Recovery is not optimized without the right preparation. Eccentric muscle contractions—used in decelerating, sprinting, plyometrics and jumping—are continually performed during strength and conditioning exercises to increase muscle size and strength. Eccentric contractions cause primary muscle damage (G. Howatson & van Someren, 2007) and lead to an inflammatory response that impairs muscle function (Glyn Howatson & van Someren, 2008).
Consequently, structural damage to the muscle results, especially from frequent, or rarely performed, eccentric muscle contractions. This may result in signs and symptoms associated with exercise-induced muscle damage (EMID), which include:
Increase in muscle soreness
Reduction in muscle function (Paulsen, Mikkelsen, Raastad, & Peake, 2012)
Inflammatory response (Pizza, Peterson, Baas, & Koh, 2005)
Other bioactive ingredients in beetroot juice make it an ideal nutritional supplement to accelerate recovery. Nitric oxide may act as an anti-inflammatory (Jädert et al., 2012). The high nitrate content of beetroot is accompanied with phenolic acids, flavonoids, carotenoids and betalains. Betalains provide antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties (El Gamal et al., 2014).
The first study to demonstrate the recovery power from beetroot juice is from Clifford, Bell, West, Howatson and Stevenson (2016). The study explored the effect of an acute dose of beetroot juice on recovery using 30 healthy, recreationally active men. The strenuous eccentric-heavy exercise consisted of 100-drop jumps because high intensity plyometric exercise is suggested to result in significant EIMD (Glyn Howatson et al., 2012). All jumps had a 10 s rest, and there was a 2 min rest following each set of 20 jumps.
Participants received either:
High dose of beetroot juice
Low dose of beetroot juice
Participants took their assigned treatments (high, low or placebo):
DAY OF EXERCISE (3 servings) One 30 min post-exercise
One 2 h post-exercise
One with dinner
24 H POST-EXERCISE (2 servings) Adapted from Clifford et al. (2016). One 30 min after leaving the lab
One with dinner
48 H POST-EXERCISE (2 servings) One 30 min after leaving the lab
One with dinner
The men performed counter movement jumps (CMJ)—a rapid descent into a squat followed by a vertical jump with max force. They were instructed to keep hands on their hips to prevent the aid of an arm swing. In between each of the three jumps there was a 30 sec passive recovery.
High beetroot juice supplementation for 3 days produced the quickest recovery of CMJ 48 h and 72 h post-exercise
Muscle soreness reduced 24-72 h post-exercise from drinking the low concentration (125 ml) and high concentration (250 ml) beetroot juice
Percent changes for pressure pain threshold (PPT) pre- and post-muscle-damaging exercise. High and low dose beetroot juice resulted in a smaller change of PPT (i.e., less muscle pain) compared to placebo.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? Recovery is crucial to any successful training program. The study demonstrates the importance of continual consumption of beetroot juice to aid recovery so that athletes can return to training without EIMD holding the athlete back.
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