One of my favorite subjects to research is functional foods. Obviously all plant foods are functional, but I love learning how certain foods can provide that extra boost to our bodies; helping us heal, improving our moods, and even enhancing our workouts.
In the last several years, the power of beets and beet juice have become a sensation among runners, cyclists, and athletes of all kinds. Could a glass of this earthy juice really help you run faster? According to research, it might. Subjects given beet juice before an intense cycling challenge were able to go faster for a longer amount of time before exhaustion. How is this possible? Nitrates in beets are converted to nitric oxide, which in turn improves several exercise related functions, like blood flow, muscle contraction, and oxygen cost of exercise. It seems that beet consumption before a workout will allow your body to do the same intense exercise but with less oxygen. Which also could make your workout feel easier. As an off again, on again runner, who sometimes (ok always) dreads getting back into workouts after a break, I find this possibility very exciting!
A juice that could make my running workouts faster, more efficient, and easier? What could be better? How about a drink that could also improve recovery time? That’s exactly the hype that watermelon and watermelon juice have been getting recently. Researchers in Spain found that drinking watermelon juice can help both reduce recovery heart rate and reduce muscle soreness, thanks to the effects of amino acid L-citrulline. Another bonus? L-citrulline also helps with nitric oxide synthesis providing similar benefits as beet juice to athletic performance and perceived rate of exertion.
I added grapes, not simply because it added another sweet fruity flavor, but also because I’ve ran some of my best races and workouts after eating a handful of fresh grapes. This one I can’t back up with research, but my own experience tells me grapes are a great fuel for an intense workout. The natural sugar and low fiber in grapes make them perfect for a quick boost of energy, which might be the reason they often make it onto lists for best pre-run foods.
Even if you’re not interested in improving your exercise performance, this juice just plain tastes good! The sweet watermelon and grapes help balance out the earthiness of the beet for a refreshing juice that I would drink for taste alone. Besides boosting your workout, this juice has many other benefits for your health:
- Beets are a natural detoxifier and blood cleanser
- Beets are high in antioxidants and are an anti-inflammatory food
- Watermelon is high in lycopene, great for healthy skin and cardiovascular health
- Watermelon is naturally hydrating
- Red, purple and black grapes are one of the best sources of resveratrol, an antioxidant that is fabulous for keeping skin young and fighting aging inside your body too
So what are you waiting for? Grab your blender and try this juice for yourself!
Beet Watermelon Grape Juice
- 1/2 medium beet, peeled and roughly chopped*
- 2 cups of fresh watermelon, chopped
- 1/2 cup black grapes, frozen
- 1-2 cups of filtered water (or coconut water)
Add all ingredients to a high speed blender (I use a Vitamix) and blend on high until smooth. You can strain if you like (I didn’t) and serve over ice.
- If you have a regular blender and you don’t think it will pulverize the beet, try grating it before blending.
- This is technically a smoothie if you don’t strain it, but this way it keeps all that healthy fiber intact. Alternatively you can run everything through your juicer for a concentrated power juice.
- Its recommended to drink beet juice about 2 hours before a workout, for the best benefits. I made this first thing when I got up the other morning, and then went for a run a couple hours later. It could’ve been the placebo effect but I felt like it helped!
What’s your favorite pre-workout food or beverage?
Sources and further reading: