Thursday, January 19

Get your beets?

Among those in the cycling world, using beets for increased performance isn't exactly a new topic. Chris Baddick covered it for Training Peaks in an article over two years ago and there are plenty of scientific studies investigating the topic as well. I'll let Google guide you further in that regard and share my personal story here.

Last fall I began training for Tour Divide again and it was my second season working with a power meter. Through diligent training and great coaching I've been able to inch my power upwards over this time but I've likely reached the point where huge jumps in power development are gone. As such I started focusing on more marginal gain areas for an amatuer athlete such as better sleep, healthier eating, my Elevated Legs, and nutritional supplements. By nature I'm wary of supplements and I've been pretty cautious about what I might use. However beets being a real food seemed like a great place to start so I emailed Lynda to get her opinion. Her impressions with other athletes were positive with no drawbacks other than cost so I decided to give it a try.

Overall my impressions of beet products are very positive and my preference has evolved over time. When Red Ace Organics offered to send me a case of their products for review I was happy to give them a try. In addition to the Red Ace beet products I have also used Beet It shots, Beet Elite powder, and Sunny Green organic beetroot powder. Recently I've tried Enduro Bites Beta Red powder as well but I don't have a significant enough sample of experiences yet with it to comment. It does include things other than beetroot which is different from these other products. Red Ace sent me three types of beet products to test: Beet Performance, Beets and Greens, and Beets and Turmeric. Their Beet Performance shots are the most comparible to the other products I have used but I'll talk about the other two types briefly as well.

One thing that you'll notice is that the cost varies among all the products. I'll try to compare them using real world costs in my area so bear in mind that may be different for you. The cheapest option by far is the Sunny Green organic powder. The cost per serving is much less than the other options and if that's your biggest concern it's a winner. I have a canister at home that I still use but it's definitely less convenient than a shot. It takes quite a few tablespoons to get the right amount of beets and mixed with water or juice it's fairly gritty. My preference is to use it in smoothies for loading where I don't notice the taste and texture at all. I have made my own performance shot with it by mixing it with tart cherry concentrate and it's tolerable but not exactly enjoyable.

The other powder that I've tried is the Beet Elite black cherry. It's about $3 per serving and comes in a packet as well as a bulk container. The packets are handy in that you can throw them in your bag and mix up when you need them before a workout. The black cherry flavor is much better than the plain organic powder but it is still a powder and you have to mix it to not have any lumps.

This school year I've been in a hurry to squeeze in workouts regularly and so the shot type products have been great. I can slam one before I get dressed for a workout or on my way to a climb and it's in effect for my workout an hour later. At King Soopers I found the Beet It products and they are frequently on sale for $2-$3 a shot. Performance wise they work as well as the rest and the convenience of grabbing them at the local grocery store is great. However the taste of these shots leave something to be desired. They're better than the plain powder but worse than the black cherry Beet Elite for sure.

This brings us to the Red Ace Performance shots. I tried them once before however I have to order them or grab them from a store other than my local grocery store. They're about $3.75-$5 a shot depending on where you buy them. In a larger bulk amount you can get them cheaper. I found in heavy training where I'm doing several interval sessions a week (where beet products seem to help) the taste is definitely the best. I can throw a Red Ace Performance shot in my school bag and not hesitate to slam it down before my workout. The flavor is great and the performance is equal to the other products. They pack a lot of beets in a small shot without the off putting smell or taste I've found in some of the other products and the shot is super smooth. I'm going to order them in a larger amount now that I've been able to try them in depth and that should bring the cost down significantly. The Beets and Greens shot and Beets and Turmeric shot will likely see lesser use in my personal rotation. If cost was no object they'd be great to use daily. One great use I could see for the Beets and Turmeric is recovery from sickness, injury, or heavy training. In limited amounts ($) I'd love to take a Beets and Turmeric shot at night to maintain loading and increase my turmeric intake in an easy way.

Also the reason I'm focusing on taste and cost is that I feel it's fairly disingenuous to claim as a single data point athlete that one of these shots is head and shoulders above the rest. Power gains from using beetroot are small but when you're looking for small gains they're worth considering. For me the ease of use and great taste of the Red Ace Performance shots is a pretty awesome combination and worth the cost over the other options, especially with a larger and cheaper order.

If you would like to try the Red Ace products yourself you can also use coupon code singlespeed for a 15% discount.