The Olympics have officially begun, bringing the world’s best athletes to compete for the Olympic gold.  They have trained for years, dedicating their lives to the sport they love to fulfill their Olympic dreams.  In sports like cycling and running, when every second counts, athlethes will do everything possible to gain a competitive advantage – even it includes strange methods and techniques.

In a bid to boost their performance, recent studies revealed Olympians are turning to beetroot juice, bicarbonate of soda and caffeine, which are all competition-legal, to improve their performance.  Beetroot juice is said to be the secret weapon for Tour De France cyclist and runners to improve their performance times, when winning margins can be tight.

According to studies, beetroot juice alone may improve performance by 2 to 3 percent in events lasting 20 to 30 minutes.  Studies also revealed that cyclist who drank 16 ounces of beetroot juice 21/2 hours before exercising, improved their race times by 2 to 3 percent in short and long time trials; based on a nine man study.  Runners and walkers tested who drank beetroot juice reduced the amount of oxygen they required while exercising by 12 to 14 percent, making it possible for them to go farther and faster.

So what makes this juice so amazing? According to researchers, beetroot juice provides a natural source of nitrate, which is thought to be the active ingredient in affecting athlete’s performance.  Just as assumed, beetroot juice is the blended liquefied version of a beet.   It is considered a performance enhancing supplement because the nitrate in the beets is converted by the body into nitric oxide, known to improve vasodilation (the widening of blood vessels resulting from the relaxation of smooth muscle cells within the vessel walls) and, consequently, blood flow. This could provide a mechanism for decreased oxygen cost of exercise and increased athletic performance.

Although most of us will never make it to the Olympics, at least we know one of their secret weapons. In addition to performance enhancement, beetroot juice also provides benefits of lower cholesterol, improved stamina, and curbs inflammation.  Beetroot juice can be purchased as most vitamin and whole foods stores.