Training & Nutrition

Could Beetroot Improve Cycling Performance?

We investigate the humble beetroot into why this vegetable receives such great press

Now, I must first disclaim that I am not a massive fan of beetroot. I find it a little too, shall we say ‘earthy’. But perhaps as a cyclist, I should just swallow it down given all the goodness this bright red root alleges to hold.

I wanted to find out a bit about why athletes including Mark Cavendish include it in their diet and why Paralympic athlete, David Weir, has even applauded the beetroot as a secret to his success.

The science bit

Having scraped a biology GCSE, this part alludes me somewhat but I thought I would offer a little scientific explanation as to why this vegetable promises so much.

The fibre in Beetroot has been shown to increase both the level of antioxidant enzymes in the body and the number of white blood cells. The white blood cells are the ones which are responsible for detecting and eliminating abnormal cells and therefore, generating more of them can only mean good things. The beetroot also helps our intestinal tracts due to it being one of the richest sources of glutamine, an amino acid that is essential to our intestine’s health and maintenance. According to the BBC, research has even suggested that the beetroot can reduce the risk of heart attacks due to the level of nitrates it contains and NICE has published a study that links the rich red pigment to the reduction of certain types of cancer.

The benefits for cyclists

A study which analysed the cyclists on beetroot juice during a time trial reported an improvement in their performance. This was attributed to beetroot containing nitrate oxide which allows blood capillaries to open up and increase blood flow through your muscles.

This could mean a delayed time to fatigue, a decrease in oxygen used during a ride and therefore have a positive effect on stamina levels.

The advantages may make more of an impact for those cyclists hunting for marginal gains to improve times but I still see the value in incorporating it into my diet. Beetroot also has nutritional benefits with high vitamin content as well as folic acid and potassium that will help keep illnesses at bay that could interrupt your training.

Inventive ways to eat it

After originally claiming I wasn’t a fan of the taste, I tried it in a juice mixed with other ingredients and absolutely guzzled it down! It seems that teamed with other flavours, the earthy taste I complained about is disguised, leaving only the benefits.

As for seeing an effect on my cycling, I’ll need to try a little more before I can really report an improvement!

Here are a few recipes that can help you integrate the beetroot into your diet.

Beetroot, Cucumber and Ginger Juice – Deliciously Ella

Beetroot Gazpacho Juice – Hemsley Hemsley

Feta and Beetroot Salad – Good Food

Beetroot Hummus – Telegraph

Creamy Beetroot Risotto – Good Food

Glazed Chilli and Beetroot Brownies – Deliciously Ella

If beetroots don’t do it for you, then fear not because studies have also shown dark chocolate to boost your cycling power too!

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