Exercise longer with less effort — even if you have heart or lung disease

November 10, 2009
Volume 06    |   Issue 46

The older you get, the harder it is to get around. Even those who exercise find it more and more difficult to move around for long periods of time. And if you have heart or lung disease, it’s even more difficult. But a new study says regularly drinking one beverage can significantly add to your stamina.  This means you can exercise longer with less effort.

Researchers from the University of Exeter in England have huge implications for anyone who has noticed a drop-off in their stamina. They found that drinking two glasses of beet juice each day can increase your stamina by 16%. This study found that beet juice improved workouts better than blackcurrant juice — another juice high in vitamins and antioxidants.

After six days of drinking two glasses of beet juice a day, athletes needed 19% less oxygen than when they drank blackcurrant juice. Plus, it took longer for them to exercise to exhaustion. Imagine what it would feel like to be able to exercise harder and longer without feeling wiped out. Well, that may be possible if you drink enough beet juice — or get enough nitrates from other foods in your diet.

“Our study is the first to show that nitrate-rich foods can increase exercise endurance,” said Professor Andy Jones who headed this study. And beets are particularly high in nitrates.

But aren’t nitrates carcinogenic? Not at all, says Nathan Bryan, lead author of a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (November 2007). “Many studies implicating nitrite and nitrate in cancer are based on very weak epidemiological data. If nitrite and nitrate were harmful to us, then we would not be advised to eat green leafy vegetables or swallow our own saliva, which is enriched in nitrate,” he explains.

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What about the nitrites and nitrates in bacon and other pork products? I obviously don’t recommend these. Why not? They are loaded with artificial preservatives and they’re cooked at high temperature, which destroys any nutritional value they may have.

The nitrates I recommend are plant nutrients found in the soil. They’re a natural part of all vegetables, grains, and fruits. So a healthy diet will increase your intake of nitrates and help boost your exercise capacity.

If you want to try drinking beet juice, make sure you have a powerful juice extractor. They’re a bit difficult to juice and can be messy. For an alternative, you can consider eating a few bowls of borscht (a soup made from beetroot).

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,


"Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans." Stephen J. Bailey, Paul Winyard, Anni Vanhatalo, Jamie R. Blackwell, Fred J. DiMenna, Daryl P. Wilkerson, Joanna Tarr, Nigel Benjamin, and Andrew M. Jones

Journal of Applied Physiology, August 6, 2009.

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