Beetroot, the natural ingredient that spurred on our athletes, is thought to have wider health benefits
As revealed in The Daily Telegraph last week, David Weir’s haul of four Paralympic gold medals was powered by a secret ingredient that is completely legal, scientifically proven to improve sporting performance, and has even been referred to as “legal blood doping”. What could this revolutionary aid be? Beta vulgaris – the simple beetroot.
Which is why experts say the best way to get the benefits is to drink the juice. “Shots” containing 7cl of concentrated juice, and 0.4g of nitrate, have been developed as a sports drink and for use in studies, by the James White drinks company in Ipswich. Managing director Lawrence Mallinson, who supplied shots to Team GB, says that beetroot juice now accounts for half of the firm’s £5 million turnover.
You would need to drink about 500ml (half a litre) of ordinary strength juice to get the same nitrate levels. Consuming this amount of beetroot juice has no side-effects, says Prof Jones – other than turning your urine pink.
The benefits may go beyond track and field, according to Ben Benjamin, professor of medicine at Torbay Hospital. He says that, though more research is needed, 500ml of ordinary-strength juice daily could mean that frail, elderly people could get out of a chair without feeling breathless, or walk upstairs by themselves.
Prof Jones agrees: “This is one of the sports nutrition stories of the decade. It transcends performance – we can use it to improve health.”
Beet It sports shots: beet-it.com. Organic, standard strength beetroot juice is also made by Biotta (biotta.ch), available online. To make your own, try videojug.com/film/how-to-make-beetroot-juice