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You would be forgiven in thinking that beetroot juice is just the next craze in a long line of dieting fads.
Goji berries, quinoa, the list goes on. However, while claims of being a weight loss elixir are somewhat far-fetched, beetroot juice is certainly making waves in the sporting world.
Dr Dominique Condo, of Deakin’s School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, has been a part of studies involving athletes consuming beetroot juice pre-workout, albeit as a performance enhancer rather than a weight loss supplement.
Although results have been encouraging, she explains why it’s best to take this latest trend with a pinch of salt.
‘The thought of using beetroot juice for weight loss is quite new and a real hot topic at the moment,’ Dr Condo says. ‘It stems from the literature we know about how it can assist high-intensity exercise performance.’
A 70ml shot of beetroot juice which contains 300mg of nitrate will be absorbed into the body over two hours and changed into nitric oxide. This in turn opens up blood vessels and delivers more oxygen to the muscles, allowing you to exercise harder for longer.
Training for longer periods gives you more of a chance to burn calories, right?
‘This has really only been tested in the athlete population, so sports with a high level of intensity,’ Dr Condo explains.
‘If someone is doing a normal amount of exercise for general health at moderate intensity, at the moment, there is nothing to suggest that beetroot juice will help in any way.’
That said, even if you are an athlete of peak physical ability, it’s not as easy as just doing your best Popeye impersonation with a can of beetroots.
‘The juice itself is heavily concentrated, so when making it at home you can’t be guaranteed the dosage is correct, not to mention you would go through loads of beetroots reaching the required level of nitrate!’ Dr Condo explains.
'If someone is doing a normal amount of exercise for general health at moderate intensity, at the moment, there is nothing to suggest that beetroot juice will help in any way.'
Dr Dominique Condo,
School of Exercise and Nutrition Science, Deakin University
Being early days, researchers are still trying to see just how much they can wring out of this beetroot phenomenon (pun intended).
The latest advancements include finding that any more than 140ml in one hit will see performance plateau and that a six-day loading plan before a large endurance event actually works.
‘Results really differ for everyone, taking into consideration your weight and metabolic condition,’ Dr Condo says. ‘Just like a diet, it needs an individualised approach – we’re using food as medicine, as opposed to just food.’
Similar to the current beetroot hysteria is the rise in popularity of cherry juice. Also digested in the form of a 70ml liquid shot, this special type of cherry is high in melatonin and can assist athletes with muscle recovery and sleep. Again, benefits to the general population are yet to be proven.
‘At the end of the day, losing weight is difficult and there is no easy fix, so this kind of thing always gets media attention when in reality people who are overweight won’t be exercising at this intensity,’ Dr Condo explains.
‘All plant based diets tend to promote a healthy weight, so by simply eating a balanced diet while exercising regularly, you’ll be more likely to see results.’
You’ll also reclaim cupboard space from the hundreds of un-juiced beetroots.
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