Have you heard about beet juice? The blood-red elixir of the beet is apparently the hottest thing for Olympic athletes looking for a non-illegal performance boost. Soon the world will be caught up in beet juice fever. Too bad it tastes like "sweet dirt."
The humble beet—knobby underground dweller, garnisher of salad—is the fuel of elite international athletes in London. A blog post by Canadian cross-country skier Sheila Kealey reveals practically all of Team Canada's marathoners are on the stuff:
One race morning, I noticed my XC Ottawa teammates Karl and Megan drinking beet juice. I'd read some of the research, but now I was intrigued. Apparently they were tipped off by their friend Dylan Wykes. Dylan, along Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis will be representing Canada in the Olympic Marathon in London, and all of them seem to have incorporated beet juice into their nutrition plans.
U.S. Marathoner Ryan Hall also cites beet juice as a training aid.
Studies have shown that beets can have a performance-enhancing effect for endurance athletes. Last June a study showed that "cyclists who drank half a liter of beet juice for six days were 11 seconds faster over a 2.5-mile course and 45 seconds faster over a 10-mile course," according to Outside magazine. This is because beet juice is rich in nitrates, which help muscles use oxygen more efficiently, It's so potent it turned up in this article in Nature along with illegal performance enhancers like EPO. It can even help divers and musicians hold their breath longer.
I predict that after this Olympics, beet juice will become the new trendy cure-all beverage, now that coconut water has been shown to be just sugary water. Soon you will be able to buy four ounces of beet juice in an over-designed glass vial at Whole Foods for $5.50. They'll call it "BeetLife" or something. Nitrates will be the new electrolytes, and everyone will walk around with mouths stained red like they just gnawed on a deer carcass.
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