We’re always on the lookout for the next big thing in health and fitness – whether it’s the newest Instagram-worthy superfood or the latest food supplement being backed by our fave celebs.
But what if we were to tell you that the best way to boost your stamina and help your muscles recover post workout has been right in front of our eyes all the time, just crying out to be loved? That, in fact, the first mention of it dates back to 800BC?
Ladies and gents, we’re talking about the humble beetroot, a veg that you may associate with a salad bowl you’d avoid at all costs at your granny’s house. A veg that has been happy to take a back seat and not brag about its undeniable super-powers… until now. Because there’s a compelling body of evidence confirming it’s hard to beat a beetroot as a before-and-after exercise enhancer.
We were invited along recently to discuss all things purple and powerful at the #LOVEBEETROOT event, where we chatted to Dr Tom Clifford, a scientist at Newcastle University who focuses on exercise physiology and nutrition, and worked out with Olivia Cooney, personal trainer with a celeb clientele that includes Millie Mackintosh and Laura Whitmore.
So what’s it all about? Well, we’ve all heard of HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) by now, the fitness trend that’s shaping up to change our fitness game forever. And new evidence has shown that combining HIIT and beetroot is the new match made in heaven (soz, Chrissy and John, you’re still legends), as it will both improve exercise performance and help with muscle recovery and regeneration.
Dr Tom Clifford explains, ‘Beetroot is full of nitrate, which our bodies convert into nitrite and then into nitric oxide when we eat it – and nitric oxide seems to be involved in everything. It has a regulatory role in many different processes, including respiration, immune function, blood pressure and muscle contraction.
‘The nitrate in beetroot seems to be particularly beneficial for the fast-twitch muscles fibres we use for short bursts of rapid movement involved during HIIT and competitive team sports.’
BRING ON THE BEETROOT
We were raring to go for our HIIT workout with Olivia, during which we did a series of intense exercise: 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off, in the space of 45 minutes. Afterwards, we were greeted with lots of yummy beetroot-based nibbles. You’d be amazed at just what you can do with a beetroot! Olivia says she always advises her clients to eat a beetroot-based salad before and after a workout.
‘What’s really interesting about beetroot is that it seems the less fit you are, the more you can get from beetroot,’ she says. ‘Adding it to your diet, or rehydrating with beetroot juice or smoothies, makes sense if you want to get the most out of your workout and support post-exercise muscle recovery.
‘And it’s so much easier now that every celebrity chef and foodie is doing something scrumptious with it.’
Well, luckily for you, we have the recipe for one of Olivia’s ‘on-beet eats’, which we were snacking on after our workout. And, trust us, they were unBEETable (sorry, we just couldn’t help ourselves).
CHOCOLATE BEETROOT ENERGY BALLS
- 75g precooked beetroot
- 100g pitted dates,
- 2 tbsp nut butter
- 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
- 75g rolled oats
- 3 tbsp cocoa or protein powder
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- Pinch of salt
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Mixed seeds, desiccated coconut or cocoa powder, to coat
- Grate the beetroot into a sieve over the sink and leave for a few minutes to drain the excess liquid.
- Whizz the dates, nut butter and honey or maple syrup into a smooth paste in a food processor.
- Add the oats, cocoa or protein powder, vanilla, salt, lemon juice and 70ml water, season with salt and pepper and blend until smooth and thick. Stir in the drained beetroot. Then, with damp hands, shape the mixture into teaspoon-sized balls and roll in your desired coating.
- Chill in the fridge for 10-15 minutes, or until firmed up, then enjoy!
The idea of beetroot sounding more appealing? You’d better hurry, as we’re off to fill up our trolley with our new BFF. We’ll beet you to it!