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I love beets.

But you already knew that if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time.

Now, thanks to some researchers at the University of Exeter in the UK, I have documentation that this deadly serious vegetable is a performance-enhancing substance. In fact, there are forty pages worth of scientific documentation on just that subject in the August 6th issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology. If you’re interested.

Yes, the beet root is not only well-suited for a starring role in an offbeat Tom Robbins’ saga, but it also has important implications in mitochondrial respiration.

Deadly serious? By all means.

Do you care? Probably not.

But that’s never stopped me before. Here’s the scoop. To make a long and very convoluted story short, researchers have determined that beet root juice, which contains inorganic nitrate, decreases human oxygen requirements during sub-maximal exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise.

So, how did they figure this out?

The researchers rounded up a compliant study group of males, aged 19-38 years old (only guys that age would agree to this). Half the group drank 500 mL per day of beet root juice, while the other half drank black currant juice, which has little nitrate content. They were hooked up to metabolic equipment to measure pulmonary gas exchange, their BP and heart rates were monitored, and capillary blood samples were collected during several days of exercise testing and juice drinking.

Well, guess what? The beet root drinkers showed significantly improved exercise tolerance and muscle oxygenation. I doubt you have to be a 19-38 year old male to benefit in this way by eating beets or drinking beet juice, but I’m happy to let them be the guinea pigs.

Ah, but here’s my take on it. Don’t wait for beet root capsules to be sold at your favorite supplement store (just wait, it will happen). Instead, eat the whole beet and enjoy it. You’ll be able to run faster and farther. Seriously.

Well, maybe it just won’t hurt as bad.

The above photo was my lunch. I sautΓ©ed onions, garlic, celery, carrots and beets in a little coconut oil for about 6-8 minutes. I added some leftover cooked brown rice and a few splashes of chicken broth and stirred occasionally for another 5 minutes or so, until rice was hot and veggies were lightly cooked.

Now I’m going to go run (maybe I’ll just walk) my dog 16% more efficiently than if I hadn’t eaten beets. That might be a bit of a leap, but you get the idea.

Other beet-obsessive posts I’ve written include:

Gluten-free, chocolate beet cupcakes (just trust me)
The beet goes on β€” dairy-free, beet ice cream (yeah, I know, I know)
Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume and the deadly serious beet
Tips on storing and using both the beet root and the greens (raw or cooked)
Seasonal foods nutritional profile of beets

Off and running,

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16 Responses to “performance-enhancing beets”

  1. Mary says:

    Thanks for this info, Melissa. I love beets and carrots juiced together, and now I love it even more.


  2. CoconutGal says:

    Whoa totally random but interesting beet news! I am tempted to test out this theory although I don’t believe in running myself but maybe with my walking… hmm. Your lunch looks delicious!

  3. Kay says:

    This is good beet news! My beet garden is right next to several carrot patches, and is sporting some whoppers. The beet greens have been spared by my new arrival – a very hungry groundhog. He’s eaten two rows of carrot greens and all of my late beans. @&%#$! I feel like I’m Bill Murray in Caddyshack, trying to catch the little varmint.

    My favorite way to eat beets is peeled, oven roasted til tender and served with a dallop of goat cheese and some warm toasted walnuts. Simple and delicious!

    No running for me. I’m digging post holes instead. My arms are starting to look like Popeye’s. I start a new job (!) Sept. 8, so my construction deadline looms. Hope to post some photos of the new coop soon.

    Thanks for making me feel even better about the foods I eat!

  4. greedydave says:


    An excellent scientific discovery, well played Exeter Uni. Beets do seem to be serious business, as you rightly say. Maybe Usain Bolt should give up his chicken nuggets diet and munch on a beet instead!

    Your lunch looks scrummy. You realise Fairbanks will be expecting 16% more dinner now? πŸ™‚


  5. I’d tweet this post title except I’d be afraid who’d end up following me …

    If there’s a beet coalition, you need to be their spokesperson! That is a terrific looking meal though. In fact, the grouping of post photos on your sidebar right now is quite appealing. πŸ™‚


  6. this is terrific. I loved beets before but now my affection for them has grown exponentially. As always – very interesting (and rather intriguing) information – thanks Melissa ! πŸ™‚

  7. Cid says:


    I need to increase my energy/activity levels 100 per cent and am fearful of becoming a 40 beets a day woman πŸ™‚ It might be easier if they invent a stick on beet patch for moments in the day when we feel the need πŸ™‚

    As always, a thoroughly interesting post…. by the sounds of it, we’ve all increased our knowledge of the humble beet and what it can do for us.


    p.s. a friend of mine just bought me a string of smoked garlic from her local French market… it might not be beets but it is nevertheless a joy to behold and the scent is truly wonderful…. if you like garlic that is! How I’d love to live close to a fabulous continental market… the stuff of dreams.

  8. Hey Melissa–I just shared your blog and latest beet post with a journalist (and food writer) friend who just relaunched her food blog and wrote on beets!! I know you’ll appreciate her love of beets.


  9. Melissa says:

    Hi everyone — thanks for the great comments. I’ve been treading water the past few days, with no time for blah-blah-blogging. I do appreciate you all though and always enjoy your input. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    As soon as I get my head above water, I’ll be back to more than one quick response.

    Stay tuned!


  10. lo says:

    I knew it.
    I knew it.
    Anything that stains everything in its path such a rich magenta color has GOT to be incredibly amazing for you. And I knew it all along. πŸ™‚

    I’m pretty excited cuz I have three bunches of fabulous beets waiting for me in the fridge — goldens, chioggas, and regular old red beets. Can’t wait to get a load of that oxygenation!

  11. Melissa says:

    Lo — you did know it, girl! Beets rule!

    Hate to eat and run, but that’s what happens when the good things in beets fire up your mitochondria engines. Or something like that…


  12. Melissa says:

    By the way, Cid — if you ever make your way back to this post, I loved the beet patch idea. You’re just full of interesting stuff!

    We could sell those at the checkout counter of our soup kitchen/natural products boutique. Can you have a boutique soup kitchen?


  13. Melissa says:

    Again, thanks everyone. I just reread these comments and you guys are wonderful. Thank you!

    Off and running…

  14. Cid says:


    If anyone can have a boutique soup kitchen, it’s going to be us…. nutritiously unique πŸ™‚


  15. Christopher says:

    We love beets. Eat before a physical to freak out the doc.

    M: We recently shared some beet ideas with Kristine and mom when she was in Iowa and they loved them. Lisa and I just had a bunch w/ goat cheese and roasted walnuts for dinner the other night. Yummers….although we just did dump out our beet ice cream. boo.

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Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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