Scientists at the University of Northumbria have discovered that beetroot helps muscles recover after intense exercise. So if you're looking for a post-gym snack, then beetroot may be the answer.
Intense exercise damages muscles
The study, published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, involved 30 men aged between 18 and 28 who went to the gym to work out at least twice per week. They were asked to do 100 intensive jump exercises to get their muscles working intensively. This intense exercise effectively damaged the muscles.
Over the following 3 days, the men drank either 250ml of beetroot juice, 125ml of beetroot juice (made up to 250ml volume with water) or a placebo. The placebo had a comparative calorie and carbohydrate content as the juice.
Beetroot juice lead to faster recovering of muscle power
Dr Tom Clifford, who led the research team at Northumbria University’s Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, said:
"The main findings were that three days of consuming the higher beetroot juice dose (250 ml) enhanced participant’s recovery following intense exercise.
Forty eight and seventy two hours following exercise muscle damage was reduced, as evidenced by a faster recovery of muscle power in the counter movement jump. Those in the beetroot juice group jumped an average of 18% higher than those in the placebo group two days after completing the exercise bout.
In addition, both higher and lower beetroot juice consumption reduced muscle soreness.
This study provides new information on the potential use of beetroot juice to aid recovery after exercise.”
Study involved active people not elite athletes
The study involved measuring thigh and calf muscle soreness in active people rather than elite athletes giving real-world value to the findings, further to this these muscles are used in running, cycling and walking so are also relevant to people who engage in these activities and experience sore muscles as a result.
It is also thought that the mechanism provided by beetroot juice in aiding faster muscle recovery is not specific to the thighs and calves though so could apply to other muscle groups left sore after exercise.
Tom Clifford added:
"These findings suggest that beetroot juice may protect against the negative effects of exercise induced muscle damage. Beetroot juice could therefore be beneficial for people undertaking a new exercise regime, who are more susceptible to muscle damage, or for people who already perform regular exercise, and may therefore have limited time to recover between sessions".
Antioxidants thought to be responsible for preserving muscle function and reducing inflammation
The authors suggested that the nitrates and betalains in beetroot juice, which have been shown to act as antioxidants, might have aided exercise recovery by preserving muscle function and reducing inflammation.
However, the precise mechanisms are still not known, and there are other possible mechanisms and nutrients in beetroot juice, that could be involved.
In another study conducted on university team-sport players, drinking beetroot juice reduced muscle pain and improved recovery after sprint tests.
Further study backs findings
The participants consumed either beetroot juice or a placebo after completing the sprint test and then researchers recorded the results of tests including counter movement jumps and reactive strength.
The participants who had consumed the beetroot juice had counter movement jump heights 7.6% higher than the placebo groups 72 hours after the sprint test and their reactive strength index was higher than the placebo group at all points.
So if you're currently hitting the gym in order to get beach holiday ready and want to get the most out of your sessions, an addition of beetroot juice to your post-workout snack routine might just give you that boost you need.