Many would recognise the name Shalane Flanagan as a 4 time Olympian and the American long distance runner who won the 2017 New York City marathon, the first American woman to do so since 1977. However, not only is Shalane an amazing runner, she also is the co-author of the fantastic cook book; ‘Run Fast, Eat Slow.’
Joining forces with college room- mate and chef Elyse Kopecky, the pair released this book last year; full of nourishing recipes for athletes.
For this weeks blog, I wanted to share one of my favourite recipes from this cookbook, ‘The beet smoothie’.
Now don’t get turned off by the name, as I initially was a bit dubious about a beetroot smoothie too. However, it actually tastes quite nice and is very refreashing, it infact has fast become my smoothie of choice.
Does it improve performance? Well, Shalane does suggest having it as a pre-workout meal and she has had an incredible last couple of years since partnering with Elyse but the jury is still out.
There has been a lot of hype surrounding beetroot juice over the last 8 or so years for its apparent ability to improve athletic performance (Lansley et al 2010) and reduce blood pressure (Siervo et al 2013).
The hypothesized science behind how beetroot juice works is described well in the systematic review by Hoon et al (2013). Beetroot juice contains high nitrate levels. Once consumed, nitrate is converted in the mouth and stomach to nitric oxide. This can act as a vasodilator, opening blood vessels and allowing more blood and oxygen to be delivered to muscles. In turn it can be postulated that this will reduce the energy cost of exercise and positively effect endurance performance.
Several studies have said that Beetroot juice can improve endurance performance (Lansley et al 2010). However, a similar amount of studies say its effect is negligent in highly trained athletes suggesting they already have the physiological adaptations that Nitric Oxide would elicit (Boorsma et al 2014). The lack of consensus in the research to date could be due to the heterogeneity in dosages and timing of supplementation (single acute dose, chronic loading). More data is required to clarify the effect of nitrate supplementation on exercise performance.
For those not deterred by the lack of agreement in the research, the standard protocol used in most studies recommends drinking roughly 500ml of beetroot juice (which contains about 300-600mgs of nitrate) around three hours before exercise. As a side note, avoid using mouthwash or gum pre smoothie, as they reduce the bacteria available in the mouth that convert nitrate to nitric oxide.
Be it an ergonomic supplement or not, it can’t be ignored that beetroot is packed with nutrients, anti-oxidants, minerals and no serious side-effects have been reported from a moderate increase in its consumption.
Nor should we skimp on the rest of the nourishing ingredients in Shalane’s smoothie. There’s coconut water and banana; both great for electrolyte replacement. Almond butter that helps the body absorb the fat soluble vitamins contained in the blueberries and beetroots. It also ensures that the drink is an invaluable protein source. If you want to, you could even add some spinach (iron) in there and your taste buds won’t even notice.
Anyway, everyone, give it a go, not only does it taste nice but you feel good drinking it too.
Recipe/Ingredients: (serves 2, or put one in the fridge for tomorrow)
-1 peeled/cooked or boiled beetroot.
-1 cup of frozen blueberries
-1 frozen banana
-1 cup of almond milk or milk of your choice
-1 cup of coconut water
-1 inch knob of fresh ginger
-1 tablespoon of almond butter
In a blender, place the beetroot, blueberries, banana, milk, coconut water, ginger and almond butter. Blend on high speed for 1 minute until smooth.
Hoon, M. W., Johnson, N. A., Chapman, P. G., & Burke, L. M. (2013). The effect of nitrate supplementation on exercise performance in healthy individuals: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 23(5), 522-532.
Lansley, K. E., Winyard, P. G., Fulford, J., Vanhatalo, A., Bailey, S. J., Blackwell, J. R., … & Jones, A. M. (2010). Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of walking and running: a placebo-controlled study. Journal of applied physiology, 110(3), 591-600.
McMahon, N. F., Leveritt, M. D., & Pavey, T. G. (2017). The effect of dietary nitrate supplementation on endurance exercise performance in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports medicine, 47(4), 735-756.
Boorsma, R. K., Whitfield, J., & Spriet, L. L. (2014). Beetroot juice supplementation does not improve performance of elite 1500-m runners. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 46(12), 2326-34.
Siervo, M., Lara, J., Ogbonmwan, I., & Mathers, J. C. (2013). Inorganic Nitrate and Beetroot Juice Supplementation Reduces Blood Pressure in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The Journal of nutrition, 143(6), 818-826.