Beetroot juice is no fad, and I’ve been drinking it myself for couple of years on and off while reading the research studies that prompted me to start recommending it to many of my clients. Why beetroot juice? In addition to being a good source of vitamin A, C, iron, fiber and carotenoids; carotenoids
can be converted into vitamin A, they are an antioxidant with many health benefits, and carotenoids provide the pigment of the plant, but the main reason why I recommend beetroot juice is for the nitrates. Nitrates naturally occur in vegetables, and are abundant in beets, spinach and other leafy greens. There are two reasons why I recommend nitrates, and especially those found in beetroot juice; one is the increased amount of nitrates found in beetroot juice lowers blood triglycerides and blood pressure, and two it increases athletic performance and energy because it helps with the blood flow by opening up the arteries, and it may improve the blood flow to working muscles. Beetroot juice is also really easy to consume without any preparation.
The scientific name for beets is Beta vulgaris, and to date there are several studies on the benefits of beets, beetroot juice, and nitrates.
Considering beetroot juice is positively documented to help with athletic performance, and I too have noticed the benefits in my beach runs, I do recommend it to active performers, and it may be most beneficial to musicians and vocalists who are frequently on stage or touring. This is because nitrates are converted to nitrites and later nitric oxide in our body that helps to regulate blood flow, and in turn help maximum oxygen uptake or consumption known as VO2 max for short; V meaning volume, O2 for oxygen and max for maximum. So what is this and why is it important? VO2 max is how much oxygen can be consumed when we are running at our maximum rate or speed usually measured as aerobic capacity on a treadmill. We can increase our VO2 max with aerobic training, and with nitrates such as those abundant in beetroot juice. As for the importance while performing, active musicians can often use a bit more oxygen intake, a little more stamina. I often think of a drummer who gets fatigued, hitting the wall like a runner (for more information on drummer’s fatigue please read my blog http://www.peakperformancerd.com/preventing-drummers-fatigue-with-nutrition/) or vocalists and opera singers who have to put out a lot of energy in every performance, often several times per week. A higher VO2 max improving your respiratory system increases your vocal or playing abilities on stage means less fatigue and higher output in your performance. This also comes in handy when you have to perform at higher altitudes over 1,500 meters that is just under a mile above sea level or equivalent to a mountain around 5,000 feet high.
As for studies with musicians, I don’t know of any to date, all of the information here is based on my findings and expertise as a sports dietitian who works with musicians to improve health and performance through diet, fitness, and nutrition. And if by chance you don’t find much of a physical difference with beetroot juice, know that your arteritis and heart will know a difference, not only from the nitrates, but from the many other heart healthy antioxidants including quercetin and resveratrol.
As for taste, well, you may not exactly like it unless you really like beets, and I do like beets, but not necessarily straight beetroot juice. I recommend chilling it, and you may want to try diluting it, or camouflaging it by mixing it into a smoothie. As for the amount, some studies used high volumes up to 500mL equivalent to 16.7 ounces, that’s a lot of beetroot juice! I usually recommend 4 ounces prior to performance, and if you really want to increase your VO2 max aim for at least 4 ounces per day. An actual serving size is 8 ounces (240mL) for 110 calories, 3g protein, and 24g carbohydrate. Along with the beetroot juice, consider regular aerobic activity such as running or cycling, and push yourself to the limit by singing while exercising, all will continue to improve your VO2 max and performance!
Stay tuned to Kathy LaBella for news and programs about nutrition and health for musicians. And as always, individual counseling sessions are available and covered by many insurance plans, please visit http://www.peakperformancerd.com where you can also connect onto social media.