Let me start by saying that beets are awesome, but I didn't always like them - I used to absolutely hate the smell when my parents made borscht and refused to eat anything with beets growing up. I guess our taste buds do change, because now I absolutely love them. Beet juice has been receiving a lot of attention in the athletic community (both scientific and mainstream) over the last few years, and there is a growing body of evidence that beet juice can improve performance, very likely because of the nitrate content in beets. There is a handy product called Beet It, which is small, convenient shots of beetroot juice - easy to travel to races with and the product is certified to be free of banned substances by HFL sport science laboratories as listed on the Informed-Sport website (note - I am not affiliated with the company in any way). If you have a juicer, you could always make your own beetroot juice too.
There are a few protocols for beet juice 'loading' prior to endurance events that vary based on individual tolerance - I will write a summary about the science behind beet juice and performance and introduce some of these protocols later this spring and post it in a newly formed resource section. If you want to develop an individual strategy, book a consultation with me!
The recipe below is designed as a recovery smoothie, meaning post training, so those performance effects don't really apply here. Also, 1/4 cup of shredded beets equals around 1/2 medium size beet, or ~50-55g, which is no where near enough to have the performance effects observed. It seems that ~200g cooked beets might equal ~500ml beet juice in terms of effect on performance though... That said, we are still no where near those amounts in this recipe.
So, why beets?!
Lets start with the fact that they have such a pretty color! Yes, that is an important factor when it comes to fruit and vegetables... The more bright colors - the better. Beets get their bright, vibrant color from betalains (betacyanin, in the case of purple beets) which are known for their antioxidant and anti inflammatory powers. Beetroot consumption has been studied and shown to be effective for heart disease, certain cancers (especially of the stomach & colon), lowering blood pressure and conditions that are characterized by inflammation. Even better, beets are a great source of folate, manganese, potassium, vitamin C and fiber.
Beets are sensitive little things. You want to avoid cooking them for too long and note that it is best to cook them with the skin on to preserve their nutrients (more specifically the betalains). When shopping for them, look for ones that are not bruised and when preparing them raw, you might want to use gloves... (or rub your hands with a bit of lemon juice/sliced lemons afterwards).
Beets have an earthy sweetness: they are pretty high in sugar, making them a great edition to a post training smoothie.
Beet & Banana Smoothie
- 1/4 cup coconut water (a bit more or a bit less to play with the consistency of the smoothie)
- 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (not low fat!)
- 1 tsp raw cocoa powder
- 1/2 scoop protein powder (I usually use good quality whey, more on this in a separate post shortly)
- 1/4 cup (~1/2 medium/large beet) peeled and finely grated beet (or pulsed in a food processor)\r\n1 frozen banana
- 1 tsp extra virgin coconut oil
- Optional - small handful raw walnuts (or another kind of nut), unsweetened shredded coconut and dark chocolate chips (or cocoa nibs), to be used as toppings
- I typically add vitamin D drops to my smoothies too (amount varies, 1000-6000+ IU)
- Place everything other than shredded coconut, chocolate chips and walnuts in the blender, following the order above
- Sprinkle with shredded coconut