After months of watching this and realizing that I do not want to be the kind of person or business who is like them, I know I need to change and re-adjust. Fueled and Focused doesn’t fear monger now, but I’m trying to make things better and more user friendly. And at least figure out how those of us that are science based can coexist with those who believe having “life experience” is the same as having studied a subject for years. Some days I’d feel like I should change career paths, just so I didn’t have to compete with these types of “coaches.” I realize that’s not the answer though. I love what I do and want to continue to do it.

I’m not sure how to exactly change Fueled and Focused to make it more user friendly, to help others in the best way possible, so I’m going to take a step back. I’ve already gone from taking a step back on social media, newsletter, etc. But I’ll be re-evaluating what I offer athletes, pricing, etc. I want to help others and I just have to determine what the best way to do that is. Maybe a paid meal plan membership isn’t the answer. Maybe it is. Either way, I’m not going to sink to fear mongering, nutrition fads, pushing products on people (sorry all you MLMers, but I am tired of seeing your Rodan and Fields, Beachbody, Advocare, etc.) or charging crazy prices. I’m a big believer of women going for their dreams, working hard and making money for their families. But I’m sorry, multi level marketing companies are extremely frustrating to those of us that are inundated with their daily ads. Clearly that type of marketing must work or they wouldn’t be on FB every day pushing it. But as a nutrition and exercise professional, when you hear the things some of these MLMers are pushing that are not science based, it makes you cringe. When you see others jumping on the products or companies and repeating the nutrition nonsense, it makes you (or at least me) frustrated.

I’m going to go back to square one and look at what athlete needs are. My goal is to help athletes. Of course I want to succeed in helping both athletes to train and race better, but also be a provider for my family. I’d love it if you wanted to share ideas that you might have or what you want to see.

In the meantime, I’m opening up F&F to everyone for free. I have over 500 recipes on the site and I do think they are pretty tasty if I do say so myself. For everyone on a paid membership, I’ll just cancel it and you if you’re interested, use the code to “rejoin” for free. I want to feel like my product is representative of me, and it doesn’t currently. I’m in the process of finding someone to help me with the site to make it really feel like me. So until then (maybe Jan1) I’ll keep the code active.

The free code is: Fueled

It will give you access to the whole site. At this point, I don’t feel 100% about charging for something that I’m not super comfortable with. So I hope you’ll take advantage if you’d like to. By doing this it will help me feel like I’m still being authentic and this will help to relieve some general stress. I’m grateful for everyone who has helped me, believed in me and encouraged me. Thank you! You all mean so much to me and I wish there was a better way to expressive it then just thank you. Then, in the meantime I’ll continue to work hard to make the site better and come back revamped better than ever.

To gain access to the Fueled and Focused site with recipes and nutrition info, click here:

www.fueledandfocused.com

then, go to buy “bronze” and use the code: Fueled

That should allow you to have access. I will note, you’ll need to put you height in using inches. If you put feet in, it will mess up and you’ll have to re-enter/try again as the info will not be correct.