Why You Might Wanna Reach for Beet Juice at the Gym

Popeye had spinach but beets might be better. A small study from scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows that the humble red root vegetable – perhaps best known for its high beta carotene concentrations – contains a molecule that boosts muscle power. Full story: http://n.pr/1LMJszV
  1. The experiment
    The researchers gave nine subjects with heart failure a small serving — 140 milliliters, or about 2/3 of a cup — of concentrated beet juice.
  2. The results
    Almost immediately after drinking it, the study participants saw an increase in muscle power of 13 percent on average. The findings appeared in September in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure. That's a dramatic boost, on par with the sort of improvement a person can expect after two to three months of resistance training, says Andrew Coggan, a study coauthor and assistant professor of radiology at Washington University in St. Louis.
  3. The caveats
    The study looked specifically at the muscles that extend the knee. Also, it included only patients with heart failure since their muscles don't deliver as much power. That can make it easier to measure improvement in them, the scientists say.
  4. But it's working for other people too
    Coggan and coauthor Linda Peterson have done two additional studies, one that focused on 12 healthy individuals recently published in the journal Nitric Oxide, and another recently submitted for publication that looked at 13 trained collegiate athletes. All groups saw marked improvements in muscle power 90 minutes to two hours after consuming beet juice, the researchers say.
  5. Why beets are magic
    The secret is nitrate, an ion found in high densities in leafy greens – like spinach – and in beets. When nitrate is ingested, bacteria on the tongue convert it into nitrite, which then becomes nitric oxide. This molecule, Peterson explains, can have the effect of increasing muscle power.
  6. If you do decide to fire up the juicer...
    PSA: "It's not blood, it's beets." (Thanks, Portlandia.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kw2WsXIgO6A