Beets do a lot more than turn your poop purple – they also enrich the color of your lips! Most people have heard something about beets being good for endurance athletes due to something about nitrates and blood flow. But I think it’s hard for some people to accept that the right foods really can make a difference.

The science behind the endurance boosting benefits of beets begins with the fact that they are rich in nitrates. Your body takes those nitrates and turns them into nitric oxide in your blood supply. That nitric oxide reduces blood pressure by expanding your blood vessels, allowing more blood to get to where it’s needed most. More blood equals more oxygen and other vital nutrients your body needs when it’s working hard. Nitric oxide lowers the oxygen cost of all-out exercise.

There are more whole foods than just beets that give you a nitrate boost.

  • Arugula and spinach (most greens, but arugula especially)
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Turnips
  • Parsely
  • Raw Cacao (see my post-run chocolate milk in my recipes tab)

Most of the foods you’ll find are root vegetables and leafy greens because nitrates are found in the ground, but strawberries are on the higher end for fruits. As if you even needed another reason to eat a strawberry-spinach salad…

They say you don’t really get a performance boost on race day if you’re already eating a lot of these foods regularly during training. You have to load (like carb loading). Ten days out before a race, I’ll start loading up on beets. For me,this means the equivalent of one medium beet a day. The quantity depends on your size. I usually stick with actual beets and/or 100% beet juice, but if you’re traveling for the race, any of those branded beet shots will work, too. I wouldn’t only use those because of the other additives that are in them, but in traveling your options are limited. The day before and morning of, go for the juice – you don’t want the fiber from whole beets.

Beets also detoxify, so beware if you go from zero to a hundred – pace yourself.

Caffeine is said to negate the effects of the nitrate boost, so lay off the coffee while you’re loading.

I actually hate the taste of beets, but here’s the link to a recipe that isn’t so bad:

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