13 June 2013: Special Guest Post - Beetroot Power

There is plenty of recent research detailing the potential performance enhancing benefits of consuming beetroots prior to endurance exercise. It seems companies have jumped on board and there are now products available aimed specifically at athletes. But why not make your own?? This blog is a special guest post from Robin Trotman who I 'met' recently via email(s)!! Robin is a triathlete and medical doctor who has bravely used himself as a research lab rat in the interests of determining the best beet smoothie recipe and when and how to drink to best effect . Robin's wife Jill is a registered dietitian and diabetes educator and they have two little girls who are super cute and speedy little swimmers! Robin's family grows their own beets - something I wish I had the green thumb for. Thanks for the recipe and pictures Robin!! If you participate in endurance sports or are privy to nutrition/performance literature, then you have no doubt heard about the performance benefits of beets.  These little jewels have many performance enhancing properties.  Beets are loaded with nutrients that afford several theoretical explanations for their performance benefits. (nitric oxide and vasodilation, ATP, etc)   Several studies have been done that have repeatedly shown that consumption of beet-roots can have reproducible performance benefits in both running and cycling endurance and speed.

If you are like many folks, the taste of beet-roots is not pleasant and would not be a welcome addition to your training table.  After a few trials, some research, and listening to anecdotes from friends, I felt compelled to incorporate beets into my pre-race and pre-training diet.  Based on the current literature and personal anecdotes, there is no argument that there is something to beets.  So we tinkered and experimented with different combinations of smoothie ingredients, thinking that a smoothie was the easiest way to ingest a large volume, typically in the morning, and also get some good nutrition/carbohydrates in.  While there are commercially available extracts and supplements, we tried to use real/whole foods.  After several different versions, some using our typical smoothie recipe ingredients like yogurt or whey protein powder, we came to the conclusion that the best way to mask the beet flavor was with more citrus flavor.  The creamy/sweet flavors accentuated the beet flavor, so I avoided them, and this final recipe was by far the best tasting, lowest total volume, and easiest to prepare.

The first step is preparation of the beets.  The literature and my personal experience would suggest that about 150 grams of whole beet-root is the ideal amount.  This can be obtained from whole beets in your produce section, pre-packaged/cooked, or even canned.  I have never tried the latter.  One nice suggestion is to stew/cook the beets in a baking pan with water until they are soft. (covered dish with water @ 350 F for up to one hour, until tender)  This makes them easier to peel/blend.  Then we weigh out individual freezer bags of diced up beets. (approx 150-200gm each).  Then either use them or freeze them for later smoothies.  Another option is to puree all of your prepared/cooked beets, then weigh out about 100-150 gm of the puree, and this can also be frozen for later.  Cooked/packaged beets can be found in some produce sections.  There is an example of one brand seen in the images.  150 grams is about 3 golf ball or 2 medium-large beets.  Now there are a few pointers to remember before you embark on preparation.  These things stain everything they encounter that is not immediately washed, your urine may turn pink/red, we do not use ice, but prefer the frozen berries to keep the volume down, and the colder the better if you want to hide the beet flavor.

 beet1

The simplest and easiest recipe for 2 servings is:

  1. 200-300 grams of cooked beets diced up
  2. 2 cups of frozen berries.  I prefer strawberries as they seem to mask the beet flavor best, but those blueberries have so many other nutritional benefits that I try to thrown them in too.
  3. Eight ounces of orange juice.
  4. Add honey to flavor, maybe 2 tablespoons
  5. Blend and consume about 1-2 hours before activity, up to 3 hours if your stomach requires more time

 beet2

If you use fresh, whole beets then the greens can be prepared/sautéed with some garlic salt, olive oil, and tomatoes to make a tasty side dish that is loaded with nutrition.   Pictured here with pecan crusted/baked Tilapia

beet3

Anecdotally, I experimented with this smoothie during long bike, indoor trainer sessions and the power and heart rate data would suggest that I realized objective benefits from beets.  So I hope this recipe helps folks try what I believe is a natural and healthy performance enhancer.