Whether or not you’re a personal fan of beets, there’s no denying that this vibrant pink root vegetable is having a real moment. Not only are beets a nutrient powerhouse, jam-packed with a potent blend of antioxidants—including flavonoids, vitamin C, and carotenoids—but they’ve also become a go-to among gym-goers looking to pump up their workouts naturally.
The hype seems to be centered on the unique compounds found in beets called nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide then works to dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow throughout the body, explains Jerry Bailey, D.C., LA.c., certified nutritionist, chiropractor, and functional medicine practitioner at Lakeside Holistic Health. Turns out, better blood flow is good news for both workout performance and post-training recovery.
“By increasing blood flow, you increase nutrient and oxygen delivery to the muscles and the removal of waste,” Bailey says. During training, this supports a better “pump” to the muscle, which translates to greater endurance and overall function. Afterward, it promotes an efficient recovery process, which ladders up to gains, gains, gains.
So, what are some easy ways to add beets to your training routine? Try these ideas for amped-up performance and smooth recovery.
- ABOUT OUR EXPERTS: Laura M. Ali, R.D., is a dietitian based in Pittsburgh, PA. Jerry Bailey, D.C., LA.c., is a certified nutritionist, chiropractor, and functional medicine practitioner at Lakeside Holistic Health.
1. Drink beet juice
If you like the taste of beets, you’ll most definitely enjoy the taste of beet juice. In addition to being a solid source of antioxidants and a slew of vitamins (think A, C, K, and the Bs), it’s also rich in pump-inducing nitrates. Consume two cups about two to three hours before a workout and you may see some real fitness gains in the form of improved performance and endurance, per the NIH.
You can purchase bottled beet juice or opt to make your own at home using a juicer or blender. Bailey suggests starting with two or three medium-sized beets and throwing in some apple, carrot, and/or ginger if you need to enhance the flavor. From there, he recommends adding water to reach the right consistency and then straining with a fine mesh sieve or a cheesecloth to get rid of any pulp.
If you’re not big on the flavor of beets but still want to experience the perks for yourself, Bailey suggests trying beet concentrate instead. Down about 2.5 ounces of concentrate a couple of hours before training and you’ll reap similar rewards.
2. Blend up a beet Smoothie
Similar to sipping on juice, you can also incorporate beets into your pre- or post-workout routine by blending them into a nutritious smoothie. “Peel and dice two or three beets before adding them to a blender along with your favorite fruits like berries, bananas, and citrus,” says Bailey. “The natural sweetness of the beets pairs perfectly with the tangy flavors of these fruits.”
Either raw or cooked beets will do here—and you can even combine your beets with some chocolate or vanilla protein powder for an extra punch (just leave the citrus out in that case).
3. Mix up some Beet powder
Another super-easy way to consume beets before or after your workouts is to opt for a beet powder, which can be mixed up in your shaker cup and sipped when you’re ready. Since beet powders are simply beets that have been dried and ground up, they’re a concentrated source of the root vegetable that you can then add to just about anything (including collagen lattes). When purchasing a beet powder, Ali recommends seeking out a product that’s made from whole foods and batch-tested to ensure purity and potency. Bonus points for a powder made from organic beets!
4. Eat Cooked, sliced beets
Of course, if you really love the flavor of beets, go right ahead and incorporate them into your pre-workout meals. And if you don’t have time to prep and cook them yourself, rest assured that many grocery stores sell them pre-cooked and even sliced. “Love Beets™ offers roasted beets, marinated beets, pickled beets, and beetroot juice, making it easy to add them to your meals,” says Pittsburgh-based dietitian Laura M. Ali, R.D. “Slice marinated beets up and add them to a salad, or heat up some roasted beets for a quick side dish.”
Read More: How To Hack Your Sleep For More Muscle Gains
Just keep in mind that you’ll want to chow down on two or three hearty-sized beets to take in a decent amount of nitrates, says Bailey. And since your body will have to work a little harder to digest the beets in this form, you’ll want to eat them at least three hours before training.
5. Try Beet chews
Need a convenient on-the-go option? Beet energy chews, which are formulated to provide the benefits of beets in a concentrated form, are a truly tasty way to get your pump on, says Bailey. “This concentrated form of beets provides an extra punch of nitrates and antioxidants, which can enhance athletic performance and support overall health,” he says. “Look for products from reputable brands, like Force Factor Beet Chews, that offer a natural and convenient way to incorporate beets into your fitness routine.” As with any other beet supplement, Bailey recommends taking these chews two-plus hours before your workout for best results.