Beet it to the front of the pack!


I have never been a fan of beets. My wife sneaks them into my salad occasionally and I usually try one to see if my tastes have changed – but they haven’t. However, a recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics may change my mind. This study reports a 3% improvement in 5k run time when the test subjects (5 men and 6 women) ate 2 medium sized cooked beets prior to a 5k run test.


Now you may be thinking that 3% isn’t much of a difference, certainly not enough to justify eating 200 grams of beats, but look at these numbers. If you typically run 17:00 for a 5k a 3% improvement would mean that you could potentially run a 16:29 5k. A 3% improvement could easily be the difference between 5 th in your age group to 1 st or 2nd. Let’s suppose you run a 5k in 20:00, you could potentially be running a 19:24 5k. These are some pretty impressive improvements for an all-natural product that you can pick up at the grocery store.


To put this in perspective, the very best illegal methods of improving performance: testosterone, blood doping and erythropoietin can improve your performance 3-5%. Six weeks of high intensity interval training can improve your performance 3-8% depending on your prior level of fitness. In favor of beats, they are cheap, natural, have no known side effects (you may urinate pink for a bit) and are legal. Who knows, you may even be able to come up with a way to make them taste decent.


This study was performed on a relatively small group of runners and is specific to the 5k. How a runner would benefit in a marathon or half marathon is completely unknown. However, since there is no known risk and a potentially large benefit you may want to consider beets as part of your next pre-race meal. If you have a juicer you could try a swig of beetsl prior to your race.


Let us know how you fare with beets or if you have a recipe to make them more palatable.


Bryan Whitesides PT, MPT, OCS

Physical Therapist

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