By Dan McCarthy//National Team High Performance Consultant
A recent New York Times article (Looking for Fitness in a Glass of Juice, Reynolds) confirmed that a number of Olympic medalists benefitted from juice at the 2012 London Games; more specifically, Beetroot juice and Tart Cherry juice. The research on both is only a year old, but the findings seem to be positive for these natural and healthy foods.
Beetroot juice comes from the purplish-red root of the beet and has been described as sweet by some, but earthy by others. Research done with cyclists and runners has shown an increase in velocity and in time to exhaustion after drinking Beetroot juice. It seems as if the Beetroot juice enhances the movement of oxygen and blood to the muscles and stimulates the muscles to make good use of the enhanced supply of oxygen. Beetroot juice seems to be most effective when it is part of an athlete’s daily diet, specifically 500 ml per day (about 16 ounces). Drinking one glass of Beetroot juice on a whim before practice apparently will not make a difference.
While Beetroot juice may improve your training performance, Tart Cherry juice is more effective in combatting muscle pain from intense training. Research done with individuals participating in acute strength training and marathon running has shown a decrease in the amount of pain reported by those drinking 8-12 ounces of Tart Cherry juice twice a day in the weeks preceding their training or competitive event. The natural ingredients in Tart Cherry juice have a combination of anti-inflammatory properties and a host of anti-oxidants.
As with many natural and healthy products which are best used in their most basic form, the supplement industry has tried to capitalize on their popularity with powders and capsules full of who-knows-what. Only be satisfied with the 100% natural juice versions of Tart Cherries and Beetroots. Additionally, more is not better, especially in the case of Beetroot juice. Nitrate, found in Beetroot juice, has been linked to cancer in exceptionally large doses. Both juices can be found at stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.