When it comes to the power of beets and beetroot juice, Kathy LaBella, RDN, CDN, CSSD, ACE-CMES/CPT, registered dietitian, athlete, model, and nutritionist for musicians, not only is a believer, she knows the science that backs up its effectiveness. Originally posted on her website, this guest blog post considers the science behind beets and how anyone from athlete to musician can improve performance by drinking beetroot juice.
Why beetroot juice?
Beetroot juice is no fad – I’ve been drinking it myself off and on for a couple of years while reading the many research studies about it. The impact on me and the research prompted me to start recommending it to many of my clients.
In addition to being a good source of vitamin A, C, iron, fiber, and carotenoids (carotenoids can be converted into vitamin A), they are an antioxidant with many health benefits. While the health benefits from carotenoids, which provide the pigment of the plant, have been well documented, the main reason why I recommend beetroot juice is for the nitrates.
Nitrates naturally occur in vegetables and are abundant in beets, spinach, and other leafy greens. There are two reasons why I recommend nitrates, especially those found in beetroot juice:
Beetroot juice is positively documented to help with athletic performance, and I, too, have noticed the benefits in my beach runs, but athletes are not the only people who burn through calories and energy in their quest for top performance. I recommend it to active artistic performers as well.
Most people associate intense physical exertion with sports, but performance artist, particularly musicians and vocalists who are frequently on stage or touring, use just as much energy. Let’s take a look at how it can supply more fuel for your performance when you need it most.
Nitrates: Avoiding “Drummer’s Fatigue”
Nitrates from beetroot are converted to nitrites and later nitric oxide in your body which helps to regulate blood flow. This then helps maximum oxygen uptake or consumption known as VO2 max, for short, with “V” meaning volume, “O2” for oxygen, and “max” for maximum.
So what is this and why is it important? VO2 max is how much oxygen can be consumed when we are running at our maximum rate or speed usually measured as aerobic capacity on a treadmill. We can increase our VO2 max with aerobic training and with nitrates such as those abundant in beetroot juice. As for the importance while performing, active musicians can often use a bit more oxygen intake, a little more stamina.
When thinking about needing more stamina and energy, I often think of a drummer who gets fatigued. Drummers, like runners, vocalists, and opera singers who have to put out a lot of energy in every performance several times per week, can easily hit the proverbial wall.
A higher VO2 max can improve your respiratory system and increase your vocal or playing abilities on stage, which means less fatigue and higher output in your performance. This also comes in handy when you have to perform at elevation over 1,500 meters (around 5,000 feet).
What’s the evidence that beetroot helps artists and musicians?
Studies based on beetroot juice and musicians are limited, but one article suggested a study involving swimmers and holding their breath could be applied to musicians. As a sports dietitian who works with musicians to improve health and performance through diet, fitness, and nutrition, my experience and expertise confirm the benefits beetroot juice offers artistic performers.
A few clients have stated that they don’t find much of a physical difference with beetroot juice. Well, you might not directly notice it, but your arteritis and heart will know a difference, not only from the nitrates, but also from the many other heart healthy antioxidants including quercetin and resveratrol.
As for taste, well, you may not exactly like it unless you really like beets like I do. If you you don’t care for beetroot taste, I recommend chilling it, diluting it, or camouflaging it by mixing it into a smoothie. One study even found baking it into bread to be an effective, tasty option.
As for the amount you should drink, some studies used high volumes up to 500mL equivalent to 16.7 ounces – that’s a lot of beetroot juice! I usually recommend 4 ounces prior to performance. If you really want to increase your VO2 max, then aim for drinking at least 4 ounces per day.
An actual serving size is 8 ounces (240mL) for 110 calories, 3g protein, and 24g carbohydrate. Along with the beetroot juice, consider regular aerobic activity such as running or cycling, and push yourself to the limit by singing while exercising. All of this will continue to improve your VO2 max so you can perform at your peak on and off the stage.
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