Preparing to run Canada’s largest road race for the first time in 25 years, I put Salus Red Beet Crystals (US/CA) to the test in training, feeling less fatigued when I used them. I wanted to know the science behind why it works, to be sure it wasn’t my imagination. Here are the questions I asked, and what I discovered:
Why the excitement over beet juice, beet crystals, and beets?
Beets have a unique mix of nutrients and attributes that line up to help us handle exercise better than we can without them. Beet juice and beet juice crystals help us respond to increased demands for oxygen and energy to fuel performance, and recover from sweat-induced electrolyte loss.
What’s in them that works wonders?
Beets are a rich source of nitrate and electrolyte minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium, among other nutrients.
Why is nitrate advantageous?
Nitrate in our diet can be converted into nitric oxide (NO) by interacting with bacteria in our saliva. NO gets depleted by exercise, so frequent exercisers need to replenish NO.
How does nitric oxide help us?
Increases of nitric oxide (NO) in our blood reduces the amount of oxygen and energy required to perform. NO has a vascular effect, dilates our blood vessels, is involved in muscle contraction, and improves exercise efficiency. This can enhance exercise tolerance and performance. NO can be stored for short amounts of time and is used to reduce our need for oxygen in low-oxygen conditions. For years it was presumed that trained athletes have different vasculature and hearts, leading them to perform at higher levels under these types of conditions. However, studies have shown that the difference between them and others is may lie elsewhere; athletes may be more responsive to the effects of nitric oxide, while some people have a comparatively harder time producing it.
I found this all super interesting. But I noticed the beet studies I found were on runners, cyclists, and swimmers. I am definitely not a competitive swimmer…I am not even a long distance runner.
Who can benefit—is it only for endurance?
Apparently not. Beets also seem to boost intermittent, power-based activities, like soccer, rugby, and CrossFit. Which explains why I saw benefits during my interval training.
I asked my workmates about their experiences, for corroboration.
Why do you use beets?
Robert, my supervisor in the Product Information Department, told me he used to run in high school, then had a long period where he’d do other sports and activities, but running always felt like a chore. Later, working at Flora, he was inspired to get back into it and enjoyed it for the first time. This was in part due to the athletes, including a lot of ultra-marathon runners that we sponsor, and their stories, accomplishments, and just how they describe their love for running. Red beet juice—in the form of Salus Red Beet Crystals for us (US/CA)—was making headlines. He started taking 2-3 heaping tablespoons about 2-3 hours before a run.
Does it matter when you take it?
Rob explained that it takes this long for the beet nitrates to get digested and metabolized into the nitric oxide that helps relax blood vessels, increases blood and nutrient flow to muscles, increases energy, and normalizes blood pressure. “I notice that I can run for longer, feel more oxygenated, less winded and fatigued, and much less likely to get a headache after long runs. It just makes running feel a little less taxing and like I have more drive and energy”, says Robert.
I asked Flora’s Corporate Marketing Manager, Tricia, for her experience training for her first Ultra. “Well, my running partner Amanda, who mixed them in her hydration pack, seemed to have more energy and a faster pace than normal!” “Yes, I was quite speedy wasn’t I, Tricia?” agreed Amanda, our Marketing Coordinator. “I also put the beets in my protein shake every morning and I really like it. I use many Flora products on a daily basis, including the beets, and this is the strongest my immune system has ever been.” Jennifer, Flora’s Corporate Purchasing Manager and a competitive trail runner, says she “just likes them better” than commercial rehydration mixes.
Interesting. Turns out, many commercial hydration drinks have artificial color, too much sugar, brominated vegetable oil (that’s a flame retardant!), and not enough minerals. That got me thinking:
Why do beets work as an electrolyte beverage?
It turns out, isotonic electrolyte drinks usually contain water, sugar, and sodium, and the better ones also have potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Beet juice also supplies all of this. Beet crystals are free of ‘junk’, have manganese and B6, among other nutrients, and are sweet and colorful, naturally.
Turns out, beets really can’t be ‘beet’!