Everybody has their pre-competition rituals, but I swear everybody in the locker room thought I was a weirdo for wolfing down beetroot before games. You've gotta eat something, right? And beets might actually help you in sports that require bursts of strength.
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Beetroot is high in nitrates, which your body converts into nitric oxide (no relation to laughing gas — that's nitrous, not nitric.) Nitric oxide is a hormone that helps to increase blood flow; Viagra, for example, works by turning on nitric oxide pathways. Nitric oxide is helpful in sports because it increases blood flow to your muscles.
The Friedman Sprout discusses several studies that bear this out: in many (but not all) cases, people who drank a shot of beetroot juice were able to apply a little more "power" — think explosive bursts of strength — than people who didn't. This won't help you in a marathon, but it might help just a tiny bit in weightlifting or in sports where you need to make sudden, strong moves.
Beware supplements promising magical powers, though. The effect is small, and supplements can be sketchy. Pricey beetroot powders and beetroot-centric sports drinks probably aren't worth the expense. But if you like the taste of beetroot, consider working the juice or the veggies themselves into your pre-competition meal.
Should Athletes Juice It Up With Beetroot Juice? [The Friedman Sprout]