Workout buffs around the world praise protein powder for its ability to produce fitness gains. Those concerned about the preservatives and synthetic toxins lurking in some protein powders might reach for plant-based powders instead. No matter what kind you choose, most post-workout shakes feature some sort of muscle enhancer. A new study suggests that next time you plan to visit GNC to stock up on protein powder, you might want to drive to your local farmer’s market instead. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have discovered that drinking beet juice can boost muscle power by 13 percent.
In a small study published in Circulation: Heart Failure this week, scientists gave nine subjects with heart failure a small serving (about two-thirds of a cup) of concentrated beet juice. Almost immediately after drinking it, participants saw an increase in muscle power (force and velocity) of about 13 percent on average. This is a dramatic boost, equivalent to the sort of improvement one can expect after two to three months of resistance training, according to study coauthor and assistant professor of radiology at Washington University, Andrew Coggan.
The study looked at patients with heart failure because their muscles don’t deliver as much power, making it easier to measure improvement in them. However, researchers say that the benefits of beet juice can be enjoyed by others, as well. Coggan has conducted two additional studies, one that focused on 12 healthy individuals, and another than looked at 13 trained collegiate athletes. Again, all groups showed significant improvements in muscle power within an hour to two hours after ingesting beet juice.
So what makes beet juice such a power booster? According to coauthor Linda Peterson, beets contain the ion nitrate. When nitrate is ingested, it is converted into nitrite, and then nitric oxide. It is this final molecule that has a positive effect on muscle power. This new study simply adds to the laundry list of benefits found in beets. Not only are these root vegetables versatile and delicious, they are also known to boost immunity, protect fetal health, and improve liver and kidney function.
The accompanying slideshow is provided by fellow Daily Meal special contributor Juliet Tierney.