Beet le Tour
With the resounding scent of an Australian victory in Le Tour (the Tour de France cycle race), courtesy of Cadel Evans, still strong in the worldâ€™s nostrils it is comforting to know that he might do even better next year. That is, according to a new study he might do even better if he starts swigging down beetroot juice.
This is based on research done at the University of Exeter where researchers had competitive-level cyclists undertake two trial rides over 2.5 miles and ten miles. All of the cyclists did each time trial twice.
On one occasion they were given 500ml of beetroot juice to drink before the trial. On the other occasion they were given 500ml of beetroot juice but this time the juice had had its nitrate removed.
The test was designed in this way because beetroot juice has been shown to improve endurance and performance in previous research and that effect was believed due to its nitrate content. Nitrate leads to blood vessels opening and that improves oxygenation of muscles and therefore boosts performance. Nitrate also reduces the amount of oxygen that exercising muscles require.
To ensure that the cyclists worked to their maximum on each occasion, the researchers monitored their VO2 (volume of oxygen) which shows how much oxygen is being consumed and how close the cyclists were to maximum capacity.
The results showed that cyclists who had beetroot juice with nitrate were on average eleven seconds faster over the 2.5 mile distance and 45 seconds faster over the ten mile distance. In a sport where a second can mean a metre or two and the difference between success and failure, this is significant and it shows that the nitrate does make the difference.
So go for the beetroot juice all you would be cyclists and youâ€™ll be beet-ing your old times in no time.
As a footnote, this column does apologise for anything this story does to increase the number of mamils on the road. Before you write in, that was not a misspelling of mammal, it is an acronym for â€œmiddle-aged men in lycraâ€â€¦may we all be spared the intense disregard for basic human dignity that is the hallmark of the mamil.