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Beets to Boost Your Running Performance

Are you an experienced marathon runner or are you looking to run your first marathon or half marathon and you need a wholesome and natural way to improve your endurance and increase your performance during a marathon race? Besides how you train, nutrition plays an extremely vital role in how you perform. In general, athletes or people participating in athletic activities should be eating healthy foods which are high in vitamins and minerals. In addition you should also be tailoring your diet to your particular athletic activity. Many studies are now being done looking at the composition of foods and trying to determine which foods are best suited for a particular athletic activity and when to eat these foods.

One food in particular that can actually boost your athletic performance and stamina during a race and which is very inexpensive is beets. Actually, I can go as far as to say that eating beets can be beneficial for any athletic activity including weight training.

Beets are high in phytonutrients (betalains) and they are a very good source of other vitamins and nutrients (folate, manganese, potassium, vitamin C, iron… to name a few) which are essential and beneficial to your health. They also contain 1.6 grams (raw) to 1.7 grams (boiled) of protein per 100 gram serving. Besides the many beneficial anti-oxidant effects of beets, they are also high in nitrate which the body uses to make nitrite and nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps to expand the blood cells and thus increase the flow of oxygen to the cells increasing one’s endurance levels. In running or in any other sport, including weight training, proper breathing is very important and critical. Getting the maximum amount of oxygen to the muscles is the key to preventing fatigue and maximizing the gains to be realized from training.

The time that you eat beets will also determine how well you perform. According to a recent study by M. Murphy et al, eating beets 75 minutes before a race can help improve your running performance by an average of 3% and as much as 5% in the last mile. Other studies indicate that your performance can improve by more. There are also other studies that suggest that beets should be eaten daily to maximize your performance. In my opinion, I suggest that they be included in your diet several times per week for both the health reasons and for maximizing your performance in whatever athletic activity that you partake. A balanced diet is always important.

The optimal way to get all the benefits from beets is by eating them raw such as in a salad or as a juice combined with other vegetables. A juicer can come in handy for this.

Another way is by cooking them or using them to make a delicious and hearty soup called Borscht. It’s a really simple soup that can be made and also frozen for future use. The quantity of beets that you put in depends on how hearty you wish to make the soup. I like to add a lot of beets to bring out the soup's flavor and deep red color more and to increase it's nutritional content. This soup is even higher in nutrients, minerals, fiber and protein
than just eating beets alone due to the extra vegetables and chicken which are added in to the soup's recipe.

Here is how I make it for 5 quarts or a 4.7L pot:

4 large beets grated
1 large bone-in lean chicken breast without skin
Green beans sliced (or kidney beans)
Carrots sliced
1 potato sliced in cubes
½ clove of garlic crushed
Black pepper – the amount depends on your taste
1 Hot red pepper chopped

Heat cold water and bring it to a boil. Add the chicken breast and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Add the beans, carrots, potato and cruhed garlic and let it cook for about 5 - 10 minutes. Then add all the grated beets and red and black pepper and let it cook at low heat for about 45 more minutes. By adding the red and black pepper while cooking, it will give the soup a nice hot spicy flavor without being overpowering. Total cooking time is about 1 hour. The chicken now should be easy to pull off the bones with a fork and very moist and juicy. Cut it up and add it back into the soup.

I don't add salt in this recipe because most vegetables already contain sodium and there is no need to increase the amount of salt in food. Most people's diets already contain far too much salt! By adding pepper and crushed garlic combined with the natural flavors of the extra beets and the vegetables there will be abundant flavors in the soup.

This simple recipe makes a very hearty soup which you can then freeze and use in future weeks.

Although, I wrote this article for runners it can equally apply for any other sport or athletic activity. Also, beets is one additional food that should be part of a well-balanced diet and for healthy living.

Article by: Peter Kudlacz of popularfitness.com

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