Beetroot Is Proving To Be The Go-To Fix To Battle Post-Exercise Soreness

We’ve all been there – hobbling up the stairs after an epic ‘legs day’ or savage endurance test, and reaching for the over-the-counter meds, but now there’s a new natural fix…

Beetroot Really Does Battle Post-Exercise Soreness
When beetroot emerged as a sports-performance hero it was as a pre-exercise boost for the cardio fitness of cyclists, giving a small ‘competitive edge’ to trained athletes. Now a pack of recent studies have found that it has good results as an anti-inflammatory to ease post-exercises soreness, in everyone. ‘It’s the anti-inflammatory nutrients that are in the beetroot – the nitrates,’ says Dr Emma Derbyshire who has just completed a review of the latest, high-quality research. ‘The studies used short bursts of running – in line with high intensity interval forms of exercises – and that’s where you saw the most significant findings,’ she says. ‘Beetroot not only provides important micronutrients such as folate and potassium but also nitrates and bioactive components. Because of its nitrate content it has been shown to have benefits for sports performance, recovery and also blood pressure. There is some emerging evidence for cognitive and brain function boosts too.’

‘The best time to have beetroot juice is when the muscle soreness kicks in’

You Don’t Have To Get Ahead Of The Problem
Just like the more popular post-exercise soreness fix, beetroot works best once you start to suffer the symptoms. ‘In the study they had the beetroot juice the day of, or 48 hours after, the high-intensity exercise – so a couple of days after the exercise it seems to have the effects in terms of reducing the soreness,’ found Dr Derbyshire. So you don’t need to work beetroot juice into your immediate post-workout routine, just as and when it’s required. ‘The soreness tends to kick in when you wake up the next day and feel sore – that’s ideally when you should have the beetroot juice.’

The Colour Is The Magic Ingredient
Beetroots themselves don’t have some exclusive secret ingredient that’s having these effects – it’s because they are literally in a purple patch. ‘It’s the pigment that has the phytonutrients and betalain,’ says Dr Derbyshire. ‘We are seeing a trend towards more purple vegetables, like purple broccoli and purple potatoes over even sweet potatoes, although beetroot lends itself to being made into a sports drink, unlike those others. When it comes to foods, beetroot is as close to a superfood as you could get, which can by and large be attributed to its colour.’

The Colour Is The Magic Ingredient
Beetroots themselves don’t have some exclusive secret ingredient that’s having these effects – it’s because they are literally in a purple patch. ‘It’s the pigment that has the phytonutrients and betalain,’ says Dr Derbyshire. ‘We are seeing a trend towards more purple vegetables, like purple broccoli and purple potatoes over even sweet potatoes, although beetroot lends itself to being made into a sports drink, unlike those others. When it comes to foods, beetroot is as close to a superfood as you could get, which can by and large be attributed to its colour.’

'Beetroot combats the wear and tear of high intensity workouts’

You’ll Be Able To Workout Harder, Sooner
As well as being a salve to worked out muscles, beetroot does seem to boost your recovery so that you can return to those HIIT workouts sooner than you may have done otherwise. ‘There are some other studies that have looked at performance and recovery, and there do seem to be some benefits – it combats the wear and tear of high intensity workouts, to an extent,’ reports Dr Derbyshire.

There Are No Nasty Side-Effects
The problem with habitually reaching for medical painkillers to cure post-exercise soreness is that these can have side effects, and evidence is emerging that some NSAID’s could raise the risk of heart attacks. ‘I’ve heard of a lot of professional rugby players getting injured or combatting soreness and taking painkillers, but taking so many that they are then getting side-effects later on in life,’ says Dr Derbyshire. Fortunately the only side-effect of beetroot is the one you’ve probably seen already: ‘It might turn your urine red – people forget that they’ve drunk beetroot and think it’s blood!’

You Don’t Need To Overdo It
Before you start stockpiling litres of the stuff, bear in mind that the studies only used 150-250ml doses of the juice. ‘You only need a relatively small concentrated dose to have an effect. There wouldn’t be any advantage in drinking more than the people in the studies, you’d just excrete it at the end of the day.’ And if you don’t want to buy pre-prepared juice you can get beetroot into your diet in other ways. ‘Beetroot gets overlooked and people just see it as a summer seasonal food. But you can buy it easily now, pre-packed or cook at home – you can even put it into casseroles. Or you can juice it at home – add some lime for a tang.’

WHAT NEXT? Tasting is believing – you can easily juice your own beetroot by rinsing, peeling, dicing, blending and straining the uncooked veg. And if you’re looking for more beetroot recipes or information then visit Love Beetroot.

Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.